As you’re aware, I’m sure, India is a pretty damn big country, and it seems even bigger because of the diversity from 1 region to the next. Sometimes I wonder if we’re a collection of mini-countries passing of as a single unit. Movies subtly draw from society, and reflect to an outsider some of the acceptable things and aspirations of a majority of its constituents.
South-Indian movies (referring to the 4 southern states of Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu) are a riot because of their larger than life depictions of things. While I don’t know any of the native languages, and I’m as much an outsider to them as you are, I’m glad to have seen and laughed at quite a few Hindi-dubbed movies. They’re funny in the most unexpected moments, and in unexpected ways. There’s a predictable logic in most, but that doesn’t take away from the experience.
What’s in a Name?
Now, you must be used to English movies with logical sounding names like Casino Royale, Godzilla, The Expendables and so on. Also, you’d never expect a ‘Godzilla 2’ if there wasn’t a part 1 released prior, right? But south-Indian films throw grammar rules out of the window when creating names. The end result is often a title of intrigue, or just plain confusion, apart from humour. And for some reason, there’s an obsession either with felines, or winning in every imaginable endeavor. Here’s a few samples of what I’m tying to say, the translations and my comments follow in parentheses….
Jalaa Kar Raakh Kar Doonga (Translation: I’ll burn you to ashes. Thanks for the heads up!)
- Paap ko Jalaa kar Raakh kar doonga (Translation: I’ll burn all the sin to ashes. A specialized arsonist who burns only sins rather than the guy committing them.. I feel secure already)
- Aaj ka Challenge (Translation: Today’s Challenge. What is this, reality TV?)
- Mai hoon Khatarnaak (Translation: I’m Dangerous. Really? you look as cuddly as a bear)
- Ek Aur Hero – The Dashing (Translation: One More Hero – The Dashing. ONE MORE Hero? Who was the first one? I swear the first movie never came!)
Now for all the ‘No. 1’ movies…
- No. 1 Judwa – The Unbreakable (Translation: No. 1 Twins – The Unbreakable. First of all, what contest ranks 1 pair of twins for being more ‘twinny’ than the next pair?.. And secondly, what stress test did you use to conclude that you’re unbreakable?)
- Judwa No. 1 (Translation: Twins No. 1. Yes, it’s a different movie than the one above…… Go figure!)
- Kaliya No. 1 (Translation: Black guy No. 1. No racism intended by the film makers… i hope! 😮)
- No. 1 Mr. Perfect (Translation not needed… But I want to check if the film makers suffer from Narcissistic Personality Disorder)
- King No. 1 (Indian game of thrones? or Age of Empires?)
And how can we forget their love for ferocious felines…
- Bhai – The Lion (Translation: Brother – The Lion. I’m confused.. is this about 2 lions? Or has a family adopted a lion? I didn’t see a lion anywhere in the damn film!)
- Bhavani – The Tiger (Misleading title! Bhavani is the protagonists name, and he’s human, not a tiger)
- Indra – The Tiger (Ditto above)
- Panjaa – The Tiger (ANOTHER tiger?!….. And here we’re told tigers are on the verge of getting extinct in India… Sheesh!)
- Cheetah – The Leopard (OH MY GOD!! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHA!!!! Even SCHOOL KIDS know a cheetah and a leopard are different animals!.. and NEITHER OF THEM are shown in the movie)
- Rowdy Cheetah ( This feline needs to go to obedience school ASAP!)
All in the Family
Characters are typical with either 1 large joint family living in a mansion of a house in a rural area, or, 1 large joint family living in a mansion of a house in the middle of a city, or 2 large joint families living in mansions at both places… to add to the confusion, the villain typically also has a huge joint family and lives in a mansion of his own! Talk about population in this country!
Speaking of family, the family structure shown in almost all movies is strikingly similar. The head is either a patriarch or a matriarch (the spouse has always been killed tragically). There are 2 uncles who resemble gangsters, their wives who have no dialogues in the entire film, 1 gorgeous heroine, 1 clown who is either a third uncle, or a neighbour or a friend of the household, and our protagonist who is always an outsider, and mostly an orphan….. and how can we forget the 30 – 40 odd walking punching bags whose task is to succumb to the hero’s punches and kicks. A notable mention here of the large convoy of cars that each family has. All the cars are the SAME model (usually an SUV) and SAME colour (either white or black)…. man, they love to travel in style! :p
Every south Indian movie is at its heart a romantic action thriller…. they may want you to believe its a horror movie, psychological drama, or even mythology, but as the story develops, you realize that it’s just another romantic action movie…. and boy do I mean ACTION! Almost all movies have the same path – view into life of luxury of 1 of the families, background to show why they’re enemies with some other clan, in comes the hero and begins to kick some butt, falls in love with girl, does over the top things to impress girls family, final mind numbing showdown with the big villain, guy gets the girl, the end!… with a little comic relief thrown in here and there of course.
Lights, Camera, ACTION!!
The distinguishing factor in any south-Indian movie is the over-the-top, common sense defying action. Even the lamest movie will make Jackie Chan run for his money. Laws of physics, laws of motion, and even laws of reason have no place when it comes to designing the action sequences. They have cars flying around and exploding, bodies being tossed around like rag dolls, single punches making people fly a couple hundred feet, people pulling trains with their bare hands and blood being spilled by the gallon. The funny part is, the girl seems to be ok with the shower of blood around her. What girl wouldn’t like her man to engage in some bloodlust every now and then, eh? I’m gonna shut up now and let you see it to believe it. It was a task trying to decide exactly which video to show you out of the many online. You absolutely MUST see this video completely, and I dare you to not laugh!
By the way, I’ve deliberately not mentioned the dance sequences in these movies anywhere in the post. I don’t think I can handle any more feelings of embarrassment. :p
If movies are a representation of the aspirations of society, then I guess a south-Indian girl will be attracted to a charmer who owns an estate, a dozen or so cars, 30 odd henchmen, and can fight an entire army using only his bare hands…. Hmm…. I guess I’m not gonna have any luck with these girls, am I? :p