On the outset this is not an indictment of “Bollywood”. It is merely an introspection of how throughout the years cultural stereotype was and still is promoted by Bollywood. If you ask any North Indian what he thinks of a South Indian, the first answer will be that they get frightened easily or in Hindi Dharpokh. Ask a South Indian, what they think of North Indians; their first answer will be, northerners are combative in nature. So does that mean the north Indians are inherently violent and shot tempered? On the other hand if a cracker explodes the south Indians will go and hide under their bed. Well it will be statistically an impossible task to quantify both schools of thoughts. Sadly bollywood has somehow still managed to sell this message rather convincingly.
If we see films made in India throughout the decades, one would find many examples. If you are a money lender you are a Baneya, you are a businessman you are either a Sindhi, Marwadi. If you are an accountant you are a south Indian i.e Madrasi. The list is endless. A Panjabi has been typically shown as loud, abrasive and consumes lot of alcohol. Madrasi as timid. Bengali as the indifferent intellectual. The Guajarati as merchants and Sindhis as misers. The people from the state of U.P and Bihar have now managed the distinction of being viewed only as laborers or worse as criminals. The term Bihari is even considered as an insult. If we go further east likes Mizoram and Tripura, they are perhaps the worst victims, we do not even consider them as citizen’s ‘and call them “Chinki”. The malady is the entire outcome of stereotype and lot of effort has to be made by Bollywood to educate the masses.
What is stereotype in Bollywood and in general Indian films? A south Indian always wears a coat and tie above their white lungi and eat disgustingly with their hand. Punjabis always dress in western cloths and are party animals. Bengalis always wear white kurta pajama. And a Guajarati always wears their ensemble. Because of these pre-conceived notions, we as a nation are victims of a very deep “disconnect” and “misinformation” and due to this we come to view each other with suspicion.
Let us take some examples. The movie Padosan was very funny and one of the funniest films ever made. In that film the character of Sunil Dutt who is a Rajpoot has been shown as dimwitted and the character of Mehamood who plays the role of south Indian music teacher, is shown as talented musician but easily intimidated. Does that mean being a Rajpoot is all about bravodo and zero intellect and all south Indians are not strong? Would that mean eating Parantha will make you only strong and not smart and eating idly will make you week but intelligent. The movie 2 State also deals with the same issue of stereotype, south Indians are Dark skinned and north Indians are tall, fare and goodlooking. The movie was successful and it is a funny film. If you are the kind of person who take these things as light hearted humor then that is good news. It is good to see the makers of 2 state were at least trying to portray the silly misconception between north and south, but sadly, many take it literally and agree with the film context.
Both these films are riddled with such clichés. From merely being culturally different, we have managed to create a caricature which has managed to create a divide running so deep and long, we at times tend to go loggerhead with each other. All of us must be proud of our culture and language, but when we tend to think that one is superior to other, there will be problems.
Another stereotype promoted by Indian film industry as a hole is the color of skin. South Indians are inherently dark skinned, but that is due to climate and ethnicity and the demand for fare skinned beauties is very high. Movies are made where one sister is made to feel inferior because she has dark complexion. Traditionally all thugs in films will be of dark color. Movies like Gora Aur Kala were one brother is white and the other black. Even the character of Birju the rebellious brother in Mother India is shown as dark skinned. And it does not help when leading bollywood actors who are already fair skinned, without naming promote fairness creams products only make millions of Indians insecure and subject of ridicule.
India is the 7th largest country on earth and is more culturally diverse than any other nation. The reason for that is, every state has its own language, culture and customs. If the British were successful in dividing us based on religion and caste. Bollywood has made several movies which has brought us closer but also help fuel the divide on the bases of culture, customs and language. Regional films only promote their customs and portray their language as great and superior to others. Outsiders are deemed as threats.
There are two institutions which are known for its secular value. The Indian Military and Bollywood. Both these institutions have promoted unity in diversity and have done more to unite the people of this country than anyone else. But sadly with Bollywood, with all its good intent at heart, somehow over the years, managed to lose its message and baring. People believe what they see. And bollywood, for all its useful contribution promoting secularism among religion somehow forgot that by stereotyping culture and language one can still incite and increase this divide even more and print the image of simple an innocent cultural difference into stereotype.
I think the IPL is one of the best medium to bridge the divide. The team from Punjab is lead by an Australian and the team from Bengal by a Punjabi and all the south Indians teams are led by north Indians. Talk about diversity.
But let us not lose hope, there have been some movies which has fought against cultural stereotype, like Chak de India and tried to educate us. Also so many south Indian movies are being remade in bollywood and that should certainly help us rise above and break the shackle of cultural stereotype.
No one is questioning the intent and integrity of film makers of Bollywood, we thank them for keeping us entertained but it would be nice if they made more movies to help fight this silly indifference among overselves. We cheer when Sachin Tendulkar would hit a six and he is from Maharastra. All Indians were proud when Karnam Malleshwari won the Olympic bronze medal and she is from Andra Pradesh. There are many examples. When Captain Vikram Batra died, the whole nation mourned he was a Punjabi and when Major Sundeep Unnikrishnan gave his life fighting terrorist we all felt the pain and he was from Kerala. When solders go to battle they wear the proud uniform of the Indian army. They do not go into combat wearing lungi or dhoti or a pajama. Stereotype cannot define bravery, intelligence or high moral character. These attributes cannot be specific to just one region. We Indians are brave, Intelligent and kind hearted all across this land.
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