Bollywood’s South stereotyping of South Indians in Hindi cinema for me stereotyping is a soft form of racism by itself and Bollywood has done a great job in projecting the non-existent stereotypes of something in now before I delve into the Bollywood South stereotype I must also say stereotyping also existed in South cinema where for instance sirdar’s were shown to be significant at heart hard-working but not so brainy the ones you read in Sahaja yoga then Marwat is used to be shown as mean money-minded folks Tamil cinema used to depict Malayali as a negative character or a tea shop owner always saying in the yenta guruvayurappan( is a form of Vishnu worshipped mainly in Kerala) every 10 minutes a Malayalam movie used to depict Hummels as negative characters or someone obsessed with MGR Rajinikanth or a mean landlord super protective of his daughter this was all ten 20 years ago where exposure to other cultures was quite limited over the years.
I must say at least in southern cinema stereotyping acidity is quite a bit in alaipayuthey when Madhavan and Shalini get married they stay in a home owned by a Malayali who advises Madhavan about the love life before and after marriage in Malayalam movie Bigby Pasupathi plays a subtle yet impactful Assistant Commissioner of Police where his performance was critically acclaimed then it was vinnaithandivaruvaya where and finally, premam which broke many barriers and bridged many grabs between the cultures there are so many more examples I can delve into. Still, the focus of today’s topic is Bollywood stereotyping of South Indians and why I think we cannot expect it to change anytime soon.
Now let’s rewind to 1968 the Madrasi character of the movie padosan played by my mouth was such a big hit that that character represented the entire South of India for Bollywood audience back then now Mohammed was playing the role of a Tamil brahmin called master Ji who is a creepy Carnatic classical music guru with a surname Pillai this movie turned out to be a huge hit and was laughed at by the audience within the Bollywood boundaries back in the days even if people in the South got offended by such poor trails they didn’t have many outlets to rent out their frustrations moreover there were vibrant filamentous back in the days in each of the southern states. Not many cared to watch the Hindi cinema.
Last I heard Pillai is a surname common in Kerala and Tamil Nadu but not a surname for Tamil Brahmins. The factual accuracy didn’t matter back then for Bollywood audience as this cinema validated their preconceived notion of the Madrasi the term that our beloved British colonizers gifted through their Madras.
A presidency that covered many parts of all five states of salt now one may wonder they didn’t hurt anybody right and just poke the little fun and why do we care about it why do we bring it up now my answer is simple back in the days when the worker’s professionals and students used to migrate from South to the north there was extreme racism and discrimination and the movie per dose and validated that preconceived notion in the north which had very little or no exposure to anything that happened down south another damage it did was the utter disregard it created for Carnatic classical music I have seen some folks poking fun at Carnatic classical music performers as the best ones can get a little carried away our little animated with their performance and that is true for any traditional art form including the Hindustani art form 1991 of the biggest hits of Amitabh Bachan Agneepath had Mithun Chakraborty play a pivotal role called Krishnan Iyer -MA nariyal Pani Wala okay so this was considered as a top-notch performance by mithran back in the days a few years back I saw him and his fans rave about to the concert where he was the judge in a reality show dance India dance matte said that he was inspired by a person from Kerala who was his roommate during his struggling ears for me it looked like a reincarnation of what Mahmood did – the three horizontal V booties it sounded neither like Malayali or Tamilian the million but a silly and caricature ish dialect meant to pull the audience who were desperately missing all the Madrasi jokes back.
Then now fast-forward many many years home Shanti oh right the landmark Bollywood cinema happened in 2007 average moviegoers backed and raved about this rubbish movie this SRK Deepika Padukone and Farah Khan film was all about a crude kissing dual dialogue of Deepika and the (yenna rascal) performance by an SRK for an audience who have not seen this movie the context of the joke here is the American cowboy movie Journal also became a rage in India and hence Hindi Tamil and Telugu made a bunch of them back in the days, it was like the ’30s 40s’ years back now if you think about it all looks ridiculously funny right when SRK enacted all this in that movie he made up his language to deliver the so-called punch dialogues in acting a South Indian cowboy, I wouldn’t blame SRK has he realized that his fans wouldn’t care which language it is at the end of the day as long as it sounds like a South Indian or a Madrasi he knew he made think from this movie onwards SRK became the flag bearer of Madrasi jokes and guess what he tried to sell those movies in South – which I will come in a bit.
Ra-one(movie) was an extremely ambitious project for an SRK, I remember that around this time the release of ENTHIRAN the robot(movie) the chance directed one had given chills to the film crew as it was extremely superior to what a circuit crew had envisioned for RA-ONE what worked me was the role of Shekar Subramanyam and the nerdish game designer played by SRK himself this South Indian character had everything you needed for his audience to burst into laughter starting from saying (iyoo iyoo) you every no and then and eating pasta or noodles with curd and repeating the full name of his character multiple times in the movie one good thing to note was that Kareena Kapoor also played a South Indian character and the good news was that the maker spared us from Kareena putting up that South Indian accent can you imagine another irritating experience with the song chammak challo it not only had dance steps mocking Rajinikanth Kareena South Indian parent characters were shown doing some mockery of themselves during the dance sequence while the movie was whatever it was the astonishing thing for me was that SRKwas marketing it heavily even in the southern states claiming that he is playing a South Indian and everyone in South should go and watch it as they can elate to it that just summarized understanding that the team Robin had about south now when SRK and Deepika Padukone join hands again for Chennai Express directed by a remake bought Rohit Shetty this time it was a fresh subject right from the brains of Rohit himself who answer claims that his cinema is not made for intellectuals for SRK fans this movie must have been a rollercoaster ride the Bollywood item song of the year lungi dance was marketed as a tribute to Rajinikanth which any person with little sense would realize is a way to poke fun at present content Tamil audience in general while there is an emphasis on coconut everyone in south India knows that the state obsessed with coconut in South East Kerala, not Tamil Nadu.
Firstly this movie had nothing to do with Chennai, and the movie makers avoided getting there as they knew that it is one of the best cosmopolitan cities in India with vibrant industrial. IT parks contributing immensely to India’s GDP, and while watching this movie, it was clear that the film is not for a sensible audience. The only intention is to get that nonsensical audience instant gratification by presenting everyone in the South as caricatures they
show the Banana Republic where the goons rule the place we know the maker here is to portray Deepika as at the million. Still, they messed up big time when she wears Andhra style costumes, and at times Malayala Kesava, it was even hard to figure out which accent. She was trying to mock whether it was a Malu accent or a Tamil accent. It was just a reaffirmation that the Bollywood is still stuck at the hypothetical Madrasi character, which was discovered by Mehmood in 1968s.
Now moving on to Dirty Picture(movie) with no disrespect to Silk Smitha one would wonder why Bollywood producers chose to pick the story of her while there were so many other inspiring stories of actors and actresses yes he got it right it fits well with the Madrasi narrative where Bollywood wants to project south actresses as fat voluptuous with thunder thighs and the actors have generally aged with thick moustaches now likewise when actor Prithviraj got ripped with six-pack abs to be cast opposite Rani Mukerji, we all wonder that it might break the mould of a South Indian character, unfortunately, the cringe-worthy promo song where Ronnie is shown lusting for play 3 was good enough for any sensible moviegoer to avoid venturing into it further this was Rani Mukherjee’s attempt to enact and mark some steamy songs in Tamil Telugu and Kannada many many years back I’m sure he was not proud of this role as well now, friends, as I end this blog I am not generalizing Bollywood here there are extremely sensible directors in Bollywood like Anurag Kashyap who is very knowledgeable about the sensibilities of every state down south as well there are some like Shoojit Sircar, Sriram Raghavan Ashutosh Gowariker and many more who do enough research before when tsering into any region or religion there are also enough sensible audiences up north who don’t like on the Madrasi crap that the Bollywood sells them time and again and fortunately there are many many more directors and actors and producers who are repeatedly fooling their audience and main ting money by inducing stereotypes to prejudice and racism against many cultures in India and predominantly South I must say since the release of baahubali I am seeing that the attitude of Bollywood movie makers has changed quite a bit I hope one day we can see sensible South Indian characters in Bollywood