Monday, November 21, 2005

Southern Spice 

Well, it seems to be South Indian Movie Week on desi blogosphere. First this and now this. So I shall follow them and post this genuine question I've had for a while - is there any simple way of determining from South Indian movies who the hero is and who's the villain? I mean, if one is ignorant of the star system (defined as a simpleton who doesn't know the difference between Superstar vs. Megastar) and doesn't speak the language, can one still figure out who plays what, just by looking at the movie??

It all started years ago when my dad was posted in Chennai. Cable TV was a dream then. TV came with one channel that played a mix of local and national programmes. It was only a matter of time before dad became completely bored and started watching Tamil movies. What made this exercise very interesting was that Bubin watched movies without understanding a single line of what was being said. He concocted a story in his mind, based on what he saw, and then cross checked it with the land lady in the morning. On one such occasion, my dear dad saw a movie which ended with one moustached guy (A) killing of the other moustached guy (B). Based on this scene he traced back the story to be one where A was the hero, B was the villain and that at some point in the movie B had forcibly had sex with the heroine (which explained why A killed him). It was only later that Bubin found out that he had got the story all wrong. The movie it seems, was a tragedy (sob, sob) where the villain kills of the hero and hence the sex scene was actually one of love making between two lovers. All very interesting.

I grew up watching Hindi movies and they are very kind in this department. The hero always looks good and the villain always looks bad. Even when we have Tusshar Kapur as the hero, we make the villain look worse than him and trust me, that's a very daunting task :) We also normally keep our heroes clean shaven, while the villains sport fancy facial hair. There are exceptions to this rule though - like Anil Kapur, but in those movies we make the villain look that much more grotesque. Case in point Mr. India - remember how we gave Mogambo a golden hair dye and matching uniform to make it easy for the viewers. Remember Beta? Once again, to ensure viewer understanding, the villain Anupam Kher was given a huge bald patch, with electrocuted hair and even had a few teeth missing. Nope! We never went for subtlety - did we?

Sadly things don't seem to be so simple in movies from down South. Contrary to what you might think, I've actually seen quite a few Tamil movies (I used to date a Tamilian) and from the little that I've gathered, there seems to be no simple rule. I've seen movies where the hero had a moustache and the villain had a moustache, where the hero had a moustache and the villain dint have one (Shiva), where the hero dint have a moustache but the villain had one (I think it was called Run), where the hero was fat and the villain was thin, where the hero and villain were both fat etc. etc. etc. Come to think of it, I've even seen a Tamil movie where the hero and the villain were the same guy (some Kamal Hassan movie). So clearly there seems to be a rule of thumb missing. And with the thumb missing, there's lil I can do but just hand waive. So please help!

p.s. please read primalsoup's brilliant comment to this post - it deserves a post by itself :)

i am sure if you try hard enough, you can also find a Tamil movie where the hero and the villain both are clean shven, but the heroine sports a handlebar.
hehehehe..totally understand your confusion. Im dating a punjabi who was born and brought up in Chennai and is totally in love with all things Tamilian...so am subjected to a wide array of confusing moustached Tamil heros/villains.Though unlike your dad i don't try to understand the storyline, I just quietly drop off to sleep.
hmm and I thought in Tamil films the director did not pay attention to such minor details about the hero and the villain's appearance coz the public is mainly obsessed with the buxom heroine!

Sagnik each of your posts is a learning experience - it changes the way I used to think about these grave issues!
Never tried watching a Tamil movie for kind of the same concern that you have. For one, find it really hard to follow who the good guy / bad guy is and then....I really do not like men with moustaches. Clean shaven Tamil heros? You must be joking!
Anupam Kher was given a bald patch??
Um, rubbing salt into his wounds, are we?
completely inspired to watch a tamil movie immediately and come up with a way to explain the good guy, bad guy identifying techniques.
funny post.

This was absolutely hilarious!!! I am sure you will find more wierd combinations in Kannada movies - where the hero and the villian both look as if they have just suffered a bout of Multiple personality disorder!

Good one! Pleas keep inkin

@mugger_much - :)) i am sure it wont be that diff :)

@ron - oh in my case i couldn't sleep coz my ex used to keep me awake for key punch line scenes :)

@aparna - now that you mention i remember seeing an interview of lisa ray where she mentioned that they gave her a padded ghagra for asouth indian movie so othat her butt looks bigger - never heard of a padded ghagra before that :)

@m - oh no they have become prgressive - i think sometime around mid 90s Prshant became a rage and he had a very thin moustache and now they have Madhavan who is clean shaven :)

@anon - ooops :))

@bron_magic - oh please lemme know the moment you find out anything :)

@supremus - thanks man :) i also like how kannada movies give heroes the best wigs - no other wig even comes close - lol
totally awesome.. but hey, incase you wanna rack your brains a little more, maybe you should try telugu movies.. in some cases, the villain looks better than the hero..now what do you say about that??:)
nandi ive also written a post on my favorite scenes in hindi movies
itll be great if a famous blogger like u will review it

nandi main bhi gandi
You know this whole hero thing is really ingrained in people. Heros have to fit a mould. It is funny you know. I am huge (understatement). And when I was at Pilani in my first year there was this senior who characterized me as a "thug". :) He refused to believe there was any good in me and always baited me to do something outrageous!!! I like Tamil movies for that reason. At least they don't promote stereotypes. Though I'll accept they don't do this very consciously. Basically a megastar never dies .. er .. till he actually does. So we are stuck watching him dance his way through a couple of generations. And you know what ? We love it :P
Firstly, please don't call it South Indian movies - that is like calling Bengali cinema East Indian Movies and stuff. Though, Four states, very different, and we mostly dislike each other… we occasionally put a united front only when on begins to talk about the Aryan Invasion Theory…About the cinema, Kerala is somewhat apart, Tamil and Telugu movies a bit similar (you know the hero with the moustache winning).

The hero is dark, fat and short; the other person who is not as dark, is thin, not as short is villain. It is all got to with deep-rooted historical influence.

When the Dravidians who peacefully existed in Central Asia North of Kashmir were taken by surprise by the Aryans, they had to run for shelter to the other side of the Vindhyas (the bastion that none could breach, not even the mighty Mughal empire). It was a no-contest really; given that the Aryan was tall, well-toned and muscular. The Draviadian in comparison was of short-stature, had excess adipose, but not enough muscle.

This led to much trauma. The Dravidian never overcame and which is why the villain in cinema must be fairer, taller and better looking. He is the cruel Aryan. Which is also the explanation as to why North-Indian rejects thrive in Kollywood – that is the whole revenge of the Dravidians. So, we have fair skinned Aryan woman, who is arrogant, dumb and shallow. But the Dravidian man conquers over her finally. Much poetic justice.

So, please don’t be dismissive of South Indian heroes – deep-rooted cultural nuances impact choice of hero.
@ramya - as a matter of fact i felt exactly that abt Shiva (which i believe was a Telugu movie to start with) - ppl might beat me up for this but i felt Raghuvaran was more "hero-ish" than Nagarjuna :)

@docs - :)) i read it. now why do i feel that you are someone we all know and you just blof as doc under a diff persona - am i right? (if you say yes i will blieve you and if you deny then that will reaffirm all ou suspicion :))

@the-most-amazing-name-i-have-seen - :) oh the old guy is always hero held/holds true for Hindi movies too - Dharmendra has romanced the same heroine that Sunny did, Amrita Singh started her career as a girl friend to Sunny Deol and later had to play mom to Bobby and for that matter even the Big B and Small B have romanced the same on screen heroinces - so Hindi movies are guilty of that too :)

@primalsoup - now t hat's a brilliant (with capital B) comment that deserves a separate post. simply awesome :)
Agree with Sagnik - Primalsoup's comment is thought provoking. By extension, the aryan-dravidian divide also explains why the classic 3-white-stripes-on-the-forehead man is always a comedian in hindi cinema.

Another point to notice is that the Tamil ridiculing is never seen in regional cinema. I never saw a bengali movie making fun of Tamilians. It's only found in Hindi movies slated for all-India releases. Almost as if there is no fun derived if a Tamilian doesn't see the 'joke'.
This was way too hilarious :D
Combine it with the Aryan Invasion Theory, and my god, its a riot!
Entertaining blog, this. But as far as the tamilian/Dravidian getting back at the Punjabi/Northie, you might want to check out this link
on BBC, which sheds some light on the Aryan Invasion Theory. Of course, it might be rejected, just because we are so used to a theory publicized by the british to pump up their superiority(White = Aryan Origin = Superior/Powerful).

Check out this linkat BBC(Yes, British!)

Also, if interested, read the book "Return of the Aryans" (Penguin Publications) by Bhagwan S. Gidwani, Author of "Sword of Tipu Sultan", and Director of Archaeological Society of India.
Another good link  on Aryan/Dravidian? Theory.
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