The controversy over (imposition of) Hindi vs. regional language has raged for a long time, and cinema is no exception. The linguistic quarrel has now spilled over into movies. The increased box office success of south films in Bollywood‘s heartland Mumbai and other non-southern regions has sparked passionate debates online and off. Has Bollywood’s dominance as a reliable moneymaker, both domestically and internationally, waned as a result of its recent BO numbers? Is the south market now attempting to increase its share of the pie? Is south cinema’s growing popularity a threat to Hindi films’ market share and more?
During a press conference in Mumbai, Kamal Haasan, one of our most talented actors, addressed the ongoing controversy. The veteran actor was in town to promote his new flick “Vikram Hitlist,” which also stars Fahadh Faasil and Vijay Sethupathi.
He said, “Films speak the world language. Film language is a language on its own. We are a country with great diversity and unity. We might disagree on various things, we may not speak one language but we all say our national anthem with pride. None of the people down south know a single word of Bengali but they sing the National anthem with pride. That’s the only Bengali they know.”
Going a bit into history, Kamal Haasan added, “We used to be princely states but our sensibility united us and we seem to have forgotten how difficult it was to put it all together.”
“Cinema has played a huge part in uniting people. Cinemas are the only place where you don’t check what caste or community the man sitting next to you is. You get your ticket, you get the entertainment. That’s how the country should be. When you say south ka film successful ho raha hai, it’s an Indian film that is succeeding as opposed to a Hollywood film succeeding here. It doesn’t matter which part of the country made it. We learnt to make big films by watching Mughal-E-Azam and Sholay. Their scale was so big that Tamil and Malayalam films couldn’t afford to do that. When Sholay came, some of the Tamil filmmakers said they would never let these Hindi films come there because they could never make something like that so why should we allow them? We just saw them. Mughal-E-Azam didn’t just need intelligence but also guts. It took decades to get that film made. I have worked with the makers of Sholay and I never thought I would be able to even meet them, let alone work with them. We should understand and respect each other. If you like a film, appreciate it, doesn’t matter what language. Films don’t have a language.”
The superstar also said, “I made Hey Ram in two different languages Hindi and Tamil. I wrote the Tamil dialogues while Manohar Shyam Joshi wrote the Hindi ones so there were no language discrepancies. There is still more potential in the south for Hindi cinema to grow. The reason that’s not happening is because of the linguistic barrier and we need to find ways to overcome that and reach out. And in spite of the language barrier, Hindi films are widely seen in the South. All this politicisation of language will happen but artistes and sportsmen are the people who will keep breaking it. Sachin Tendulkar is equally a hero for a Tamilian in Paramakudi, my native place in Tami Nadu, where they don’t know a single Hindi word but Tendulkar is the only Marathi word they can pronounce.”
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