Thursday, November 24, 2011

Of Rockstar and Kolaveri: What do They Say about Us?

(Published in on 24 November, 2011, retrieved from

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When a cynic finds a living as a humour writer, and augments it by turning film critic, his or her impulse after watching a film that fails to entertain is to pen a review that contrives to. And while I usually delight in my newfound hobby-profession, this week, I’ve been subject to one too many stimuli.
The day I watched Rockstar, someone sent me a link to an absurd song that he said had gone viral. I thought it was a spoof, voiced over Dhanush singing some song, in the same manner people have married The Titanic with the love story of Dhanalaxmi and Velu.
But then, it turned out the song had become a craze, for its tunelessness, its lack of coherent lyric, and the accent it typified. There have been songs that parody their subjects – such as the ID card song – and their inspirations, such as the Queen derivative I am a Malayalee.
However, in the case of Why this Kolaveri Di, neither the content nor form could hold my attention enough to sit through it in its entirety – well, not till I started writing this piece, and I still can’t seem to fathom why it’s quite so popular. Is it because Dhanush happens to be Rajnikanth’s son-in-law, and the women jamming with him – if it can be called that – happen to be the daughters of Kamal Haasan and Rajnikanth? Is the video supposed to symbolise the readiness of the elite of the industry to laugh at themselves?
If that were the case, there just may be reason to cheer. In an industry that bristles when reviewers point out the most obvious of flaws, that fumes when a bunch of newcomers decide to caricature some of the most absurd aspects of Tamil cinema (case in point being Tamil Padam), mockery endorsed by its bigwigs could be a trendsetter.
However, the song doesn’t seem to intend to say anything – contrary to what most of North India believes, the accent isn’t exaggerated; it’s genuine. Contrary to what most of South India believes, the song doesn’t seek to make fun of English-speakers; or, if it tries to, it doesn’t succeed. It’s the sort of song bored kids come up with in a free hour on a rainy day; the sort of in-house feature radio jockeys come up with to spice up their rants on life and mangoes.
What irritates is not so much the popularity of the song as the intellectual analyses of what it could stand for – it’s the South striking back at the lampooning of its ilk in Hindi cinema, it’s the lowest common denominator claiming a language that is the domain of the crème de la crème, it’s the privileged turning into Everyman, what have you.
And that’s where Kolaveri and Rockstar hit the same chord – their success lies not so much in their persuasions as their reception.
A movie that, to me, seemed unnecessarily complicated, illogically twisted (I mean, throwing a bro out on suspicion of stealing 5 lakhs, really?), and painfully long drawn-out, seemed to provoke in most of its audience flashbacks of long-forgotten personal love stories, marinated by the passage of time to fat, juicy chunks of delectable dead meat. And the horror of Rumi being tossed into the mix right at the end, complete with a literalisation of his metaphor that would have likely had him writhing in his grave, was only dulled by the astonishment of watching two girls wipe away tears in the seats next to mine.
From the picturisation of the songs, to the sequence of events, to the colours of Manish Malhotra’s and Aki Narula’s brainchildren, to the symbolism of every blade of grass and every nuance of lyric, there was little in the fabric of the film that wasn’t discussed at length over coffee tables and internet forums.
At the end of it all, I find myself wondering whether we’re getting more stupid, or more scholarly. Or are we seeking erudite explanations for the dumbing down of all humanity, ourselves included? Does everything we see and hear have to trace a path through our cerebella, connecting dots that may or may not be on the same plane? Do we have to justify everything we like, by imbuing it with more significance than it may have? And do we, who made so much haste to categorise everything into ‘niche’ and ‘mass’, now need to assure our egos that there is a certain pride in crossing over, the kind that may be represented by the Queen jumping out of her Rolls Royce to boogie to an Akon number?


Siddhartha Joshi said...

As I wrote this, a friend is singing his own variation (about a client who is asking for too many design modifications) of the song :) I don't know why this song appeals to me, but weirdly even my seven year old nephew has caught on with it...frankly speaking, it really defies logic! said...

To answer your title question ... I would say we are on a desperate path to copy the Americans much like how they have made Miley Cyrus & Justun Bieber as celebrities !
From another perspective, I think our severely mundane lives, constantly repetitive working schedules have made us reach a level where anything which breaks the "norm" is a hit. Be it Anna Hazaare in politics or movies in our cinema.

Nandini Krishnan said...

Hahaha, Siddhartha, I have no issues with people liking the song. It's the analyses that get to me, and I like that you said it defies logic. :-)

Nandini Krishnan said...

Hmm, Orchestra, that's a thought. Now, I have an image of Hazare singing 'Sadda Haq'.

Creative Juices said...

Of Rockstar & Kolveri is a great lil piece Nandini. Sitting here in Australia (I am the only one that can speak a smattering of Tamil), my children & my wife have all lapped up Kolaveri in one bloody go. I am not at all surprised, the composition is dead-simple, the vocals real & down to earth, the lyrics and accent are probably what steal the show- no where exaggerated like those old Mahmood flicks, resplendent with a brahminical pig-tail, vermillion and crooning 'Humey Kaley hai to kya hua dilwaale hain'. That the Industry is ready to inflict some Silasic 'Opus dei', 'I beat myself to appease God' kind of humour is debatable, but this breed is surely ready to stand up & speak for itself and that is wonderful. Kolaveri achieved in one day, what Kalaignar or Puratchi Thalaivi couldnt in 30 years. When was the last time India hummed a Tamil song?

Nandini Krishnan said...

Good point about India humming a Tamil song - but I can't for the life of me figure out why the hell this is more popular than the ID card song!

Tarun Goel said...

Nice blog. I did not like the movie, half baked it was. About the song, it made no sense either but a viral hit is just a viral hir.
Nice blog

Nandini Krishnan said...

Thank you, Tarun. I felt the movie kept trying to be something beyond what it was. Simple love story, all right. Why bring in a bizarre forbidden angle? On the subject, her husband and his family seemed pretty cool with her doing kissy-kissy in the fields, and naughty-naughty at Jordan's hotel, huh?

sharika nair said...

What amazes me is how evryone connects with kolaveri....

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