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Is Tamil cinema allergic to English songs?

Even though Tamil movie producers go in for titles strictly in the same language, they are not averse to the idea of having English songs.

regional movies Updated: Feb 26, 2014 18:24 IST
Gautaman Bhaskaran
Gautaman Bhaskaran
Hindustan Times
Tamil films,English titles,English songs

Tamil films have Tamil titles. Nothing wrong. But some of these can fox you, for they are words or expressions used ever so rarely.

One reason why Tamil movie producers go in for titles in Tamil is because they get a tax rebate from the state government, and the two most important political parties in Tamil Nadu, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), are Tamil chauvinists. In fact, the DMK is particularly so, with the result that most Tamils know little Hindi and struggle to communicate once they cross the Vindhyas.

However, Tamil cinema now seems to be open to the idea of having English songs. This apparently is not a black mark in the state, and will not disqualify a film from getting monetary benefit.

Director Bharathirajaa and star

Kamal Haasan

wondered during the recent launch of a promotional track for the movie, Taramani (by Ram), why Tamil cinema should not have English numbers. Their question was provoked by a song, The Soul of Taramani, which was written by actor Andrea.

Oddly, the number itself would not feature in the film, because it is in English. But Ram said that he would be using the song for the movie’s publicity. Call this hypocrisy or what you may, but it merely reaffirms the kind of language bigotry that exists in Tamil Nadu.

Incidentally, Bharathirajaa’s Nadodi Thenral had an English track.

As Kamal quipped, an English number in a Tamil film is not going to mar its native flavour or authenticity.

Paradoxical as this may sound, Tamils use the most number of English words in their daily lingo. The word, sir, is invariably used instead of “Bhaiyya” or “dada”, and madam, in place of “didi” or “mataji”. Everyone uses words like “watch” and “time”. Everyone wants a drink of “water”. Nobody ever uses ‘saayam’ instead of colour. And I still remember a weaver in Kanchipuram (renowned for its silk) who looked shocked and hurt when I kept using the Tamil word for colour. He probably thought that I was underestimating his English language skill and thereby undervaluing his status!

Against all this, it sure seems silly that Tamil cinema ought to be allergic to English numbers.

First Published: Feb 26, 2014 18:13 IST