Synthesis: What the popularity of South Indian films in Bihar tells us

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Synthesis: What the popularity of South Indian films in Bihar tells us

Post by Rashmun on Wed Oct 18, 2017 12:09 pm

Sudhanshu is hard at work in his shop on Patna’s busy Boring Road. The small strip of a shop has two desktop computers, both loaded with music and movies downloaded from the internet.

The songs and films are Sudhanshu’s livelihood. Boring Road, with its government college and several dozen coaching centres, is a beehive of students. Every day, several of them visit the shop to purchase the latest movies and songs for their phones and pen drives.

One sleepy afternoon in March, Sudhanshu, who does not look older than 20, rattled off the names of the hit movies of the moment: Akhil – The Power of Jua, Heart Attack, Businessman 2, Shivam, Viraat, The Return of Raju. All South Indian films, mostly Telugu, dubbed into Hindi for audiences in the north.

“We have more people coming here for Tamil and Telugu films than for films in other languages,” Sudhanshu said. Apparently, South Indian films have soared in popularity in the last five years. And not just in Patna. At an autorickshaw stand outside the Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College Hospital in Bhagalpur city on another March afternoon, two young men were watching a movie on a mobile phone.

Which film? “Tamil hai,” one of them replied. It is Tamil.

Welcome to modern Bihar, the land of nonplussing cultural rhythms.

Unlikely plot
So, why do people in the Hindi heartland prefer dubbed South Indian films to Hindi movies from Bollywood? There are only partial explanations, really.

According to Mohammad Parvesh, who runs a shop adjacent to Sudhanshu’s, and has taken a break to browse the Internet on Sudhanshu’s computer, “the action is better”. “People like the style of these movies,” he said. “It is very different from Bollywood.”

Others see their desires and aspirations reflected in these films. As Parvesh spoke, a Class 11 student preparing for the IIT-JEE entrance examination at a coaching centre nearby, walked in. His parents live in the city but he stays in a small rented room near the coaching centre. The centre has helped him get admission to a school in the vicinity. “I do not go there at all,” he said, referring to the school. “I will go only for the exam. But my attendance is being marked.” Apart from attending coaching classes, he studies for about six hours every day. But there are no classes currently, so he spends his time watching movies. He prefers South Indian films, of course.

“I like these stories,” he said. “There is one with junior NTR, where the son wants to fulfil his father’s dreams,” he added, referring to the popular Telugu actor NT Rama Rao Jr.

Go around in Bihar and everywhere you meet people dreaming of breaking free from their circumstances and pursuing their aspirations, people struggling against the broken systems of state and society. Businessman 2 or Shivam could well be their stories. As it is, over the last decade, Tamil cinema in particular has seen the emergence of filmmakers who have gone “back to their roots in the villages and told stories of their land, far away from the culture of studios or sets”. Some of the stories, as the film critic Sadanand Menon noted, are pivoted around vigilante justice. Others talk about aspirations. Naturally, people who come from similar circumstances in Bihar identify with these stories. Bollywood, in contrast, no longer represents their lives, or so it appears.


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