April 22, 2014

A Tamil girl writes to Bollywood

This is an earnest plea to Bollywood.

If you ever want to make a movie on Tamilians, kindly adopt me.

No, really. You never get it right. I am not saying we never have our biased portrayals of North Indians in films down south. But then, that, my dears, is another’s battle to fight. Let us get back to mine.

I watched Two States last night. And a few months ago I watched Chennai Express. A decade or more ago, I witnessed Juhi Chawla going “Ayyo Appa” in Hum Hain Rahi Pyaar Ke. All these three films had pretty, intelligent and good actresses who were essaying roles of Tamil girls.

I am a Tamil girl but not your typical idea of Mallipoo (jasmine) sporting, sari draped, M.S.Subbalaxmi on the iPod, mantra book thumping one. I honestly don’t know where you got that idea from. We grew up parallel with the times, you know? So while all you North Indians are not seen wearing ghaghra cholis and salwar suits on an everyday basis, we also resort to alternative clothing. We love our saris and mallipoos, yes. But that is NOT all we wear.

Maybe we won’t even tread into the styling, as mostly you guys at Bollywood mix up your Kerala Kasavu saris for our Kancheevarams and insist that we dress up that way. So I will let you keep your delusions. But I will insist on one thing – get your language right. If your character is a Tamilian, let them SPEAK in Tamil for God’s sake and not that weird mumbo-jumbo that I half expect will magically make a pigeon fly out from behind their pallus! Get an accent trainer. Or hire me! I will do it for free, as long as you credit me.

So you have Revathy sharing screen space with Alia Bhatt. I wonder how she survived the mutilation of the language during the dubbing sequences if at all they did dub together! Here was a seasoned star, AT your disposal and you let the chance pass, Bollywood. Why? Why? Why?

If you are shooting anything ‘Tamil’, you need to get your production team to work extra hours unless you have one of Matunga’s boys on board who visit Madras in their summer holidays. They will know that women don’t keep walking with baskets of flowers and multi coloured pots ALL The time on the streets of Tamil Nadu as you showed in Chennai Express. No, they don’t do that in Kerala either. We too have bore wells, thankyouverymuch!

And what is with the vibuthi/ sacred ash that everyone seems to sport (alright, or the occasional chandan you let them indulge in)? There are OTHER religions people follow down south, too. We have our own Triplicane mamis sharing vadaam (sun-dried flour/vegetable) space on the terrace with Muslim aunties who are drying their fish. We also have our own very Stellas and Marias to give your Bandra crowd some serious competition.

The point I am trying to make is- I LOVE you Bollywood! So much so that, I even left my Tamil cinema land of Chennai to come here. Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE Kollywood too with all its innovative storylines and stunning filmmaking. And I equally get annoyed with it for its repetitive dishevelled thug heroes and occasional sickeningly cute heroines. But presently, I am more of a Bombaiyya who loves a pav with her vada more than a chutney with her vadai. Maybe it is a phase, maybe it is to stay. But like I said, I don’t like YOU, Bollywood, to disappoint me this way by a complete lack of research about a land I am mighty proud of – Tamil Nadu. I am not clannish, neither am I close minded. I am no fan of Chetan Bhagat nor am I a Chennai Express type. I am just particular that movies get made with a passion and sincerity that they deserve.

Making Alia Bhatt, however drop-down-dead gorgeous that she is, mispronounce Tamil IS not going to make you convincing, Bollywood. It is going to make me laugh at you, point fingers at you and write an entire list of how terrible it was - which is exactly what I just did.

Grow up Bollywood and hire people who will care for you. Who will go at lengths to UNDERSTAND what you are trying to portray. Who will know the stories you are trying to tell and give them the voice it deserves. Make every kind of film you want to make, but make them with authenticity and passion. Without passion, everything is stale. And Bollywood, YOU are what taught me to fall passionately in love with films. Will you please fall in love with yourself, as well?
© Dryad's Peak
Maira Gall