Before there was Rajni

The Medium is the Message, Marshal McLuhan famously said... And the subcontinent has seen the truth of it in many ways, one most visible evidence of which is in the inordinate influence that our movie personae have on national politics...

Theodore Baskaran is a man with a richly diverse career. Retiring as the Chief Postmaster General of Tamil Nadu, he morphed into a writer with special interests in film history and on the environment.

The Message Bearers is "a path-breaking book that explores the relationship between Indian nationalism and the popular media of the period in Tamil Nadu. The period with which this study is concerned—1880 to 1945—was a crucial one in the history of Indian nationalism and this book taps popular sources— Tamil newspapers, magazines, popular song books, gramophone records and films—to understand the spirit of the times. It also attempts to interweave three separate strands: mass media, regional cinema and social history. Written in Theodore Baskaran’s characteristically engaging style, this book is a detailed and entertaining look at the ways in which the nascent media industry fuelled and influenced a period of critical change in India’s history."
First published in 1981, the book has been reissued by New Horizon Media in Chennai. Writing for this edition, Thomas Trautmann says "This is a landmark work of cultural history, showing how folk songs, ballads and popular drama, propagated through the new media of gramophone records contributed to the freedom movement in south India. It is a pioneer in the serious study of cinema in the south, a work of tremendous historical importance by one of the leading writers of south India". This has also been called as "perhaps one of the best books on film history to have appeared in recent years. Baskaran’s originality and meticulous research make this book a model for film historians."
240 pages, paperback. Rs 200. ISBN: 9788183689991