Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Why do I like South Indian films?

On Twitter, I tweeted about Allu Sirish who is astonished that us, non Desi, watch South Indian films. So I asked the Blogger community to blog on why they like South Indian films. What attracts them to watch South Indian films?

Even my North Indian friends wonder why I've gone down South. What is it about South Indian films that appeal to me?

For me, it's Allu Arjun ;P

Okay. Okay. In all seriousness, what attracted me at first is some of my favorite older Hindi films were remakes from South Indian films. I wrote it a little on my blabber post and about my attraction towards Allu Arjun & Siddharth.

I didn't think much about the difference of Tamil and Hindi in India. Honestly, I just thought it was a different dialect like how the Hmong language is. There are two major dialect in the Hmong language - White & Green (I know, colors). I am White Hmong. Usually a Green Hmong could understand when a White Hmong speaks but not always the other way around. I remember when I first heard Green Hmong, I thought it was a different language! Accents are different, even a few words. So because of this, I thought that's how Tamil and Hindi were.

Years go by until I re-surfaced and was associated with Tamil again. I was looking for Sapnay, the Hindi dubbed version of Kajol's Minsaara Kanavu.  Then the more I learn about Hindi films having the dubbed versions or even the remake versions befounded me! Another one of my all-time favorite Hindi film, Beta, was a remake of a Kannada film, Mallammana Pavaada. I mainly loved Beta because I thought it was so "different" for Bollywood but I was wrong. That did it. After all these years, I just found out that Ek Duje Ke Liye was a remake of Telugu film, Maro Charithra!! It will be my journey...I just have to watch more South Indian films.

But yeah right. You know how hard it is to find South Indian films?

When I go to the Desi store, they would question why I want to watch a South Indian film, they change the subject and tell me that they have Bollywood!

Okay, fine. You know a little more history on how I got into South Indian films. But what is it about the South Indian films that really attracts me? (Besides Allu Arjun?)

As many of you may know, I grew up with dubbed-Hmong Bollywood films. However, for the past 4-5 years, South Indian cinema has taken me to another level.

When I first saw Ek Duje Ke Liye, I was so in love with that film. The guy at the Desi store recommended me watching it because I was already a Rati Agnihotri fan since Star. After watching it, I was curious about this moustached hero. I never seen him before and I liked him a lot! At that time, I was young and didn't understand much. I didn't have the wonderful Internet and resources to help guide me. What was this language Tamil in the film? Then I started to watch more of Kamal Hassan's films....but his Hindi ones that were available to me.

For me being a Hmong American, our history has never been written down. Many of my ancestors were involved with the Secret War with the USA.  My parents tried to adjust living in the USA and struggled to teach me Hmong and English. But eventually being Americanized won. Being torn in two unknown worlds, I turned to films to escape reality. Bollywood helped me do that. The magic that it used to have is not there anymore. 

I miss what made me fall for Bollywood in the first place. The traditional colorful outfits, family customs/values, and classical/traditional dancing. All that is missing from Bollywood. Now, don't get me wrong. I love me some Wake Up Sid but I want to see more Ghajini (remake with Desi style). But almost every film releasing in Bollywood isn't the same as how I remembered it.

For the past decade, I've been seeing more Hindi films trying to please the Western hemisphere. As happy as I am that more Westerners (especially Americans) are watching Hindi films. Many of the films releasing lately is just like Hollywood, nothing is "Indian" about it anymore. It doesn't stand out. No more uniqueness.

I watch a lot of films from different industries for many reasons. My to-go-to films have always been Hindi films but is rapidly changing to Telugu and Tamil films. Asians films, particularly Hong Kong, have slick action with weak or overplayed storylines. For the Korean industry, I watch Korean films mainly for romantic comedies and a few of their dramas (equivalent to soap operas but actually end in 16 or 20 episodes, but as many as 50 episodes). As for Thai films, horror films are what attracts me. Although my interests in Japanese and Filipino films have never peaked my interest as high as the other Asian industries, I still will watch some their films.

The Asian industry don't have many films that have the traditonal family value that I admire in South Indian films. Many Asian films are very modern...just like what Bollywood is becoming. From singing hip hop to 6-pack abs to minimal modern outfits, Asian films usually have these elements. If you take out the Asians, you would just get another Hollywood film.

You cannot do the same for an Indian film...until recently (Bollywood).

Besides a few of my favorite Hindi films that were remakes of the South, the more South Indian films I watched, the more I liked. Many of the heroines do not have the whiney characters, which is one of my reasons I prefer South Indian films. Some will have small roles but their characters are tough and stick up for themselves. Many of them still have their sexy curves and not worried about being a size zero.

Masala. I love a mixture of everything in a film -- fighting, dancing,  love, drama, you name it. That's what the secret ingredient in South India films!

Since I'm a huge martial arts fan, I love the one-on-one fight scenes in South Indian films. I prefer physical body contact rather than gun shooting for an action film. In addition, I love the macho-ness from the South Indian studs. When the hero beats up 20 villains with a jump kick, I just knew I found *my* hero. He will fight for you.

The dancing. Where do I even begin? It's a known fact that Prabhu Deva is one of the best. Guess where he's from? That's right. South India. There is more footwork and better choreography. Even though I cannot dance, I love watching dancing. The effort, passion, energy, and hardwork that goes in a dance need to be commended more.

I personally do not like metrosexual looking guys. Hot, studly, manly, appealing guys still exist in South Indian films. Allu Arjun fits that category for me :)

Many of my Hmong friends have been complaining about the Bollywood films lately. One of them saw Wanted and loved it. Immediately, I told her Wanted is a remake of the Telugu Superhit film, Pokiri. She wishes that South Indian films were available for her to watch.

A Filipino friend of mine told me that her favorite are Tamil films, which she finds more realistic and have better storylines.

Heck, if my 13-years-old niece who won't watch anything subtitled ends up watching a Telugu film, you know something is going right. She's even passing the news on to her cousins and friends about Telugu films and making sure to tell them the differences between South Indian and Bollywood films.

My first introduction to an Allu Arjun film is from a Greek friend. See, there are many non Desi fans of South Indian films. Just wish they were more accessible for us to get. My South Indian film collection is growing.

My love is gone for South Indian films. I recently bought a memory card for my cell phone just so my ring tone could be "Ringa Ringa" - Arya 2. On top of that, I added hubby's ringtone as "Mr Perfect" - Arya 2, alarm 1 as "Bangaru Kodipetta" - Magadheera & alarm 2 as "Jorsey" - Magadheera.

So South Indian industry, keep doing what you do best. Entertaining your fans! All I ask for is English subtitles in the theater so I could drag and convert more people to watching your films :) Don't change at all. Don't go the Bollywood way. Bollywood is not able to pull a Magadheera.


Anonymous said...

Well done Nicki! I love this post! you got all the points, which isn't easy. I't so hard to boil it down to what "it" is, but you've done it well. I'll get to doing a post like this too and link to yours. Maybe we can help the southern directors understand the need for more English subtitles. I also think that Richard from Dances on the Footpath

would have a lot to add about older south Indian cinema, since that is his preferred genre. BTW, I LOVED Beta and didn't know it was a remake, so will go and find the original. Whenever I go to the theater here in Minneapolis that shows the Indian movies, I ask the sponsors, "WHY NO SUBTITLES FOR THE TAMIL AND TELUGU FILMS!!!???" Maybe the message will reach back to India. In the mean time we need to learn some Tamil and Telugu, QUICK!

All the best,

Ness said...

Awesome post - I have yet to explore Southie films but am really really keen to, I just don't know where to begin! This post makes me want to remedy that real fast, because I feel like I'm missing out on some great films!

Kasi Viswanath said...

Very well written. Can't agree more with you when you ask the south Indian films to not go the bollywood/hollywood way. Tollywood/Kollywood has not yet lost its sheen and charm yet and I hope that continues. People love what these 2 industries have been doing and that love should continue.
But unfortunately, both these industries have started mimicking bolywood and hollywood stuff. It got to stop and I hope it happens soon. Earlier, movies were made on cultures and traditions but now cultures and traditions are being dictated by movies. Hope they don't lead us the wrong way unlike bollywood which literally has gone to dogs.

Anonymous said...

Great post Nicki!

I hope this pushes Allu Sirish and other producers to subtitle new releases for overseas market. They are really missing out on a huge potential I feel.

As I mentioned to you before, not only on the non-Indian market but also on so many non-Telugu speaking Indian NRis and those like me who only have basic Telugu. I still watch them but I know many others who would just go for Bollywood films that are subtitled.

I was so pleased that the Tamil VTV had subtitles and am praying this trend continues.

HarryKris said...

Hi Nick,
South movies esp Telugu and Tamil are now with lots of energy and new talent is bringing freshness which you cant see in bollywood where exaggeration masala unrealistic stuff is there

bollywooddeewana said...

Wow Nicki such a Great post here and what an Evangelist you are, this is the second post i've read today preaching the good news of the Tollywood/Kollywood industries, should the profits of the producers of southern films rise in America, they know who to give the due and a percentage cut ;0)

Anonymous said...

Can't agree more!

Even my South Asian friends wouldn't watch South Indian films, saying they're not "hip" enough. But the thing is I don't think all Bollywood films are that "hip" anyway. So it's not exactly a good excuse for rejecting South Indian films...

Plus, I also agree how they are not influenced by the Western culture as much as Bollywood is. Sometimes they have songs talking about how much they love their local culture and people should just stick to it. (eg. Sachein)

dunkdaft said...

Mast post indeed.

you are right, bollywood is losing its charm by forgetting what it masters at. And by experimenting , they are doing nothing but losing it. Having watched a few south Indian movies, i too believe they are absolutely fun and entertaining.

I too will do a post. cheers.

Shona said...

Hi Nicki!
I'm a huge fan of allu arjun too!!
Recently went to the theatre to catch his Varudu, even though they didn't have subs.
I was banking on my knowledge of telugu from pure watching of telugu movies and thank god, i understood about 97%!!
( u can read about it on my latest post in my blog, if you are interested!).
Since i knew him, songs from his movies have been a permanent fixture on my playlist:). My current faves are "relare relare" & "Aidhurojula pelli". Even more amazing when you watch Allu Arjun on screen along with the songs!
I have to purchase his dvds only through ebay cos my country doesn't seem to sell his movies:(
But anyway,
Great blog Nicki!
Allu Arjun's AWESOME!!!!!!


dunkdaft said...

My Post !!! :)

Unknown said...

As always absolutely lovely another straight from the heart piece, Nicki. I grew up watching & adoring both the Hindi & South Indian cinema. But as time went on i just stopped caring about bollywood. They have really gone over the deep end in their desire to grab western eyeballs. Increasingly i get the feeling that they cannot wait to disown(& are embarrassed by) their cinematic past. And i just don't like that.
South Indian cinema still caters to the people based there. As you said there is till local flavor. Those are quitessentially Andhra & Tamil stories. And i just love them for retaining their unique identity. And i luuurve the dances! Its such a shame that in bollywood even Hrithik has started giving statements dissing the dancing genre. As long as the southern movies remain true to the values & ethos of the place - they will thrive & survive.

jjake said...

Great Post Nicki, I loved how you started getting into Indian films as an escape from the stress from dealing with 2 disparate cultures. This is one of the reasons I started my club at my school. Its very diverse and frequently the newer immigrants didn't get along with the americans and so I started the club hoping a third "Neutral" culture would be something they could enjoy and share together. I have never asked the kids if that is an outcome or not, But considering how popular it is I'm guessing it has been. I hope that the SI producers get the message We LOVE the FILMS the way they are and DON"T want them to water down the product. Bollywood has made a mistake I think.


Liz C said...

Great post, Nicki!

"I love the one-on-one fight scenes in South Indian films. I prefer physical body contact rather than gun shooting for an action film...
The dancing. Where do I even begin? "

I'm surprised by how much I love the action/fights/violence in Telugu movies. Your post totally set off a lightbulb in my head, that I think that there's a sensibility and approach from the dancing that carries over to the physicality and choreography of the fight scenes that makes the fights so much fun to watch.

Cardamom Kisses said...

Brilliant brilliant stuff, Nicki - as always ♥

Here's my post:

Nicki said...

Sita-ji - Thanks!! I tried my best to include everything that I wanted to but it's kinda hard to put it into words.

Wow, tell Richard to fill out that survey. I have to check out his blog more :)

I haven't even master Hindi yet but wanna be fluent in Telugu :D

Ness - You should really give it a try! I promise you'll like them! :)

Kasi - Yes, I agree! I don't want T/Kollwood to go the B/Hollywood way so I decided to write this post. Thanks for coming by :)

sreera - Hello! Thanks for coming to the blog. As you can tell, I absolutely love T/Kollywood and don't want it to change. Wow, thanks for the suggestion, I do have to watch a Chiranjeevi film. I mean, I do know who is, but it was Bunny who stole my heart :)

I have already seen Jalsa and enjoyed it a lot. Unfortunately, I didn't do a full review on it

filmizest - Thanks so much! That's my main goal! I just want subtitles to be in the Telugu/Tamil films. Nothing more. Don't change the formula.

You are right, many non Desi won't watch a film without subs so I'm pushing for that too.

HarryKris -You got that right :)

sonia_bonjour - Hahaha, you had me LOL about Bollywood not "hop" enough. You are right though, they aren't "that hip."

Darshit - see told you we had same taste :)

Shona - Hey Shona!! I will come visit your blog ASAP, anything with Allu Arjun, I will be there ;P

Kiran - Thanks soooo much! Your encouraging words are very thoughtful, like always.

jjake - :) That is very interesting about your students. I'm thinking that could be the reason too.

Yes, I just want South Indian films to be available to us, non speakers, not change for us.

Liz C - Thanks sooo much! I'm glad you agree about the fights too. I loooove them! Most of the SI actors are good dancers so the fight scenes are well choreographed too.

Magadelena - Thanks :)

MinaiMinai said...

Yo Nicki!! :) I really enjoyed reading the parts about your Hmong ancestry, the languages, and your feelings about other asian cinema. I am such a noob of non-south-asian-asian cinema (got that? lol), so it's great to hear your opinions.

All of these south-indian themes posts that you have spurred are, collectively, a FABULOUS resource to explain all the ins and outs of why we love these films. I'm loving this.

Nicki said...

Hey there MinaiMinai - Thanks for blogging why you like SI films too :)

I must get you to watch some Asian films. I remember you commenting on my fantasy remakes.

Yes, I totally agree! I want to see why we all watch SI films. I'm glad that the SI industry is looking into why you enjoy the masala and to stick with it :)

Filmbuff said...

A very well thought post Nicki. Other than the masala movies, you have also been enjoying movies by Shekhar Kamulla like Anand, Godavari, Happy Days etc.

I fully second your view about telugu and tamil movies needing english subtitles. Not only non Indians but 2 and 3rd generation indians living overseas need them too.

My 10 yr old niece is most eager to reach for the remote to switch the sub titles on when we watch Indian movies together coz she doesn't want to miss even one bit! She was lamenting that she couldn't follow when we saw Happy Days on the big screen on a holiday in India

Nicki said...

Hi Filmbuff,

Thanks for coming to my blog and commenting :)

Shekhar Kamulla is my favorite Indian director! I just bought Dollar Dreams recently too.

You are right. I just want Tamil and Telugu films to have English subs. Even many are not being release on dvd with English subs either.

I think more people would be interested if there are English subs. That is so cute about your 10-years-old niece!

Filmbuff said...

BTW, I forgot to mention that I saw Shekhar Kammulla's most recent movie "Leader" on the big screen during my recent visit to India. It is very good. I am sure a DVD may release soon with english subtitles. I am looking forward to your review. The hero Rana is another handsome hunk from the Southern Film Industry. He is actor Venkatesh's nephew. The two heroines are good too

I told my niece that if she watches hindi movies without the subtitles on, she will learn the language but like most kids raised overseas she wants the easy way out ie english subtitles

Nicki said...

I cannot believe I have not replied to you. I really want to see Leader. I cannot wait for the official dvd.

Your niece is too cute and funny. However, she is right though.

Prasanth said...

Great post, but it makes me a little sad. You said that South Indian films promote family values and reject Western influence, but unfortunately our films have been starting to follow the Bollywood route. We used to have really strong, culturally-aware films like Sindhu Bhairavi, but now more and more it seems like Tamil films are falling victim to Westernization, both in story and music. I keep telling people to watch "Rhythm" by Vasanth to show that you can portray a modern, urban love story while still preserving cultural values, but it seems no one listens. Ah well....

Nicki said...

Hello Prasanth - I think there may be a few SI films that are westerned now but the majority still have what I love.

Divine_Dev said...

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