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Why Cannot Tamil Moviemakers Hire Tamil-speaking Heroines?

Sadly, language does not matter or is given the least of priority, and with much of Indian cinema not yet into syn sound, dubbing artists are good enough.

Gautaman Bhaskaran | News18.com

Updated:December 21, 2017, 3:17 PM IST
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Why Cannot Tamil Moviemakers Hire Tamil-speaking Heroines?
Sadly, language does not matter or is given the least of priority, and with much of Indian cinema not yet into syn sound, dubbing artists are good enough.
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I have always been livid over Tamil producers and directors pitching for heroines who cannot speak the language – even to save their lives. But these girls – mostly from up north and sometimes from as far away as Britain – have been landing lead roles in Tamil cinema. The reason is not difficult to fathom.

Often – not always – girls from north India tend to sport a fair skin, and in a State like Tamil Nadu (not that the rest of India is less guilty on this count) which is highly colour conscious, the fairer a girl is, the better are her chances to clinch a movie.

Sadly, language does not matter or is given the least of priority, and with much of Indian cinema not yet into syn sound, dubbing artists are good enough. They have the ability to sound like X or Y Or Z. And filmmakers are happy, happier that they have gorgeous looking women often willing to be the arm candies of supermen heroes. These women could not care less even if they are reduced to mere decorative vases on the mantlepiece.

I still remember how annoyed I was – and many others too – when the late Rituparno Ghosh hired Aishwarya Rai to play an early 19th-century Bengali widow in his Choker Bali. She just refused to let go off her glamour, and having grown up in Kolkata, I knew exactly how widows, especially young widows, were treated in Bengal. And if they were childless, their plight was even worse.

But Miss Rai looked unbelievably glamorous portraying an ilk that had no proper clothes, no decent food and no comfortable dwelling to live. These widows looked starved and led a wretched existence. But Ghosh threw authenticity to the winds, and enriched his canvas with a fair beauty. Mercifully, Rai could speak Hindi.

But in Tamil Nadu, the language skills of many heroines are zero, but, nonetheless, are hired, because they are ravishing to look at with an alabaster skin that often gives a complex to southern belles.

Now, Tamil speaking actress Janani – known for her roles in movies like Adhe Kangal, Avan Ivan and Thegidi, and who will soon be seen in a horror work called Balloon and a comedy titled Vidhi Madhi Ultaa – said in a candid chat with the media that filmmakers in Tamil Nadu must begin considering Tamil speaking heroines. There are very few directors who value girls speaking Tamil. “Why cannot they look beyond the glamour quotient” she shoots.

Irrfan Khan, last seen in a riveting work, The Song of Scorpions (set on the undulating sands of Rajasthan), also agreed with the importance of language skills when I met him at the recent Dubai International Film Festival. And he agreed that he did feel a degree of discomfort while he was doing the Bengali movie, Doob – yet to be seen in India.

Strangely, there was a time when Tamil girls went to Bollywood. Vyjayantimala was one classic example. Rekha was another, and she was not even fair. But both spoke Hindi, if I am right, and that probably helped them in Mumbai – and in an era when language mattered and was treated like a king.

But as actress Nandita Das – whose second directorial feature, Manto, is all set to open – has been saying for years, India's obsession with skin colour runs deep, and until and unless producers and helmers cross this barrier, they would continue to look for fairer women – caring little whether they can act or whether they can speak the language. British model turned actress Amy Jackson, is beautiful all right. But she cannot speak Tamil (let alone act, and yet gets plum roles and keeps saying in interview after interview that she is a “Tamil girl”.

Well, if she is Tamil, I am English. Does this sound ridiculous to you?

(Gautaman Bhaskaran is an author, commentator and movie critic)


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