For the North Indians, it looks, any one South of Nagpur is a’ Madrasi’
Seem to be blissfully unaware that there are four States, Karnataka,Andhra and Kerala which, while sharing a common bond with Tamil nadu, have distinct and varied Culture, or is this attitude deliberate?
This makes one eye the North Indians with suspicions from the South.
Often it is noticed, be it Film Fare awards or Top Political Forums, one gets the impression that the South is tolerated and addressed condescendingly.
True, South Indian Films . especially the tamil Films, portray the north Indians as ‘Nimabalki, Nambalki tamil’ though I know many North Indians who know Tamil literature better than South Indians and Tamils in particular.
While the barb by the South sounds immature and fails to evoke laughter, the North’s depiction is insulting
Times of India has produced a good article on this.
“He flashes a gaudy lungi, while she drips melodrama, all the while emitting suggestive sounds that starts with a throaty ‘aiyyayo’ and ends in a guttural ‘um’. Makers of upcoming Hindi movie ‘Aiyyaa’ insist that the song ‘Dream-um Wake up-um’ is a tribute to south Indian cinema, and is just a quirky piece in the wacky north-south love story. We have to wait till October 12 to verify that. But internet is already awash with accusations that the song is yet another instance of stereotyping of south Indians, one more ‘aiyyo-amma’ Madrasi cliche from ‘insensitive’ northies.
To add to the confusion, right before the song starts, Rani Mukherjee’s Marathi mulgi says she prefers darkskinned people to fairskinned ones. If Malayalam star Prithviraj Sukumaran is indeed the tall, dark, handsome hero of the movie, then it will be a departure from the idli-loving, sambar-slurping, conservative Madrasis that Bollywood churns out for laughs. What started with the antics of Mehmood’s oily Masterji in ‘Padosan’ (1968), continue, whether it is Omi Vaidya’s sly Chatur Ramalingam in ’3 Idiots’ or Shah Rukh Khan‘s timid Shekhar Subramanium who gleefully mixes noodles with curd in ‘Ra.One’.
“Any south Indian will find Mehmood’s characterisation insulting,” says Mohan Raman, film historian and actor. He took care that his Seshadri manager in Ranbir Kapoor-movie ‘Ajab Prem Ki Gasab Kahani’ didn’t become ridiculous but hinted at his outsider status…
It is the ‘north-Indian’ gaze that causes the problem, says actor Satish Shah, whose Iyer father in ‘Ra.One’ was quite similar to a stand-up he did for the 1980s sitcom ‘Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi‘. “People of all four states are still Madrasis to many. Probably, Mehmood’s popular character must have set the wrong example,” says Shah. And, yes, he wouldn’t have played the Iyer if not for his equation with Shah Rukh Khan. “I was uncomfortable. As I don’t know the languages, I repeated whatever small words they asked me to say,” he says.
What is an occupational hazard to veteran artists like Shah, are created by those who have nothing new to say, says director Dibakar Banerjee. He created a smart IAS officer, T A Krishnan, in ‘Shanghai’ (2012) after referring books and talking to civil servants. Banerjee topped it with extensive language coaching for actor Abhay Deol to ensure that he never went anywhere near a ‘Tamilian‘ act. “If filmmakers derive material from other films they have seen, then they will end up using stock stereotypes,” he says.
That said, every stereotype has a kernel of truth and ‘Padosan’ is a comedy that used characters from that time effectively. “In Matunga, you could find a conservative music teacher like Mehmood’s Masterji in the 60s,” he says. The same goes for Kishore Kumar’s music composer or Sunil Dutt’s village yokel and the outrageous Quick Gun Murugan character and its Tamil western created for trendy Channel V in the late 90s.
At the core of all stereotypes is a way of defining the other. “In the pre-information society, where communities lived in relative isolation, the other is seen as a threat or considered funny because you don’t understand their customs and language,” says Banerjee. So the ‘idli-dosa’ eating Tamilian is a creation of Hindi-speaking people just like the ‘oye oye’ Sardarji of south Indians. Tamil movies have stock Hindi-speaking characters who are mostly aggressive moneylender marwaris. “Those characters have now come down as they are not relevant,” says Mohan Raman. In fact, one of the first mainstream Hindi movies to break the Madrasi stereotype was K Balachander’s ‘Ek Duje Ke Liye‘ (1981). “Kamal Haasan sir nailed it when he says ‘Hinthi’ and not Hindi. It is very realistic,” says Kartik Krishnan, assistant director and writer in Bollywood, a Tamilian from Delhi.
The exceptions that film-lovers like Krishnan cheer on include ‘Dil Se’ (1998), ‘Company’ (2002), ‘Mr and Mrs Iyer’ (2002), ‘Yuva’ (2004) and ‘Shanghai’ (2012). “When I first heard Mohanlal talk with a Mallu accent in ‘Company’, I cringed. But despite the slightly irritating delivery, his performance grew on me,” he says. Barring a few, most of the realistic portrayals have come in movies directed by south Indians, be it Mani Ratnam or Ram Gopal Varma. But you don’t necessarily need south Indians to put an end to such ethnic stereotypes. Sachin Kundalkar, who is debuting in Bollywood with ‘Aiyyaa’ says south Indian men are hot. “I am a pucca Maharashtrian. I have seen women around me admiringly looking at south Indian men for their humbleness and intellectual aura. That is what my film is about,” he say”