For Kollywood, it’s turn out to be par for the course to mock Yogi Babu for his appears to be like with slurs like “panni munji vaaya” (pig-face). Such pejoratives have their roots within the casteist dehumanising of dark-skinned, wiry-haired individuals.
Mainstream Tamil cinema has in the previous few years, significantly for the reason that movies of Pa Ranjith, witnessed a big shift in how Dalit, Adivasi or Bahujan individuals are represented on display. A technology of youthful filmmakers, many supported by Ranjith’s Neelam Productions, have registered a robust, anti-caste, Ambedkarite stance coupled with compelling storytelling. Whereas the business at giant appears to have recognised the ‘marketability’ of such movies, it nonetheless has an extended technique to go in exorcising casteism from inside its personal ranks of scriptwriting, lyrics and characterization.
Take the lately launched Mahaan. The lacklustre plotline apart, Vikram’s sort-of-intro track overtly equates a self-absorbed, irresponsible con-man, roaming town to fulfil his personal petty wants, with the nomadic Lambadi tribe. The traces within the track “Evanda Enakku Custody?” by lyricist Vivek, go “namma evlo periya Lambadi” (I am the best Lambadi) within the context of celebrating the hero’s supposed swag for not caring about something past satisfying himself. One would have hoped that Santhosh Narayanan’s (Mahaan music director) lengthy stint of working with anti-caste administrators like Pa Ranjith or Mari Selvaraj could have sensitised him in opposition to such lyrics.
Darkish-skinned and fats: ‘comedy piece’
Even movies that superficially declare to defy caste constructions just like the Yogi Babu-starrer Mandela solely serve to additional entrench them as a substitute. In Mandela, by which he performs an individual from a barber-caste, he’s repeatedly known as ‘illicha vaayaa’ (simpleton), requested to scrub the bathroom, till he supposedly turns the tables by hogging for himself ‘freebies’ in alternate for his vote. All of this passes for darkish comedy as a result of the movie is marketed as political satire. This so-called comedy within the movie hinges primarily on the mockery of a marginalised caste man whose characterisation depends closely on passing off his oppression as humour.
Truly, for Kollywood, it’s turn out to be par for the course to mock Yogi Babu for his appears to be like with slurs like “panni munji vaaya” (pig-face). In ‘Summer season of 69’, Yogi Babu’s section in Navarasa, the insult is used freely, a number of instances. There may be additionally a dialogue that goes, “Adhu panni maathiri irrukum aana nai dhaan,” (It appears to be like like a pig, nevertheless it’s actually a canine), close to the actor. Once more, in Annabelle Sethupathi, one of many ‘humorous’ scenes is of Taapsee Pannu pointing to Yogi Babu and saying “panni munji vaayan?” when he asks her if she remembers who he’s.
Such pejoratives have their roots within the casteist dehumanising of dark-skinned, wiry-haired individuals. Very like the “coon” and “Sambo” jokes of Jim Crow Period America, they draw on a supremacist ultimate of body-type, pores and skin color and hair. The Jim Crow Period refers back to the late 1800s properly into the Sixties in the USA, when legal guidelines had been in place to implement segregation and legitimise anti-Black racism. Cultural propaganda by means of books, motion pictures and such, carciaturised African American our bodies with tropes like exaggeratedly darkish skin-tones or impossibly giant lips. The offensive time period “coon” is a variation of raccoon, the Jim Crow Museum, points out. “Sambo was depicted as a perpetual baby, not able to residing as an impartial grownup” — a picture not dissimilar to Yogi Babu’s character in Mandela. “The coon acted infantile, however he was an grownup; albeit a good-for-little grownup. Sambo was portrayed as a loyal and contented servant. Certainly, Sambo was supplied as a protection for slavery and segregation.”
Simply as white suprematism fuelled these bestialised portrayals of Black Individuals as unclever and childish, ‘panni munji vaayan’, ‘ilicha vaayu’, draw on a Bramanical ultimate by which those that usually are not light-skinned, smooth-haired and thin instantly qualify for mockery.
Even barely older movies like Jackpot, Sarkar and Bigil, all of which Yogi Babu stars in, appear to have the actor there to function a punching bag — each verbal and bodily — for the principle star’s profit.
Additionally learn: ‘Summer of 92’ in ‘Navarasa’: A humourless tale dedicated to casteism
For girls actors who’re dark-skinned, it’s taken as a right that they’ll solely serve the story as objects of ridicule. In Maari 2, for instance, the running-joke is that Dhanush pretends to favour dark-skinned Arandhangi Nisha over the light-skinned Sai Pallavi, each of whom play characters known as Anandhi, each of whom who’re in love with him. In fact, he doesn’t actually discover Arandhangi Nisha enticing, he does it to bother Sai Pallavi’s Anandhi.
For a cinema business and the bigger Tamil tradition which considers solely light-skinned girls enticing, it is distressing, however unsurprising that the concept of dark-skinned girls, significantly those that aren’t skinny, having wishes and or being fascinating themselves is taken into account laughable on display.
Final 12 months’s Sivikarthikeyan-starrer Physician has many successful moments when it comes to comic-timing and story-telling. These moments don’t embody the position reduce out for Deepa Shankar who performs a cleaner, who joins the household she works for, in retrieving their baby from human traffickers. Most of her scenes depict her as a glutton, stuffing herself even in essentially the most nerve-wracking of moments. Sure, we get it, it’s purported to be bleak humour. Punching down isn’t humorous, although.
Physician additionally in fact had the inventory North-Madras-according-to-Tamil-cinema characters, who’re both criminals or simpletons or each. They get the Yogi-Babu-gets-beaten-up ‘comedy’ observe in early, and his character solely leaves you conflicted because the movie progresses.
North Madras on display – nonetheless a darkish den of criminality
Regardless of the success of Ranjith’s Madras and the near-unanimous reward Sarpatta Parambarai obtained, the northern a part of town — which largely includes working-class, lowered-caste populations — continues to be stereotyped as a hotbed of violent criminality. Even the director’s makes an attempt to vary the mainstream view of dark-skin into one thing empowering will get conscripted into imprecise tokenism. For years it’s been widespread sufficient for the hero to sport the Madras-Tamil dialect, however with the identical quantity of depth as African-American English is co-opted by white individuals.
“Aamma alukka irupom, karuppa kalaiyaruppom,” Vijay sings in Bigil as he swaggers into sight by way of neon lights bouncing off dramatic fog. It means, “sure, we’re soiled and we’re black/darkish and exquisite.” And the movie goes on to proceed on this exceedingly contradicting vein, kind of. Darkish is gorgeous? However provided that you’re a person? Heroine have to be pale as at all times? (okay, sure, that is director Atlee who as soon as tried to move off a white, British lady as a south Indian in Theri). However wait, really not all males both, Yogi Babu nonetheless will get slapped round. The dark-skinned lady footballer is fat-shamed, likened to a charging buffalo throughout the make-or-break soccer match within the climax sequence. Oh, and individuals who dwell within the slums are all “soiled?”
Ranging from Bigil’s poor grasp on girls’s empowerment, the entire movie is a lesson in contradicting its politics about gender or class or caste in each different scene. Regardless of the glimpses of humanity that come by way of in Rayappan (Vijay enjoying Vijay’s personal father) as he talks in regards to the childhood circumstances that pressure him into rowdyism, North Madras within the movie is a cookie-cutter repetition of Vetrimaaran’s Vada Chennai, with its warring, blood-thirsty factions. A north Indian upper-caste man known as Sharma is the aggressor, somebody whose casteism is proven in the best way he sanitises his arms each time he touches anybody he considers ‘unclean’. But, the movie appears unaware of its personal casteism in its lyrics or remedy of choose characters or portrayal of North Madras. The movie might be credited for trying to stress the necessity for sports activities quotas, solely, it appears too afraid to brazenly take that stance. Possibly this hesitation stems from the business’s long-standing grudge in opposition to reservation?
A meritless argument in opposition to reservation
Sadly, Kollywood’s makes an attempt to painting caste-based reservation as antithetical to advantage continues to have a market. Take final 12 months’s Yennanga Sir Unga Sattam. The movie rehashes the politics of Gentleman (1993): the ‘poor’ Brahmin who loses out to ‘undeserving’ Scheduled Caste candidates when looking for a job in TNPSC (Tamil Nadu Public Service Fee). “Ezhaigal la enna poonal pottava, poonal podaathavaa?” (how can there be a distinction between a Brahmin and a non-Brahmin among the many poor), says the poor Brahmin character, mouthing director Prabhu Jayaram’s assist for the inadequately formulated Economically Weaker Part (EWS) quota launched by the present Union Authorities.
Author Shalin Maria Lawrence says that Tamil cinema on one hand reveals lowered caste individuals as soiled, uneducated, undeserving, rowdies and as criminals, alternatively, “Brahmins are depicted as trustworthy, noble souls. An trustworthy individual is sort of at all times a Brahmin man. Tamizhan, Vetham Puthithu, Anniyan, there are such a lot of examples. Even non-Brahmin administrators have a tendency to point out Brahmins as harmless and as victims of reservation. This hasn’t modified.” Shalin provides that regardless of the entry into Kollywood of a handful of anti-caste filmmakers, “the biases of administrators, screenwriters and actors proceed to replicate in motion pictures. See how the police are depicted. Their extrajudicial violence, the best way they demean individuals of their speech are proven because the veeram (bravery) of dominant castes.”
Cops and victims
The business’s obsession with police-heroes is long-running. As Shalin factors out, not solely are their violent measures lauded, usually their caste-location is signalled not-so-subtly. They arrive from intermediate castes who’ve self-styled notions of honour and bravado. This explicit depiction of intermediate caste heroes as cops or in any other case has been contested by movie commentators for nearly so long as it first raised its head again within the Eighties and Nineteen Nineties. Within the situations these heroes are policemen, the individuals they hunt are from working-class, lowered caste backgrounds. These villains are devoid of humanity and are principally brutes who will later be bloodily executed. Theeran Athigaram Ondru, starring Karthi and directed by H Vinoth for instance, bumped into bother for its depiction of the Bawariya neighborhood, a denotified tribe. They had been proven as violent brutes, justifying this opinion close to the real-life Prison Tribes Act — a merciless colonial-era legacy of criminalising whole communities that even at the moment has its echoes within the Routine Offenders Act.
Lately, with the success of a number of cop-dramas led by almost the entire business’s huge male stars, the style has taken a very noxious flip, if Mohan G’s Rudra Thandavam is any measure to go by. This is similar director who was a full-length film, PMK chief Ramadoss’ baseless allegations that Dalit males are “sporting denims and tricking upper-caste girls into falling in love with them.”
Sadly, movies like Jai Bhim or Visaaranai, that are broadly seen as a solution to the police-hero movies that intermarry poisonous masculinity with caste satisfaction, additionally in the end fail as a result of they rob company from these affected by police brutality. The prolonged torture sequences cater to a selected caste-gaze that may solely view the marginalised as helpless, distraught victims. Is it anti-caste or simply one other type of stereotyping when a neighborhood is boiled right down to a singular facet of their existence, moderately than in search of to stress their personhood?