Published: 26th September 2017
Inside Rajmohan's mind: Everything you wanted to know about the man who asks the questions on Tamil Nadu's mind
Rajmohan Arumugam from Put Chutney has created a lot of impact with his thought-provoking videos about issues plaguing the State. How much do you actually know about him?
If you are from Tamil Nadu and log on to social media at least a couple of times a day, you've definitely come across Rajmohan Arumugam. He's the guy who makes you sit up as you lazily scroll down Facebook or YouTube, he makes you listen to what he's saying and by the end of the video you're forced to share the link.
Rajmohan Arumugam is the man behind and in front of many of the Put Chutney videos that discuss socially relevant issues - subjects like the late CM J Jayalalithaa's hospitalisation, the farmer deaths, Anita's death and today, the Ennore encroachment - which was released just a few hours ago by the channel. Rajmohan has become a sensation in Tamil Nadu, and it's not just because he speaks well but it's because he asks the right questions - questions that reverberate among the public.
"In most instances, we don't get the right answers because we don't ask the right questions," Arumugam says. Question is, how well do we actually know the man behind the video?
He the man: Rajmohan Arumugam is the man behind and in front of many of the Put Chutney videos that discuss socially relevant issues
The man of the hour
Rajmohan was born and bred in Chennai and like every other person from Tamil Nadu he did his engineering and after he completed it, he joined a whole other profession. Arumugam's first job was as an RJ on Radio One and then he moved to Sri Lanka where he worked with Colombo Shakthi FM, he then came back for a stint with Puthiya Thalaimurai. At the channel, Arumugam conducted a science-based travelogue show, where he got the chance to interact with members of the public and see with his own eyes the kind of hardships the people go through. This is where he first started to develop a social consciousness.
The Put Chutney Story
A lot of his friends joined Culture Machine's Put Chutney when it was launched in Chennai. When he heard of it, he decided it was something he wanted to be part of. Put Chutney started off a comedy channel and comedy continues to be the primary feature but the socially relevant videos happened completely by chance.
"We are a team of 20-30 people in the office and we're always having a lot of conversation about various issues. We all come from different backgrounds and have different political ideologies, so our arguments are very interesting. One day, after such a discussion, someone put me in front of a camera and asked me to say the same things. That's when we decided to shoot these videos of me talking," Arumugam explained.
Since their comedy videos were already reaching out to audiences as large as two million, the team figured that they had the chance to create actual social impact if they put out these videos.
Environ devils: Despite destructive encroachment, the government has given permission to the Kamaraj Port to develop the 1000 acres of the Kosasthalai river bed for real estate purposes
Sweet taste of success
Like previously mentioned, the Rajmohan Arumugam videos covered a range of topics. One such video was made on the controversial Santhi Soundarajan, a track athlete who was stripped of the silver medal she won at the Asian Games after she failed a gender test. "She was unemployed, struggling and in great depression during that time. We made a video discussing her plight and the video did very well. But what was more heartening was the fact that exactly ten days later, she received an appointment order," Arumugam said with a bright smile.
Arumugam also recalled the video on the hospitalisation of Jayalalithaa where he had asked questions no one else dared to ask, "No media was asking the important questions, only we were suspicious of the way that things were unfolding. Now, after almost a year, people are coming out saying that the ministers lied and that a probe is being requested."
Word power: Arumugam has become a sensation in Tamil Nadu, and it's not just because he speaks well but it's because he asks the right questions
The good, the bad and the ugliness of fame
Rajmohan is a known face in Tamil Nadu but his voice is being heard by people far and wide. He recalled how some time ago, an Indian army officer wrote him a long message saying one of his army men showed him one of the videos with subtitles. "He told me that he was very proud of the work that I'm doing and said that just like him I was also providing a service to society. My grandfather was in the Army, but after that none of us joined, so it was very special to get such a compliment from him, especially because he doesn't even understand Tamil and it still meant so much to him," he added.
Till very recently, Arumugam's parents, who live in Tiruchy, didn't know exactly what he was doing for a living. It was only when their neighbours and friends came home to tell them about how impactful their son's videos were, that they came to know about it.
"Just an hour ago my mum called me to tell me again about someone liking my Anita video and she said she also liked how I had spoken," Arumugam said.His wife and 2-year old son are also great fans, "Every time my son gets a hold of my phone he goes to YouTube and watches my video!"
But his family is always worried about his safety as he raises questions that invite the wrath of politicians as well as big companies. But till now, Arumugam says that he hasn't received any direct threats but he realises the danger of the work he is doing. And trolls? He calls his videos a 'calculated risk', "We try to invite as little trolling as possible but there are some people who want to troll you for the smallest of things, we don't really make them a priority. We just do our work," he explained.
All the positive feedback overrides all the negativity, Arumugam said, "In the last year, I've met over one lakh students. I'm always receiving messages and invitations from students and colleges across the state to speak at their functions and meetings. Instead of calling big stars, they prefer that I come and speak about socially relevant issues. There's no better response I can wish for."
We are a team of 20-30 people in the office and we're always having a lot of conversation about various issues. We all come from different backgrounds and have different political ideologies, so our arguments are very interesting. One day, after such a discussion, someone put me in front of a camera and asked me to say the same things. That's when we decided to shoot these videos of me talking
Rajmohan Arumugam, Commentator at Put Chutney
On the Ennore video
Ennore is his latest campaign for justice. "I first came across the issue when the environmentalist Nityanand Jayaraman and musician T M Krishna released the 'Poromboke' song about Ennore encroachment in 2015. Now when the Government has given permission to go on with the encroachment, we decided to put out a video," he explained. Despite destructive encroachment as well as pollution way beyond legal limits, the Tamil Nadu government has given permission to the Kamaraj Port to develop the 1000 acres of the Kosasthalai river bed for real estate purposes.
Arumugam said that he and the director of the video, Akshay Sundher visited Ennore several times to research on the issue,"Over 10 lakh people live in terribly poor conditions, the natural river there is now filled with factory effluents. We drowned in the floods in 2015, it'll happen again if we don't do anything about it," he added.
In the video, Arumugam becomes the face of Chennai - he calls himself Chennai, "My intention of doing that was for viewers also to see themselves as Chennai, as the people who will be wiped out if we don't stop this encroachment. I've seen pictures and heard from the residents here that a few years ago, people would come to Ennore for picnics, but now it's dry barren land," he lamented.
For the last few years, many environmentalists have held demonstrations, made representations to the authorities and it has not yielded any results. Let's hope people listen to Rajmohan. Let's hope his video does for Ennore what Sofia Ashraf's video did for Kodaikanal.