February 22, 2020
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South Of Sodom

South Of Sodom
It was hard to decide if it was an embarras de richesses or a punishment posting. As members of the national jury selecting films for the Indian panorama of the International Film Festival of India 2004, we saw 117 films in 12 languages. Five a day, back-to-back, for weeks at a stretch. By the end, our brains had almost entirely leaked out.

While we have squandered years whining about its appalling crudity, sex and violence, Bollywood is puréed babyfood compared to South Indian mainstream cinema. Down there, it does not count unless it's third degree. The Tamilians win the Olympics for Horrific Crudity, Sexism and Violence. Take Subramaniam Siva's Thiruda Thirudi, offered for the Panorama. It features Dhanush, a pigeon-chested paavam who looks like a paanwala on probation, but gets the bombshell girl in the end. The lyrics of its hit song, Manmadan Raja (O Cupid Prince!), go something like this: "O Cupid princess, I've tasted you...I flooded you/ Engulfed you/I peeled you off in bits and pieces/Why are you so hasty?/I hit you, I hit you/You tanked me, torpedoed me/I've kept it for you tight at night/I've reserved my steam for you/ Don't tell me you're a virgin/Like a spicy guy, I came, I came.... The song ends with the girl telling the boy, "I'll settle your account!"

How interesting then that the Chennai censors enthusiastically passed this film, while holding up Manu Rewal's Pani for a scene in which a woman smokes, and another where someone says bastard or f****** bastard. The Tamilians have a telling phrase, "Ni loosa (Are you loose/crazy)?" That's what we'd like to ask the censors. Or were they, in fact, tighta?

In M.R. Ranjith's Bheeshmar, an inspector twists a corrupt cop's head "like an idli-grinding machine", then sets him afire, then jams him in a lift door, then hacks him with a sickle 11 times, then bashes his head against a jagged windscreen. Still, he looks unsure he's achieved the desired effect.

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