Is South Indian cinema better than Bollywood’s?


In the fourth week of August, Madras played host to a three-day jamboree to mark 100 years of South Indian cinema.

Song and dance delegations from each of the four states got a chance to show their wares. By all accounts, it was an event hogged and monopolised by the Mysore-born actress-turned-Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalitha Jayaram, to the exclusion of all else in the film fraternity, in an election year.

But does South Indian cinema really have much to celebrate, regardless of the snooty South Indian belief that south cinema is better than Bollywood cinema? Regardless of the talented stars, the macho mustachioed actors, the sexy actresses, the villians, the vamps, the directors, music composers and technicians?

The long-time film critic Randor Guy alias Madabhushi Rangadurai, offers a blistering critique of Kollywood and Mollywood and Sandalwood, in The Pioneer:

“We are where we started in 1913. Indian movies in general and south Indian movies in particular have not moved an inch forward. It is all the same. Personalities have been changed to accommodate youth. That’s the only notable change.

“South Indian language films continue to be the extension of the old theatre. There is no semblance of reality to the real life. There should be logic, reasoning and art in the product.

“Do you think hard hitting dialogues, songs shot with hundreds of co-stars in exotic locations, the hero single-handedly bashing up the goons and walking away with the heroine makes a good movie? I am aghast.. Most of the directors have not seen classical movies and they have not read good books too.

“The movie Nenjil Oru Aalayam (A temple inside the heart) was sent as an entry for the Oscar Award. The man in charge of the category for which the movie was sent laughed at us and asked weren’t there any divorce laws in India. He told us that the story could have been cut short had the protagonists approached the court of law instead of singing songs and mouthing tough dialogues.

“If films represent only glamour and nothing else, well, there is no need to elaborate. If even third grade movies could throw up global leaders from the fraternity, imagine, what could have been the scenario had we produced movies matching the ones made in Hollywood?”

Photograph: courtesy Cinema News Today

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