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Life as I'm learning it

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Location: Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania, United States

"It little profits that an idle king, By this still hearth, among these barren crags, Match'd with an ag├Ęd wife, I mete and dole Unequal laws unto a savage race, That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me."

Monday, October 03, 2005

Udit, stop it!

Indians, in particular, Tamilians are known for their hospitality. The way we adapt with other peoples and cultures in evident from the popularity of many filmstars and politicians. Rajnikanth, KJ Yesudoss, SP Balasubramanian do not hail from Tamil Nadu, and yet are followed fanatically.

In the past few years, Udit Narayan has risen to prominence in Kollywood circles. In fact, every Vidyasagar movie will have at least one song sung by him. Reception for Udit has always been mixed, with one side claiming that he brings a "kick" to the song, and some others who feel that he is murdering the Tamil language. The song "Kaadhal Pisaase" from Run comes to mind, as a case in point. I have always sided with the Udit supporters, until...

I was listening to Radio Mirchi this morning, and the song "Eeshwara, vaanum mannum..." sung by Udit was being played. My friend suggested that I pay close attention to the lyrics. At one place, Udit sings "Periyamma ponnai rasikkalam". That was sacrilege because it means "Let us have fun with our aunt's daughter". The actual line is "Priyamana pennai rasikkalam" ("Let's have fun with those we like"). Such a glaring error, and everyone let it pass. My friend informed me that when the soundtrack of that movie was released, the lyricist Vairamuthu was ambushed by journalists at this outrageous line. Only then did everyone realise that it was caused by Udit's prowess.

This is not an isolated instance of mispronunciation. In fact, this is the rule with most singers from the north. I don't belong to any cultural, moral or language police, but the average person would agree that there is not even a million-to-one chance of an SPB or a KJY (or Susheela, Janaki, Chitra) creating such a mess.

The Larger Picture

This comes at a time when there is a nationwide debate about what's wrong with Chennai. First the dress code in colleges, then Kushboo's comments on pre-marital relationships and then the Park Hotel scandal. The question posed is "Are we being too conservative, old-world and resistant to change?"

It seems to me that Chennai is an India inside India. The way Indians of the north view Chennai isn't much different from the way the Westerners view India - hot, conservative and mired in outdated opinions and traditions.

It can be observed that if people migrate from their place to a different one, they tend to follow the customs and practices of the new place, not forgetting their roots. Indians who have migrated to the West are a good example. Indian Americans celebrate Diwali with lot of pomp and grandeur.

[What is surprising is that, we in India celebrate a lot of American events, though there is no great influx of Americans. We celebrate Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, Great Grandfather's Day etc. of our own accord. In the coming years, India will overtake America in celebrating Halloween and Thanksgiving Day. Pundits of globalisation would remark that this marks the arrival of the global Indian. But if this were true, why are Indian festivals like Pongal (Shankaranti) not celebrated by Americans with the same zeal and fervour that we display on their fad days?]

Chennai isn't a confused city with outdated views. It is, like most others, an evolving city. The selfsame people who raise a hue and cry about moral policing in bars... where were they when Ricky Ponting was thrown out a nightclub in Calcutta during the 1998 series? Does that make Calcutta conservative and old-world?

The fact is each city is different, and has its own ways of life. Chennai's nightlife isn't as pulsating as Bangalore's not because we are short of electricity. It is the way the city is. Those who hold conservative views are considered boring. But the fact is, it is those who wear the tag of liberals who are a boring lot. They want Chennai, Bangalore, Mumbai, Kolkata and every other city to have the same party circuit as New York City and Paris. To them, individual identity is a strict no-no. And a city which tries to guard its identity is mired in contradictions.

If Chennai doesn't want to let go of its traditions, then that must be respected. We need not change our value systems for the worse just to accomodate those whose definition of liberty is to get drunk late in the night in bars without license and run over pedestrians.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think what's happening in Chennai is a confused reaction of certain sections of the middle/lower middle classes born out of insecurity to the rapid changes in the economic and cultural landscape. I think this will pass and I hope this ridiculous unconstitutional misuse of State power ignites a debate and counter reaction among progressive and thoughtful people especially the youth and actually brings about even faster changes, that will be the just and fitting reply to these medieval prudish fascists.

10/04/2005 10:55:00 AM  
Blogger Cipher said...

Well said VK,i am on ur side.... let the places be as they are..... change can/will be accepted only if it is healthy.....

10/04/2005 02:47:00 PM  
Blogger Selva said...

I think dress codes in colleges is rubbish. We are dealing with students of 'professional' colleges and not with adolescent guys and girls just attaining their puberty. If
About Kushboo's statement, though might not be true in most cases (I hope!), she should have shown some restraint: "Poimaiyum vaaimai idathu porai theerntha nanmai payakkumenin". Park hotel scandal, what can I say. There are two things. One, why has any one of those people in the photographs not sued our beloved Tamil murasu/dinamalar? Two, kissing is two individuals' right, unless they do not do anything to take your lungs out of your nose. I guess Mr.Kamal Hassan could give more gyan on this.

10/04/2005 09:54:00 PM  
Blogger airanand said...

Abt the Udit issue.. I think that he is good enough to sing in Tamil.. and the onus shld be on the ppl here.. those who write it out in English for him or those who record his songs.. to make sure that he doesnt make mistakes.. talent shld not be stopped for mere languages..

Chn.. I think it depends on what the present Govt. wants and this in respect to what the previous Govt. didn't want that dictates most of these things :)

10/06/2005 01:35:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi vk,
hope u r well. Udit from view need not sing for tamil songs but its his popularity that makes directors choose him.
And on chennai, I see that its changing very fast. I do not know whether it is me who is seeing this change late or chennai is really changing fast.
The fashion, the culture, the freedom,... I think this is new to our culture and as any thing new has its ripples this would also settle down and people would start saying "ithu thane.ithu than eppavum nadakudhe", like the political scandals which were topping the news daily around 10 yrs back and now being a daily routine.

10/06/2005 04:50:00 AM  
Blogger Shankar Sridhar said...

after reading this, i listened to eshwara song... but UDIT-a enna panrathu.. avana koopadravana thaan odhaikkanum!

chennai-ya yaaravathu kaapathanum... :-( annyaayam panraanunga!

10/06/2005 10:39:00 AM  
Blogger Sheks said...

agree with u abt chennai.let chennai be chennai.Y adopt the damned mentality of designing mumbai like shanghai or b'lore as singapore or chennai like dubai?

10/06/2005 10:55:00 AM  
Blogger Vijay Krishna said...

@Anon: What's constitutional misuse of power? Reining in a bar without a license? I think most of would settle for being labeled 'prudish fascists' instead of being on the run, fearing the police.

@Cipher/Sheky: I think you got it bang on. "Change only for the better" should be our mantra.

@Anand/Shankar: Udit is good, but I don't understand why our folks make him an inseparable part of Tamil cinema.

10/06/2005 10:21:00 PM  
Blogger Chennai chatter said...

Here comes the difference between westernization and globalization...Chennai is much more globalized whreas b lore would fall under the westernized catagory..and Globalization is all that matters for a city to evolve.

The night club/kushboo/college rules incidents are isolated ones that just happened at the same time...These things happen in every city. We grabbed at this opportunity bcos the cops would think twice before acting like upholders of morality the next time...and thats wat we need; and not a negative impact on the city's growth...

10/09/2005 09:25:00 AM  
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11/24/2006 03:46:00 AM  

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