Fringes At The Centre – The (Mis)Conception Of ‘South Indian’ Movies Through Popularly Televised Cinema

When it comes to the entertainment industry inviting something that lies beyond the society into the folds of the normative involves an exploitation and assertion of pre-conceived stereotypes. Particularly in the case of introduction of ‘South Indian’ movies on the database of popular TV channels. It becomes important to analyze this portrayal because these become mediums which allow other parts of the country to perceive and conceive an idea about movies made in the southern part of the Indian subcontinent.

Slamming South Indian

An examination of the schedule of these television channels shows that there are three kinds of movies that the viewer finds itself exposed to- the first category is that of movies like Dashavatharam and Chandramukhi which garnered both popularity as well as positive reviews from most critics. The second kind is movies like No.1 Businessman and IPS Vikram Singh Rathod which did well at the box office but received negative reviews from critics. The third kind is movies like Jalladon ka Jallad, Dada no. 1 and King No.1 which not only tanked at the box office but were also ripped apart by the critics who casually dismissed them as ‘formula movies’. What is strange is that most ‘South Indian movies’ dubbed into Hindi, the figure roughly around 200, belong to the third category of movies. Neither did they achieve distinction from critics nor did they perform well at the box office. Movies like Ek Tha Soldier, Kedi, Bagawat: the revolt, Sabse Bada Dillwala are a few examples. They are replete with stereotypes that cater to a certain perception of ‘South Indian’ movies; characterized by mindless violence, sexist remarks and lousy contrived plots. The characters fit into a defined structure which is then sprinkled with baseless pun and action. The movies that are sold to us by popular media as ‘Superhit South Indian Movies’ are actually not that well received even by the audience in South India. Even among the award winning movies the ones that are dubbed in Hindi are only action comedies which in turn further reinforce the stereotype. Movies like Ready, Commando, Rowdy Rathore also create a hoopla about their adaptation from the south Indian cinema trying to turn this into an exotic selling point.The mundu wearing moustachioed protagonist screaming ‘yenna rascalla’ at the drop of a hat couldn’t be further away from the current scenario of the movies being made in South India. In fact the Telugu, Tamil, Kannada and Malayalam cinema is hugely diverse.

While it is okay for movie channels to telecast what is popular for commercial profit, it is unacceptable for them to show movies that are not even popular in South India with a desire to create audience by constant reiteration and exaggeration of certain kind of movies. While, directors in the four industries are making constant attempts to revise their cinematic culture and explore different avenues, what the audience as a consequence of Hindi movie channels gets served is an Idli Sambhar from 1980s. Popularly consumed movie channels present ‘South Indian’ cinema as the other to Bollywood. This other-ing not only establishes these movies within misinformed stereotypes but also homogenises the diverse Telugu, Tamil, Kannada and Malayalam film industries. The four industries are clubbed into one to dispense poorly made Telugu and Tamil masala movies under the tag ‘South Indian.’ The four states are grossly homogenised and reduced to a single entity, conveniently doing away with diversity in their form. Even the entity that is being sold as south India is only a projection of the way Bollywood perceives their industry. This projection thrives on the idea of creating for the Hindi speaking masses a world that is removed from their own and hence, attractive. But the world created is a phantom of our own restricted notions the Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam movies.  Although just like Bollywood even the South Indian film industry leave a lot of room for improvement but what it is the media’s responsibility to put an industry’s best foot forward and not thrive on misconceptions and stereotypes. Hence, even though movies made in south India have come to occupy an integral position among Hindi speaking natives it is important to monitor this consumption for its veracity.

– Ashwini Rajpoot

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