Monday, March 12, 2007

Movie Crazy Tamil Nadu

All over the world, movies influence people and also inculcate in them a myriad of reactions and feelings. But nowhere in the world can movies actually have an impact on people than in Tamil Nadu. This can be endorsed by the fact that all the politicians who are someone in this state have all been from the film world and each one’s vote bank has been nurtured and brought up on the basis of different movies. Our people don’t just watch a movie to take time of from their busy schedule but rather movies are a part and parcel of their schedule. Queues stretching as far as ones eyes go to get a ticket for a movie on the first day is a very common sight in Chennai. In the beginning, I used to wonder why people would stand in such long queues to get a ticket on the first day, or even going to the level of buying a ticket in the “black”, when you could come back to see the very same movie about a week or even a month later very comfortably. But after I stayed in Chennai for a few years I understood that this was practically drilled into us. We were forced by society and the general public into doing being there to watch a movie on the first day. Maybe, this could be another form of social pressure or even “peer” pressure, if I may be allowed to use this term. My friends would get excited just at the thought of a movie that was going to be released even a year later. They would go to any levels to be the first to get some little bit of information on the movie, something that others didn’t know. Why? Because everyone is interested and there are hardly a handful of Tamilians who would not flutter an eye-lid when a Rajinikanth starrer or Kamal-Hassan starrer was to release!

Rajinikanth movies are really something in Tamil Nadu. A first day show of a Rajinikanth movie could cost anywhere between Rs.500 – Rs.1000 in the black, as you can be pretty sure that you wouldn’t be able to get a ticket at the counter (Blame it on the fan clubs or the influence of people with the theatre owners). So if you were just a commoner, you would have to probably buy a ticket for this cost. And there are so many people who would do anything to lay their hands on this ticket. People who hardly make enough money for a living and to support their family would be willing to spend so much money to get their hands on a ticket to their “Thalaivar’s” film!

Leaving aside the monetary factor, a movie release is more celebrated as a festival here in Tamil Nadu. With people bursting crackers, sticking posters and hanging streamers all over the towns and cities, a movie release gives people a more “understood” common reason to celebrate. It is very common to see people dancing and screaming out at theatres vehemently sure that their “demi-god” on screen can here what they have to say and will appreciate them for their loyalty and antics. Fans turn into political parties and fans turn into MLAs (ministers in the state assembly). This is how “loyalty” is rewarded in our political system (which also includes the film industry). Very simply put, there is a very thin line that divides our political system from our film industry. This line can choose to appear when it is needed and also disappear when it is not needed.

So how should our film-makers act knowing and understanding the prevailing situation. They know that every action our superstar performs on screen is going to be imitated by thousands and many are going to live the character their star plays on screen. So here comes the million-dollar question – Are our movie makers being responsible and taking movies understanding the sentiments of our people. This is highly debatable, but I choose to say that there are very few film-makers who make a movie responsibly. I understand that people are expected to act in an independent manner and are supposed to be able to think for themselves, but are our people thinking for themselves? A small illustration to drive home the above fact is smoking on-screen. Yes, I agree it does look stylish to see an actor blowing smoke in different shapes, but I personally do know many people who have taken to smoking because they have seen their favourite actor do so on screen. This is just a small illustration of the on-going situation. Movie-makers are taken away by commercial aspects of movies and resort to taking ugly scenes (like badly taken rape scenes) in order to bring crowds into the halls. They even work their way through the censor board to justify such scenes in our movies. Maybe our film-makers should concentrate more on spreading messages through their films to create social awareness on a host of reasons. You could very well argue that this would lead to boring films and “documentary-like” films, but I beg to differ. There was a certain movie in which comedian Vivek focused all of his comedy scenes in the movie on trying to make people understand that many of their customary practices were mostly without rationale. The comedy track was appreciated and enjoyed by all at the same time trying to tell people to think of many of the practices they were following just because their fore-fathers told them to do so!

Only in Tamil Nadu, can a movie be the cause of calling an assembly session, the cost of a movie ticket be cause of state-wide headlines and feuds between fans extend beyond to reach political heights. Only in Tamil Nadu, can actors take on politicians openly in the public, can actors run a three-hour advertisement for himself to create an entry point into his political career and most amusingly can an actor copyright his on-screen behavioral patterns. This is the state where real life isn’t portrayed in movies, but rather scenes from movies and dialogues reflect on a person’s behavioral habits and character. Drama extends to reality and reality rises beyond the galaxy creating super stars who go even beyond to hold the reins of power.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sorry ... better luck next time ...
Seeing the number of comments for this post i am now rethinking the saying "Mediocrity has an advantage of its own".