Fear of the ‘ Other Urban’ Mumbai, Migration and Xenophobia in the

Representational Politics of Kannada Films:






–H.A. Anil Kumar






Mumbai is ‘popularly’ known as a metropolitan ‘city-of-migrants’,

like, say, London. In the recent book ” Maximum City”*1*-about

Mumbai—there is a prediction that within another five years the

overall population of a continent like Australia would be less than

the population of the capital of one of the several States of a

country in another continent. The name of the city is Mumbai. The

population and its variety were represented as anything not less than

bewildering within Kannada films that have depicted Bombay/Mumbai.

There is an outright refusal to ‘depict’ the population as a ‘specific

entity’ within its filmy frames. On the other hand, arguably, Hindi

films or Bollywood films confirm this specific entity of Mumbai, by

and large.




 For the same reason, no film in Kannada is wholly located, narrated

and set within Mumbai. The second half of the Kannada ” AK47″ is

totally narrated from within Mumbai, unlike Ramgopal Varma’s Hindi

“Satya” which occurs totally in Mumbai. The population of Mumbai and

its linguistic variety indicating a permanent linguistic (and hence)

cultural diversification is something that is an integral part of

being ‘urban’ and ‘ threatening’ to the otherwise homogenized

construct of Kannada through its films. If Mumbai stands for Romans,

the Kannada films act as the Gauls—the former has never been able to

encroach the psyche of the process of Kannada film making, despite its

overwhelming power, authority and populace in the art of film making

under the banner of ‘Bollywood films’. The sum total of the history of

the so called regional films in all Indian languages is monumentally

varied compared to what is projected as Indian movies (mainly in and

as Hindi and Tamil movies, in African countries, Europe, US, Malaysia,

Japan among other countries).




It is already two years since the book ‘Maximum City’ has been

published and if one keeps in mind the time gap between writing and

publishing for an Indian writer–writing in English–that five year

estimation plan must be long over by now. Suketu wrote it while

script-writing the film on terrorism by Vidhu Vinodh Chopra. He was

taken by the city, and though he was born and brought up in India, he

writes about Mumbai as an insider-turned outsider-revisiting a place

of nostalgia that was never to be!




This Mumbai is considered as a ‘city-of -travel’ rather than a

‘city-of-migration’–in the history of Kannada films as well as in the

book ” Maximum City”. While in reality, it might be the other way

round. Kannada heroes always visit Mumbai only to ‘move out of it’ at

the end! It is a city that houses the villainous other-half of the

protagonist (Raja Kumar in “Dari Tapped Magi”), literally defaces and

pinches off the pleasure of childhood for another hero (Vishnuvardhan

in ” Saahasa Simha”), avails with friends who turn out to be

terrorists and jeopardize the institution of family and nation, at the

same; and let the lead character fight his own, fictious battle, in

order to come out of the trouble and come out of Mumbai (Shivraj Kumar

in ” AK 47″). Generally speaking, the true urban (or/and Mumbai) has a

specific identifiable geography, map, signs and signposts and they are

the identifiable ‘sites’ that Kannada filmic representation in general

(and not domestic life) ‘understand’ and ‘accept’ as urban. And that



(1) Definitely not Mumbai and


(2) Is compulsorily Bangalore!




It is only the Indian cities and towns that behave so in Kannada

filmic representation. It also means that there is ‘only’ urban but

‘no’ foreign in Kannada films. Varanasi is not urban but pious,

Calcutta is almost absent, Delhi is meant only for song sequences (ex:

‘ Hosa Belaku’), the occasional Kerala is eroticism re-presented in

the form of heavenly divinity (Sudeep’s “My Autograph”). The rest of

the world outside Indian, in the films produced   after 90s are

fairlylands that refuse to have specific addresses, like say, Vienna,

New York and those gold clad cities in the Chandamaama

fairytale-mythological-magazines, so much in vogue till the 80s in

Karnataka, as it happened in other States of southern part of India.




Interestingly all/almost all spots within Karnataka are all locations

identified as being within ‘Karnataka’ in its filmic representation.

The Government subsidy policy availed to those films purely shot

‘within Karnataka’ might have led them to culturally define all places

within the State as the same and specific. Rumale Chennabasappa, a

very relevant visual landscape artist of Karnataka was assigned by the

Karnataka government to paint landscapes of various relevant spots

‘around’ river Cauvery. What lies behind such an administrative

strategy could be re-read as an ambition and claim for authorship of a

river the flows between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu (mainly). But much

political discourse, administrative debate and linguistic arguments

have been ‘affiliated’ to a river which is culturally depicted in both

verbal and literal media in Kannada filmic representation as a river

belonging solely to Karnataka! (In Puttanna Kanagal’s ” Sharapanjara”,

for instance, the birth place of Cauvery—Bhaagamandala—is shown before

a pleasant and sensuous depiction of a narrative song that, in one of

its line, calls the river as “Kannada Kulanaari” (‘ the true woman of

Kannada’). The representational authorities, in the form of

scriptwriters, directors, cameramen etc., might or might not have

consciously specified the politics of representation but nevertheless

form a cultural agency responsible for what they actually evoke. Such

an angle would facilitate a possible reading/experience of Kannada

films in the light of migration and urbanization.




 The governing agency democratizes and appropriates all spaces of

filmic representation within the State, thus discarding any/all

hegemonic order that the other socio-political programs hold within

various geographic locations of Karnataka. For instance, the generally

termed ‘backward areas’ and the ‘privileged areas’ loose their

pre-fixes and mutual differences are fictiously erased, while being

represented as spaces within the State, owing to certain

administrative rules, like the subsidies available for shooting

Kannada films ‘within’ Karnataka (Sondur in ‘ Maanasa Sarovara’ and

Coorg in ‘Sharapanjara’). Thus the administrative hierarchies are

erased by the representational apparatus only when the latter function

within the premise of ironies of a governing agency.




This doesn’t happen while shooting a particular language film in

an-’other urban’, city, outside the language’s State. The concessions

and consideration by the government as against the lure of private

studios like Ramojirao Studios in Hyderabad is almost absent, as far

as shooting is concerned beyond certain indifferent administrative

policies. I am not pointing out towards the politics of NFDC. The

relation between a specific kind of cultural perceptions and as to how

certain policies–private and administrative–control the habits of

representation within Kannada films, is a matter of curious





 However, for a rural, folksy character-role in Kannada films,

Bangalore is there to win and loose but is never threatening like,

say, Mumbai. In fact the Gandhinagar-wallas within Bangalore–within

whose hotel room most scripts are written, trans-literated legally or

otherwise, ‘adapted’ and activities that seem like scripting occur—do

fail to achieve two things:


(a) To avail a specific character to Bangalore (as urban or anything else) and


(b) Grasp it as a real place, in existence.




Shankarnag’s film “Nodi Swamy Naavirodhe Heege” and Nagathihalli’s ”

Vataara” tele-serial located Bangalore/urban as an abstract of lower

middle class families, enclosing a close-up cluster of rented houses

within narrow valleys. In a way Bangalore in Kannada films, face the

problem of loosing a specific urban-characterization that did exist

for it in the 70s and is no more.




Those who are familiar with them and are themselves in their forties,

now and those who thought they knew Bangalore from past three decades

are loosing (a) a specified Bangalore and are also loosing (b) a

specific identity of/in Kannada film itself. While the geography is

becoming metropolitan, the specific addresses, gestures, etc., given

by a small township that would make one feel that it is ‘our’ city—is

fast fading off. It is like being shifted from a walk in IISc campus

to a walk on M.G.Road. It is not a walk between two streets of the

city at the same time. A walk between the two streets is also a walk

between three decades and between a city-with-belongingness and one

without. The Kannada films, that they used to be and were

untranslatable to even the neighboring languages, earlier, without

loosing certain regional, local specifications, have acquired a

certain detachment to this regional-specification and behave as if

they can belong to anywhere and everywhere in the major cities of

Indian.   Blame it on the city that has grown out of its myth that

foresaw that “if the city grows beyond the four towers in four

corners, destruction strikes “.*2*




S.L.Byrappa’s novel “Jalapaatha” (waterfall) and the film that

followed, in black and white, called ” Doorada Betta”–both treat a

city like Mumbai and Bangalore as a place to return back only

temporarily *3*  and as a city that doesn’t hold values of any

nostalgia, respectively. Byrappa’s characters arrive from Mumbai to

lead a rural life in his own village and return back to the city, by

the end of the novel after being disillusioned by the romance with a

Nehruvian rural-ideology. In “Doorada Betta”, the blacksmith couple

returns back to the village after their miss-adventures in the only

urban of Kannada films–Bangalore.




The protagonist who arrives from the urban to the un-urban space due

to an emotional, duty boundedness goes nowhere when he is compelled to

quit the structure of joint family within the un-urban which was

actually a space that he so lovingly embraced after rejecting the

urban. Where do people go when they start journeying in the reverse

order of the contemporary migration? (In film ” Bangaarada Manushya”).

Byrappa’s character is very practical, and becomes practical due to

the reason of being located within the institution of family, thus

returning back to Mumbai after being disillusioned from the short

romance with the romanticism of Nehruvian ruralism. The plot and the

relation between the individual, the institutions of governance—the

family, urban and rural—are all in specific agreement with each other,

for the decision to return back is also a decision to adhere to the

rule game of the governance and development. The space that these

characters trod is still within the defined premise of the governance.

The age of individual, representational anarchy as against the set

notion of being good citizen, abiding by the rule of the

governance—strangely—falls within the oeuvre of police-films initially

enacted by actor Devraj and later taken over by the dialogue king Sai

Kumar. Foucault’s suggestions about prison, hospital as domestically

ambiguous spaces, but within the governance as against those jungles

and villages of the medieval ages are the spaces seriously challenged,

negotiated and negated by the police Devraj and Sai Kumar. It was said

that they would hardly change their representational police uniform

worn by them too regularly, for shooting (see: films like ‘ Police

Story’, ‘Laaticharge’, ‘Golibaar’ etc.,) The catch here is

interesting. Name any word that goes with real police actions, there

would be a film by that name in Kannada; and all of them would have a

Kannada equivalent phrase or word in Kannada newspapers but refuted by

Kannada films at the cost of their English equivalents.




  However, as if to compensate this, the main character of ” Mayor

Mutthanna” is thrown out of the village as a thief/someone who takes

the blame of theft onto himself, only to return back to his village as

an achiever, being elected as a Mayor. His achievement within the

urban is of more relevance than his sincerity in the village, for the

village community that finally accepts him as not only one of them,

but the one who was ‘elsewhere’ (urban) and came back after achieving

something there. This visual-representational-endorsement is also an

attempt to contemporized myths. Doesn’t this remind one of the famous

Chandaamaama stories of princes going beyond sapthasamudra (seven

seas), winning over the demon (urban beings) and return back with the





Why do they all return back to villages from the city, no matter what

the city holds for them, in Kannada cultural expression in general and

films in particular, though with exceptions? The side effect of

studying Kannada films speaks a lot about the ill effects of

migration, speaks about the cities that always behave as the ‘other’

cities. When the whole thematic setting is within the urban (as most

Kannada television serials are, for that is what is favored by the

viewers—both rural and urban) they go back to the rural that doesn’t

have a specific ‘address’ (in John Berger’s sense of specific address

to the landscape). The classic example for this is the famous song ”

Biligiri Rangayya”, enacted by Kalpana in Puttana Kanagal’s

“Sharapanjara”, wherein the office party goes on the top of the

Biligiri mountain which, otherwise, has/d a religious affinity to it.




Kannadigas are bad migrators and the effect is seen in the threat that

they see while perceiving foreign locations within their own nation in

their representations, specifically in visual representations. Hence

there are no dialogues in foreign locations as far as Kannada films

are concerned (exception like Kannada film “America, America”, but who

would place it within the psyche of that typical Kannada film

tradition. In a way “America, America” would fit into any Indian

language, I suppose).








Why did Kannada films view Christians as villains, is it different

from seeing the satan amongst Christians, why do they always come to

Karnataka/Bangalore always from the north western part of the country,

i.e., the then Bombay; and why are the Muslims subject to a different

kind of perception than the Christians in Kannada filmic

representation? If Christians come from Mumbai-like cities, Muslims

exist within the Kannada filmy villages and townships. Thus the

historicity of the existence of Muslims in Kannada films is

pre-existent while the Christians come a bit later, as outsiders, as

threats and only as piecemeal characters, to fall in love with

(always) the Hindu hero (Mary in Raj Kumar’s “Shravana Banthu”

justifies this within which Mary would have been a Hindu girl in her

purvajanma (previous life) killed along with her hero, only to be

reborn as Mary which implies her biological, genetically connectivity

to Hinduism. It both discards and endorses the concept of rebirth,

paradoxically. Rebirth endorses the continuity of love of the girl

though the same rebirth has modified her religiosity which is by birth

and not by choice. This, like a physical migration is a genetic and

mythical migration when Mary is re-identified as an ex-Hindu girl, it

is an attempt by the script to solve the problem of religious Diaspora

a la twentieth century phenomena of political migration into something

more urban: from village to Bangalore, from Bangalore to Mumbai.

Migration into something more and other urban does not occur beyond

Mumbai, into say, New York, London and the like in Kannada mobile

visual representations.




Thus has been the case and fate of a select minority (Christians and

Muslims and not Jains, Parsis and Buddhist are altogether non-existent

entities) in Kannada films! Thus Muslims ‘are’ an integral part of

Kannada films, while the Christians are those who are waiting in a

specific geography of Mumbai and are somehow responsible for the

corruption of the separated (and hence villainous) brother of the hero

, is defaced as a child and pushed into begging on one of the Mumbai

beach who is retraced by chance by his very father and grows up and

goes back to Mumbai to take revenge on the villains. This which also

implies a sort of revenge upon a geographic location—Mumbai, in

Vishnuvardhan’s magnum opus film ” Saahasa Simha” meaning the

adventurous lion.*4*




The’ other urban’ (Mumbai) in Kannada films serves the very face of

the leading character ‘faceless’, to be carried/hidden as a trophy

throughout the narrative. The rest of the narrative film,

metaphorically speaking, is to save the lead character’s face only

symbolically, though it is impossible to do so in reality within the

film. Hence the face given as a visual and projected in the psyche of

the audience is two different aspects. In a film that has a double

role for an actor, usually the negative role is depicted as someone

and something other than the actor—a personification of the ills of

urban. The triple role in ” Shankar Guru” is a classic case. The

father figure is always running away from the authority and is

inevitable separated from the structure of family: his wife and he

don’t know each other’s whereabouts. A comical son sings a couple of

songs that includes the famous number in half-English ” Love me or

hate me” in order to evoke the humour in/among/amidst the Kashmir area

which in reality had not turned into such a politically disturbed

space. The other son is aptly a spy, who takes the audience into the

mystery laid beyond the layer of the scenic beauty of Kashmir, thus

mystifying the ‘other urban’.




Arguably a Muslim is always treated to meet up with the notion of what

is popular in Kannada psyche as a praanamitra (a friend for life ex:

Thoogudeepa Srinivas in “Jvaalamukhi”, who despite being an

anti-social helps the hero-journalist towards a private investigation,

sending the message that friendship—one of the main aspect of the

institution of family becomes more important than one’s skepticism

about the institution of official law. This is in order to serve the

law itself, ultimately. Thus the endorsement of the notion of

brotherhood so much that the Muslims are popularly known for, amongst

Hindus is legitimized through such characteristic depiction of the

minority/other by the majority/us.   He, the Muslim, in Kannada films,

is someone who has the eligibility to become a friend who implies that

right now he is neither a friend nor a foe. Owing to the global

political developments, around the phenomena of September 11, the

Kannada films as a sociological/creative construct, plays safe with

elements that it cannot comprehend with or is not affected by *5*.




Interestingly, most Kannada filmy protagonists are Hindus. When they

want to enter the premise of the anti-socials, they wear the

appearance of Christians speaking Kannada in an accent that the makers

of Kannada films presume it to be the way Christians usually speak

Kannada. But when the character wants to escape the authority for what

he/she presumes to be a mistaken outlawness on the part of the main

character, he/she takes the disguise of a Muslim as in ” Guri” (the

song sequence “Alla Alla neene ella”-meaning ‘Alla you are everything

and there is nothing beyond you’ by Raj Kumar). This spills the

essence of such a deceptive appearance into real life as well.

However, a general survey of such depiction and insights through

specific examples within Kannada filmic representation might serve

contradictory, problematising the methodology to study

representational politics in Kannada films that is yet





The Islamic-Arab friend availed as a deceptive-mask for the hero, to

camouflage his self, from the authority. The audience, however, would

know it very well, beyond that mask meant only for the villains as

against the audience, thus being on the side of the hero, rather than

the authoritarian representational device. In fact the hero/director

is the authority of representational device in Kannada films. Hence

there is hardly any Kannada film wherein the audience doesn’t endorse

the position taken by the lead character. In other words, the

representation of the ‘other’ urban (Mumbai-like) or the refusal to do

so, to be more specific, is due to its (Mumbai’s) refusal to endorse

the position taken by the hero of Kannada films.




 Interestingly along with the Christians with French beard, the

Muslims exist always with a specific dress code. Christians and

Muslims are segregated from other marginal/minorities within the

State/National discourse through the deceptive roles they serve. This

is one kind of ‘metaphoric dressing’ that is availed to them through

representation in Kannada culture, through films. And the two

religions are also availed with a specific ‘dress code’ within such

depictions, that double segregates the Muslim-Christians from the

actual Muslim-Christians, in actuality. The question and blame of

exoticisation of what is Indian in Satyajit Ray’s ” Appu” trilogy is

exactly the problematical issue about religiosity in Girish

Kasaravalli’s “Hasina”. Ray’s depiction is based on what is a cliché

in the understanding of Indian poverty by the majority, while with

Girish; it is a pastiche of visualization of what is popularly given

as the poverty of a specific religious mass.




All that which is minority and urban and are subject to a Kannada

filmic representation—the Christians, Muslims, the notion of an Arab

and Mumbai—have a common point of view: they can’t speak proper

(filmy) Kannada, like the Northern Karnataka people. In other words, I

am pinpointing at the closeness and limitations that the tradition of

Kannada films has drawn upon itself from past half a century by being

sincere to a Kannada which is specific to specific geographic areas

close and proximate to the capital city its administrative apparatus

in the democratic setup as if it is a continuation of its own past

feudal structure. The Kannada in films is a language of the feudal

deceptively continuing beneath a democratic veil. It is the language

of the feudal urban—the areas of South Karnataka, the geographic

premise of the Mysore Maharaja province.




Somehow, cities like Mumbai and the absence/deterioration of Kannada

are both mutually related—both possess threats of diminishment to the

identity of Kannada which means the dual colour flag (red and yellow),

an approved male chauvinism, pure Kannada which means the language

spoken in the areas of Mandya to Chitradurga to Davanagere are

legitimized as the Kannada in films. Raj Kumar alone could do deliver

a talk which would avoid specification of dialects. Sai Kumar, the

dubbing artist turned Kannada hero, from Telugu industry, does it

loudly and Ramesh Aravind retains that Brahminical dialect a la the

linguistic dialect of Kannada in tele-serials.




The Kannada television serials, in general, have already legitimized

this Brahminical lingo and expression (which, in a way, is not to be

repetitive rather than hyper-expressive. One can see is exemplified

when one observes how Umashree in ” Kichchu” serial, had to, cut down

upon her typical dramatized body gestures drastically, to fit into the

smaller format of the television. Raj Kumar had to do the same in

Laxminarayan’s film ” Naandi”, In an interview, the superstar said it

was appreciated for that contrived acting—a half job and half

expression of what he was actually capable of! The whole presumption

was that the Parsi theatre-oriented vigor of body gestures in films

were unsuitable for a good acting, or what the cultural authorities,

mainly through Art Films, with capital A and F, thought it and

projected it to be so.


The Brahminical (not cast-oriented by read it as ‘mainstream’)

contrived-acting of repetitive-mode replacing a dramatic, theatrical

acting finds a kind of solution to the threat of ‘other urban’ in

Kannada movies. Since ‘repetitive mode’ shifts filmic representation

to another form of expression–television screen, it refutes the rasa

of Bhibhatsa so much readily availed by the location of Mumbai it

equates other urban with hyper dramatization.








Many of these films, produced by the neighboring Karnataka State, have

‘picturised’ Mumbai (known as Bombay when most of these films were

shot) as the ‘other’ city than as ‘our’ city. Bangalore was yet to be

treated as a city, and as a city worth shooting. The other south

Indian films taught the locals about its own lush green, that too

through black and movies .*6*  On the other hand, Bangalore, the

capital of Karnataka, has been depicted by the Bollywood movies (made

in Mumbai!) as a pleasant holiday spot, with specific identity of its

own. Interestingly, when a city looks at its neighboring one as a spot

to relax, the second one’s consider the first (Mumbai) as a

‘city-of-threat’, inspite of being known as the one that belongs to

nobody in particular. In other words, Mumbai belongs to everyone other

than Kannada speaking crowd, according to Kannada movies.




The main anthropological reason for this is that Mumbai, when it was

still Bombay, belonged to the other half of the nation. The Kannada

film makers are adept to their audience who live more with the South

Indians (from three other States) rather than those who speak the

north Indian languages. Hindi, Marati etc., which is well known in the

northern part of Karnataka, belonged to Mumbai, Hyderabad and Madras,

outside Karnataka, five decades ago! I am speaking about the 1970s and

80s in particular, when (Eastman) colour films were made and the song

sequences were yet shot within India. Mumbai was a foreign location

and it was threateningly so! For Hindi films, shooting in Bangalore is

shooting in a relaxed, not rural-areas. Kannada movies don’t have a

relaxed spot which is urban, within its representational structure.




Consider some specific cases of how Kannada movies treat(ed) Mumbai

within the celluloid frames. There are three memorable ‘model’ set

within popular Kannada movies that have contributed immensely towards

this notion of Mumbai as a city to travel and the one that threatens.

C.P.Surendran, in one of his newspaper article about foreign visits,

says that the first thing that one faces while s/he considers

him/herself in a foreign, is the threat to life. The films also acted

as role models and provided specific ‘structure’, over the decades,

for other Kannada movies as well with such a device wherein the

audience would be taken in for scary-rides, as in Disney World/Land

horror shows—into and out of ‘other urban’. Hence Kannada films

partially set in Mumbai form the scary-movie in the history of Kannada

movies *7*, as far as picturising is concerned.




In reality, a large population has migrated to Mumbai from Karnataka.

Kannada films have refused to look at the city from their point of

view. Even the body of fiction writings by Kannada writers like

Yeshawant Chittala, settled in Mumbai, search for a solution to the

anxiety of living in Mumbai ‘outside’ itself! In other words, Mumbai

metropolitan ‘acts as a screen saver’ to family feuds and relational

disagreements that were actually initiated ‘outside itself’, in remote

villages of the land in Kannada literature. It is exactly from an

opposite of this position that Kannada films are construed. Mumbai

construes a dialectic discourse between two modes of Kannada cultural

expression. The city peels of the old wounds of a rural, past,

nostalgia of the internal diasporic Kannadiga while in the literature

that is inspires. At the same time, Mumbai creates a chaotic

arrangement, pushing back the filmic character back to his/her

hometown, thus formulating home in rural (kannada movies) and

homelessness within itself (in Kannada literature).








Why is Mumbai–unlike the ‘distant’ capital city Delhi or the ‘remote’

old capital Calcutta–specifically picturised more in Kannada films

and why is it an unwanted but desired representational background?

Bangalore–wherein lies the heart of the Kannada films in areas like

Gandhinagar—imitates Mumbai more than the other Indian cities. Mumbai

movies (Bollywood) are ‘imported’ for exhibition, all over the Kannada

State while Kannada movies are rarely ‘exported’ to Mumbai. The

protagonists of the above mentioned Kannada movie (Dr. Raj Kumar,

Vishnuvardhan, Shivraj Kumar) continue to speak Kannada even while at

Mumbai, do not mind the Bollywood actors (usually playing the roles of

villains) speaking in their own language (Hindi) in ‘our’ movies.

Heroes never come from Mumbai but heroins do! It is the horror,

villainous characters and sensuous girls who come from there, but

never go there from here. In other words, Kannada movies desire the

effect produced by Mumbai’s threatening nature but never export

anything from here, even the good hearted modesty of the Kannada

characters.! It is a city that threatens, doesn’t let people to

migrate from Karnataka in reality (thought the north Karnataka and

south canara people are all over there). It was a city of choice, for

it repelled the Kannada film units to go to Madras/Chennai not due to

the linguistic proximity but due to linguistic alienness. One

practical reason would be that the whole production of Kannada movies

depend a lot on Madras and not on Mumbai. The metropolitan in question

has a different and interesting and elite landscape comparatively,

given the presence of the sea coast (in Mumbai) and the absence of it

(in Bangalore).




Within aesthetic premise, the double personality of the hero (Daari

thappida Maga—the son who was lost) is nurtured in Bombay as a villain

but he gets rectified (in Vishnu’s Saahasa Simha), though he would be

the Bombay beggar boy. The metropolitan is like an injection tube, not

to penetrate too much and not to be withdrawn—for Kannadigas. While

south Indian heroins are preferred in Mumbai, Bombay-girls come over

here and act, though they can’t utter a word of the language in which

the film is all about. Right now this has become one way traffic with

singers coming from there, while South Indian male actors and both

gendered singers were not welcome in Mumbai film industry.

Interestingly, films in Karnataka are in Kannada while the films made

in Mumbai are not necessarily in Marati!












So the descriptive-argument till now can sum up as below:



Kannada films have projected and represented a very specific world

wherein a specific dialect of Kannada, a specific fear about a

neighboring urban (Mumbai) and a specific attitude as to who is a

minority (Muslims/Christians and not Buddhists/Jains/Parsis)—are all

construed. This ‘construct’ mutually connects the (i) urban, (ii)

minority and (iii) a specific geographical Kannada. Whose

Kannada-world is it that has been subject to representational politics

of Kannada films and what is the motive behind the erasure of

(Derridian kind) other Kannada worlds outside there, but never gaining

entry into the representational motifs of Kannada films? Thousands of

films and locations, hundred thousand songs and yet such a specific

polity in the making of the phenomena of Kannada films haven’t been

addressed. In other words, not only is the ‘other’ suppressed, but an

addressal of the absence/refutation of ‘other’ Kannada worlds in the

form of a critical discourse has either been suppressed or/and absent.

Any remote possibility of the existence of such a Kannada

film-discourse has been deviated towards addressing only those films

which fit into the category called ‘NFDC-Art Movies’ which also speaks

about the success rate of the popular Kannada movies’ capacity in

silencing the possibility of space for an intense discourse. In other

words, those who have been speaking about Kannada films have been

writing only about Art Movies, and paving way for an enormous amount

of mediocrity in the journalistic discourse about popular movies. The

pastiche and cliché are at the heart of the discourse about Kannada

films, while a serious pedagogy exists within static visual arts,

literature of the Kannada world.




The innumerable problematic that the above points pose would evoke

within the reader also means to question the representational devices,

roots and sources of Kannada films, generally speaking. It is a

‘representation’ by script writers/directors/even actors that would

have presumed what the audience ‘want’ not according to the audience

as such (because there is no history of such census ever made) but

according to what the filmmakers presume it to be the taste of the

audience! Herein, the filmmakers take up the self-assigned

messiah-hood of speaking for a community. And hence it is an ‘imagined

community’, which arguably and metaphorically it is

anti-nationalistic, for it considers the Statehood itself as a nation.

The migrant, diasporic and traveling lower middle class Kannadiga (all

the three of which is a rarity, even to this day), would have a laugh

at the language’s filmic representation regarding such an urban

geography and religion. In other words, while (and due to)

representing the mega-urban in films–before Bangalore itself began to

grow/outgrow as a disorganised urban—the Kannada films presumed its

audience to be non-migratory and it also presumably considered the

other language people as not the potential audience for its films.
















Foot Notes:




*1* Read: Suketu Mehta “The Maximum City”, 2005, winner of Kiriyama

Prize-2005, Pulitzer Prize Finalist-2005, short listed for the BBC4

Samuel Johnson Book Prize for Non-Fiction.




*2* ‘ If the city grows beyond the four towers in four corners,

destruction strikes’, this was the belief that old timers held about

what the founder of new Bangalore, Kempe Gowda had said about the

limitations of Bangalore. Does it mean that myths about urban can

predict that which the town planners overlook? And does it have an

implication about how Kannada films ‘perceive’ Mumbai—as the ‘other

urban’ of alienation?




*3* Well known novels by Jnanapeet Awardee Kannada litterateur Dr.

Shivarama Karantha, called “Marali Mannige”,  T.K.Ramarao’s “Bangarada

Manushya”, written before Shahruk Khan was born has striking

similarities with Shah Rukh Khan’s movie “Swadesh” in Hindi. I find a

certain coincidence between this coincidence and Salman Rushdie’s

statement a couple of years ago about the best Indian literature being

in English (as against the writings in each and every and all Indian

regional languages and their historicity). Rushdie’s interview and

Swadesh are what are given to the world as the ‘actual’ Indian while

the deep rooted branches and the immensity of variations set within

the regional specifications from whose superficial surface such

constructs in the form of interviews and films are born, are, lost in

translation, ignored and miss-manipulated by the very (mere)

constructs in that which occupies the prime position of postcolonial

representation by the making of a Swadesh here and a Rushdie’s

statements there. While ‘Swadesh’ is strictly for pardes Rushdie’s

statement is from that kind of a person who excels in nurturing an

amazingly laudable, in-depth ignorance about the literature of the

country he is born into a film in Hindi and being a writer in

Internationally recognizable English is being /becoming urban. The

urban becomes the privilege herein and construes a platform which is

well demonstrated in the film “Taal” in that sequence ( just before

interval) when the rural singer arrives at the urban stadium and sees

and hears his composition being re-mixed and articulated and thus made

fit for endorsement. The urban becomes an importing and censoring

spatial agency for what lies within the un-urban premise both within

and without filmic representations in India.




*4* Visual artist N.Pushpamala’s set of photos called “Kismet–Phantom

Lady” can be read as a take on this very male double construct in

Indian (Bollywood) films in general and this Kannada film in

particular. In both the cases (Photos and the film ” Daari Thappida

Maga”) the separated brother who is essentially (ill)groomed in the

city (like Mumbai) is killed in the end and the more rural half

brother/sister lament over the loss of the ‘other half’. Italo

Calvino’s famous story of the half split/cut character (in the war)

comes to mind, wherein the half-personality is traced by everything

that is halved on the route that the half-character trod, rather half

mindedly. The urban/foreign city with an alien (to Kannada) language

is thus treated as something that infects an incurable disease into

the other half of the Kannada film protagonist which can be solved

only by a physical mortality. The French painter Gericault’s painting

” Raft of Medusa”, based on a true sea-tragedy during his lifetime in

the 18th century was exhibited in London as though it was a

performance at Piccadilly Circus area. The artist spent a few weeks at

the ‘other urban’-London, and was inflicted with a peculiar disease

specific to the Thames river. Gericault subsequently died due to the

same urban virus. ‘Other urban’   within the premise of cultural

production—both in the case of Gericault and Kannada films—also

indicate double-standards adopted by representational devices.




Even the characterization of the hero in “Saahasa Simha” wears a mask

to look like the very actor who plays the role, till the end. A

re-view of the film affects the viewers’ mind with one face while what

they see is a false face which (both) is  actually the face of

Vishnuvardhan! The urban (Mumbai) in Kannada films serves the very

face of the leading character faceless for the face given as a visual

and projected in the psyche of the audience are two different faces of

the very same character. The face of the protagonist doubles up as the

other face of the other urban that is a personified representation of

a threatening urban which marks the extreme stage of urban, within the

representational politics in Kannada films.




*5* The post-September 11 is best depicted by the director Shaun Penn

in his short film, one of the several, by various directors around the

issue of September 11. The whole notion of the urban (New York) and

the twin towers had affected an allegoric middle class life style of a

retired old man, grieving his wife’s demise– is shown through the

absence of its narratives. The shadow of the twin towers crumble down,

availing the old man’s room with natural, sun light that surreally

enlivens the plant in the pot, perhaps for the first time. Kannada

films, on the other hand, never resort to any other mode of

representing that city-threat in any other way other than aggressive

depiction, as is visualized in the Mumbai bazaar street in Om Prakash

Rao’s “AK 47″. In this movie the whole city is personified by those

bearded dhukan-wallas (Kiosk-owners) of Mumbai who gang up against the

solitary Kannadiga  hero, who, in turn finds the barbed wire as the

only protective apparatus against them—the ills of the ‘other Mumbai’,

a satirical take on the “Aamchi Mumbai” slogan of the insiders.




*6* Tamil and Kannada film ” Kokila” (Kamala Hassan and the legendary

Shobha) was the first movie to shoot extensively in Bangalore after

which the Kannada films began shooting it in colour. Arguably, the

non-Kannada films suggest a better representation of the city,





*7* However, this is a Catch—22 situation. Is the notion that a

Kannadiga is a bad migrator—has it emerged out of its visual/literal

representational politics? The major verbal texts in the form of

novels by Yeshwanth Chittala, always treats Mumbai as an aftermath of

the protagonists childhood, nostalgia and innocence. Mumbai in

Chittala’s writings has a specific geography within which the

institute of family always has threat coming from a larger, wider

institution that contains the institution of family within itself. But

somehow it is different from what it contains as a portion of

itself–the family! Read his novel: particularly ” Siddhartha”

(re-intervention into Buddha’s childhood), “Shikari” (the hunter) and

“Chedha” (split). Mumbai is an ideal spot for the climax of his

narratives. Also continuing the question of the notion of migration as

to whether it is a fact or a mere representation within the

Kannada/Kannadiga identity, see Kumkum Sangari’s text in Khoj-2001

catalogue. What her write-up generally implies is that the illiterate

emigrants (Gujarathis) out of Indian carried their language with them

due to their lack of education and English. The second migration after

centuries is where the Kannadiga migration fits into. It is the

English-literate Kannadiga migrants carried themselves but left behind

their language for the sake of that language which had availed them

with an earning in the first place. Thus Kannada films, apart from

other art forms (excluding literature) have already began serving them

as portable nostalgia. ////