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Diary Of A South Indian Growing Up In The Hindi Heartland

I could never get into the South Indian film milieu like some of my friends who had gro­wn up in Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore or Cochin. I missed a lot of great films as well as the buzz around many filmmakers of that time. But it had its pluses too

Diary Of A South Indian Growing Up In The Hindi Heartland
Illustration: Saahil Illustration: Saahil

Rasam Pakoda

‘Enga ponga, wanda landa’. Why does your language sound like pebbles shaken in a metal jar? Why do you lick the rasam from your elbows when sitting down to eat off a banana leaf? Do you people lift up the lungis to air your crotch? Early adulthood in the 80’s Delhi as a ‘Madrasi’ can leave a scar more stinging than Harry Potter’s. That South Indians were ‘brainy’ and ‘sharif’ were the only badge we could wear, but my grades in college, trips to the theka and rolling smokes disabused my friends and neighbours of that stereotype too. Add to this, the caricature of South Indians in Hindi films as brownface, loud and uncouth, speaking with an unintelligible accent made life romba kashtam. The most celebrated Mad­rasi character was Mehmood as Master Pillai in Padosan. I laughed with my friends watching the film, but squirmed inside at the singularly vicious portrayal of a South Indian. There were others, for instance, Pakoda Kadhar in Bombay To Goa, who kept screaming Paakkkoooodddaaa and everyone doub­led up laughing. I have endured, been amu­­sed, shaken my head at the countless over-the-top South Indian characters in Hindi films, from the buffoonish Mithun Chakraborty as the coconut-seller Krishna Iyer MA in Agneepath (though with a golden heart, equally patronising) to all of Deepika Padukone’s clan in Chennai Express.


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