One way to consider the global status of South India is to take a closer look at the media and entertainment industries, and investigate how the current viewers react and why, and perhaps discuss the pros and cons. We’d also love to hear your views so please do leave a comment at the end.
Prior to 2012, I had never ventured into a cinema house seeking out South Indian content. Going back even one full decade brings back nauseating memories of melodramatic fight scenes where one punch would launch a villain, like a rocket, through a window or door. Then there was the music, drumming our inner ears flat, and the fact that subtitles were not as popular then made it extremely tough to follow the dialogue…
Such became the stereotypical association of many individuals, especially those within my generation. What also helped cordon off audiences for South Indian content was the dynamic situation we call globalism: English was more important if you wanted a good job and Western culture was the overall aspiration of many.
Across the globe, for many reasons, those with easy access to South Indian lingual/cultural entertainment were slowly moving away to more distinguished neighbourhoods, with larger yards and higher fences, which made communal cultural activity nearly impossible to engage with. Responsibility fell to parents in individual homesteads to foster and maintain support for such content and at the time, most parents were working incredibly hard to maintain their own financial stability and groom their children towards identical independent success, placing emphasis on the English language and western culture.
A vital note in discussing the status of South Indian entertainment is the steadfast rivalry between North and South. We need to consider how and why one has a more recognised, more popular, global standing overall. As the traditional demographic of general Indian content dispersed across the globe, a trend emerged: North Indian media seemed ready to embrace the western culture, and its demands, long before South Indian media. While this may display South India as a bit ‘behind the times’ the rationale behind this is strongly linked to principles of modesty and social and cultural practices within the southern regions of India.
Many South Indian storylines were recreated and hugely successful in the North Indian media groups but the world refused to accept the origin as South Indian projects, and why should they? Their demands for more revealing wardrobes and more suggestive choreography were simply not being met by South India. Even soundtracks were progressing toward digital composition while South Indians remained true to their own orchestral accompaniments. All these elements heavily influenced the way that people gauged their entertainment, and South India refused to budge on its self-respected values.
Once this attitude cemented itself across the South Indian entertainment industry, Indian cinema globally became known as what we understand to be North Indian content. The divide grew larger as international TV networks and radio stations marketed ithis content, leaving South India in the background. If South Indian descendants across the globe were shying away from their own regional entertainment – even going so far as to support the North Indian content with the masses – then why should companies spend capital on such a loss? Often-times, our community forgets that entertainment is still a business.
While "Billa" and a few other titles have succesfully proven that South Indians are catching up fast, this is where "Thuppakki" trumps its predecessors. Grossing almost 200 crores at the box office, making international headlines and scooping various awards for production, plot and cast performances, this movie has helped break down many barriers between South Indian cinema and the global population.
By means of its modern sound composition, stylish wardrobes, energetic (yet more realistic) fight scenes and a well integrated all-star cast, "Thuppakki" stood to prove that South Indians could match the likes of Bollywood, and even Hollywood.
Speaking of star cast, it’s difficult to ignore the magnificent Vidyut Jamwal [pictured above] who starred as Vijay’s nemesis on set. Having heavily increased his personal following, thanks to his role in "Force", Vidyut brought a large group of Bollywood fans into the support for "Thuppakki", even if only to witness him in action at first.
How do you feel about integrating North Indian cast into South Indian stories? Is this a positive move?
Prenessa Nalliah is a young creative based in South Africa. Click here to read her introductory article, where you can find out more about what she does.