Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Marathi Manoos

I was born and brought up in a land proud of its culture, heritage, and more importantly, its language. So much so that we made sure Hindi never entered our land for many years. And, even with the IT-BPO boom and the influx of migrant population, when Hindi became an inevitable necessity for doing business, we made sure Tamil never died. It is still evident in how the state government gives tax sops to movies that have Tamil titles. For instance, Happy New Year would never have been made in our land, only because it would have been re-titled “Iniya Puthandu Nal Vaazhthukkal”.

Some of our most beautiful books were and are written in Tamil, our theater quality is decent (though not as great as that of some other regional languages, I am told), and we make some of the most brilliant cinema there is in the Indian film industry. We preserve Tamil that much.

So, when I moved out of Chennai many years back, I moved out with the biggest disadvantage of all – a terrible lacking of Hindi. It has taken me many years to acquire mastery over basic Hindi, which still sucks, I am told. For heaven’s sake, our Tamil words are gender-free! 

But, just learning Hindi has been overwhelming enough. So, I have gone easy on other regional languages. Like most other migrants in Mumbai, I have never bothered to learn Marathi. And, I shudder to think what would happen to my beloved Tamil 50-100 years down the line, if the migrant population constitutes over 50% of the state’s population and behaves just like how I have. Will Tamil become near extinct?

Waxing eloquent about the importance of regional language is so cool, right? But, in reality, I was miffed when I heard about the compulsory screening of Marathi movies in multiplexes. The film business blood in me boiled, if not a little, a lot at least, as I thought about how producers, distributors and exhibitors of Hindi and English film movies in Mumbai would die. Imagine all those lost prime-time revenues, especially on opening weekends of hot and happening Hindi and English movies. But, my film business blood is erstwhile, so it ceased to boil as quickly as it had started.

And, then I went to the movie hall last weekend, much earlier than show time, and the theater was open and empty. As I took my place and submitted myself to a string of god-awful music (sounded like a Punju-Gujju-Bhojpuri mix of random tunes in an extremely irritating hoarsy voice) and Manyavar ads (Have you ever seen them? Don’t they give you a headache?), the trailers eventually came up. 

The first one was “Margarita with a straw”. At the risk of sounding politically very incorrect, it frankly bored me. I don’t think I will watch that movie, not till at least twenty rational connects on my Facebook list update a positive review (rational being highly subjective). 

And then, I was hit by a Marathi trailer. Perhaps the state legislation also stipulates airing of Marathi trailers in prime time slots, but the very thought pissed me off. Who are these people to influence my movie watching experience, I argued to myself? 

As I prepared to diss the trailer without bothering about its content, I got hooked on to it. Just like that, as the trailer progressed, I was reading the sub titles, following the portrayal of situations, getting enamored by the performance of the cast and the witty dialogues (even the sub-titled ones). It is one of the more interesting trailers I have come across in recent past. I think I will watch it in the theater, if they include English sub-titles. 

Perhaps, Marathi will live and thrive for long, and, so will Tamil, if only with a little help from fanatic State Government legislations. Well, I am not complaining.

P.S. Incidentally, the Marathi movie has an English title – Court.


Yogesh said...

This was a thriller post, right? Where you keep the reader guessing what the post is actually about.. and he keeps changing his expectations from the climax with every scene. Kind of inspired from Race 2? :D

Btw, I don't subscribe to the view that forced screening of movies at prime slots can keep the culture or language alive. Also, I am told there are wonderful Bong movies been made. But you still can't cajole me into watching one even if you threatened to destroy all the Harry Potter books in the world :P

Kavity said...

No one is forcing you to watch the movie. It is being screened in a slot when most of us don't wake up to watch regular movies anyway. I think it is a good idea, and language, in whatever altered form can be kept alive.