Thursday, March 12, 2015

Not OK Kanmani

Article 15 of the Constitution of India specifically prohibits discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth. Wonder why our founding fathers didn’t add language to that list. If they had, the patently discriminatory policy of discouraging English titles by providing tax incentives for Tamil names wouldn’t have stood legal scrutiny.

Before you jump at me for defending a foreign language, allow me to point out that English is one of the two official languages of the Indian Union. And usage of English in our movie titles has been prevalent since 1936 when Miss Kamala hit the screens.

From that era till now, filmmakers have always taken care to choose only those words that would resonate with the masses. The most preferred tactic was to prefix a name with a degree, profession, or designation. ICS Mappillai (1940), Server Sundaram (1964), Major Chandrakanth (1966), CID Shankar (1970), General Chakravarthy (1977), Justice Gopinath (1978), Lawyer Suhasini (1987), Sethupathi IPS (1994) and Suyetchai MLA (2006) are a few celebrated examples in this sub-genre.

If you really analyse, how does one think of Tamil equivalents for IPS, CID, Major, and MLA? You have to accept these words as part of your language, no?

The logic is the same with usage of Christian names in titles. Does the Rajnikant movie ‘Johnny’ not qualify for being ‘Tamil’? Why must the Vijayakant starrer, ‘Alexander’, be perceived as any less local than the Karthi flick ‘Alex Pandian’? Didn’t Tamilnadu queue up to watch the Satyaraj film ‘Walter Vetrivel’? Why should the Tamil movie ‘Romeo Juliet’ be paying 15% more entertainment tax just because it chose to be true to the original play?

Another question that must be posed is: Haven’t words like ‘Hero’, ‘Pass Mark’, ‘News’, ‘Youth’, ‘Five Star’, ‘Pizza’, ‘Star’, ‘Jeans’, ‘Time’, ‘Duet’, ‘Whistle’, ‘Junior Senior’, ‘Boys’ and ‘Autograph’ become a part of the everyday lexicon in Karunanidhi land? So why shouldn’t they be treated as part of the Dravida culture?

Somehow, for reasons I’ve never fathomed, our artists keep accepting these diktats so meekly. Perhaps the time has come to reopen the debate on what constitutes our culture. Else, even a Mani Ratnam will be forced to settle for the watered down ‘O Kadhal Kanmani’ for a few dollars more.