Friday, January 13, 2012

The Two Faced Indian!

What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the following word?


That was a question I asked on my Facebook Page couple of days back. The people that follow my page belong to multiple demographics and since there is no right or wrong answer for this question the answers were many, ranging from Dhirubhai, Ambanis, Profits, Gujjus, Suits, Money, Cheat, Trade, Profit, Loss, etc, etc. Most of the answers were universal and could be understood by everyone but there were a couple of answers that I am sure baffled the rest of the people and made no sense whatsoever. The answers were Puri Jagannath & Mahesh Babu.

Now who the hell are Puri Jagannath and Mahesh Babu and what do they have to do with the word Business Man?

Ask any Telugu person worldwide or anyone living in Andhra Pradesh; he or she would instantly identify the names and chances are, before this weekend ends would have at least tried to watch the latest Telugu flick releasing today ‘BUSINESS MAN’ starring Mahesh Babu, directed by Puri Jagannath. I say “at least tried” because as per reports every single show of the film is sold out for next few days.

In the city of Hyderabad it has released in a maddening 110 cinema halls with one multiplex playing 34 shows of the same movie on day one and every single show is SOLD OUT, yes every single show. Yet, interestingly most of the rest of India is ignorant about the existence of a film called BUSINESS MAN as is evident from the comments on my page and otherwise too.

Crazy isn’t it?

Ok, if that wasn’t crazy enough, consider this.

Idiots or what?

The legendary film ‘3 Idiots’ holds the distinction of being the highest grossing Indian film ever (200cr Domestic Box Office). Wouldn’t it be safe to assume that anyone who calls himself an Indian and watches movies would have in all probability seen this film. Right?

To know the answer let’s shift base to Chennai /Tamil Nadu for some time. A movie released there yesterday and is running to packed houses and a particular multiplex which is supposed to be the largest multiplex of the country is running 60+ shows of the film per day, and almost all the tickets are again SOLD OUT.

This movie is directed by perhaps the most successful commercial director that Indian films have ever known, the director of ROBO and many such mega blockbusters, Shankar. The film stars Vijay (Touted as the closest replacement to Rajinikanth) and Ileana - the heartthrob of millions down south. Now don’t ask me who Ileana is, just Google her if you have never heard of her.

Ok, so what is the connection with the Hindi film 3 Idiots?

For those who are not aware, the movie I was talking about is called ‘Nanban’ and is the Tamil remake of the film ‘3 Idiots’.

Think about it. The most successful Bollywood film ever is remade into a regional language by a renowned director with a popular star and sets the cash registers ringing once again. There is a huge audience that has either not seen the original or wants to relive the experience once again in a culture that is dearer or rather more familiar to them.

Same is the case with the movie Bodyguard too, first made in Malayalam then Tamil then Hindi then Kannada and now releasing in Telugu tomorrow. Interestingly the 4 south Indian languages it was made in is for states that share borders and are closer than Mumbai is to Delhi.

It is exactly these people that I call the TWO FACED INDIANS. The ones who revel in not just their National Identity but also carry a strong Regional Identity, in simple terms they enjoy the best of both worlds.

Uncovering more faces!

The above examples (Business Man & Nanban) are for two specific states that I am more familiar with, I have no clue what is driving people in West Bengal or Kerala crazy right now, or for that instance Karnataka, Gujarat or Punjab or any other Indian state. This is a countrywide phenomenon. There exist Two Faced Indians everywhere.

If you are active on Twitter I am sure you can recollect the #BeingMallu #BeingTelugu #BeingKannadiga, etc hash tags gaining popularity off late. If you were a part of it, then my friend you are the perfect TWO FACED INDIAN.

One might argue that movies are no barometer to gauge culture. The most basic things that define any culture are Food, Clothing, Architecture, Language, Music and Dance along with a few other things. Interestingly most of the above are getting standardised across the country. We wear similar clothes (Jeans, T-Shirts, etc), build similar buildings (Apartments- 2BHK, 3BHK, etc), and eat similar foods (Panner Butter Masala to Idly Dosa and Burgers to Pizzas. Think of the restaurants that you go to), Music and Dance is again mostly Bollywood based and the only thing we seem to be doing differently is speak different languages at home. So where is the real difference?  It is in our regional movies which form the bulk of the popular conversations and Television content generated.

Just try flipping TV channels on Tata Sky or whichever cable subscription you have and try to watch the programmes of any other state other than yours (Regional TV Channels). Chances are you will be rolling on the floor laughing within a few minutes. Trust me, try it and see for yourself. The faces you see don’t appeal to you, the language and antics on screen seem even more hilarious especially since everything seems so alien. However amongst us Indians there are millions who can identify with what is on screen, just that we don’t realize it seems extremely odd to our neighbours in the next state and vice versa.

I need to point out another category of Indians at this point. They are the Unfortunate Indians, no; I am not talking about the underprivileged or poor people. Let me explain.

Unfortunate Indians!

While major states of India have this opportunity to enjoy an alternative pop culture there seem to be some places which are deprived of such joys. Notable among them is our capital city Delhi.

Apart from the Delhi winters and politics there is hardly any popular culture that exists here, whatever is the national culture (Bollywood) is also the local culture. Same problem afflicts few other states (Not naming them here, it is for you to introspect yourself), people of which have no idea what it is to be a Two Faced Indian. These are the unfortunate Indians.

The only glimpse they have is when a KOLAVERI from Chennai breaks barriers due to it clever lyrics in English aided by its catchy tune, simplicity and subtitles. Otherwise every other month there is a Kolaveri equivalent being generated in each of the regional languages enjoyed by the masses there. The Kolaveri equivalent need not be a song necessarily; it could be an entire film or just a film dialogue, an actor a dance step and so on. The Two Faced Indians would know what I am talking about.

The unfortunate Indian is really unfortunate not to be a witness and a part of an alternate culture. Imagine Satyajit Ray not reaching out of the boundaries of West Bengal, AR Rahman or a Mani Ratnam ever trying to venture out of Chennai, Ram Gopal Varma not moving out of Hyderabad and giving life to countless other creative people, the loss would have been immense. This reminds me of my childhood from the 80’s down south, Illayaraja was churning out one melodious masterpiece after another while Bollywood was at the depths of its mediocrity. It was a loss for an entire generation of Indians but a memorable phase for specific sections of India.

You are Lucky!

The idea of this blog post is not to demean any one region but instead to highlight the rich and thriving popular cultures that seem to be influencing vast sections of Indians. This uniqueness and blend of popular cultures is what makes India special and no nation in this world can come close to having a culture as rich and diverse as ours.

So next time you claim that you are a proud Indian, remember that this feeling emanates from two sides of your personality, the National and the Local. You are the true TWO FACED INDIAN. 

Oh, and with regards to BUSINESS MAN, don't worry, chances are Salman Khan might remake it just as he did with Mahesh Babu and Puri Jagannath's earlier Telugu blockbuster film POKIRI which became WANTED in Hindi. Or maybe brace yourself to see Mahesh Babu himself don the grease paint in the Hindi remake of BUSINESS MAN, that would be Kolaveri all over again!!!

Till then,
Kartik Dayanand Boddapati