RRR, Pushpa and KGF-2: Calling these films ‘Pan-Indian’ cinema is a cultural retreat

Superstar Yash.

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Clearly, both Bahubali and RRR, the key icons of ‘pan-Indian’ cinema, have multifaceted cultural connotations that present India without the sense of its inherent plurality. If a non-pluralist India is ‘pan-Indian’, it clearly betrays the regressive cultural idea.

Recently three South Indian films RRR (RRR), Pushpa and KGF-2 earned huge at the box office across India and created a new trend-setting ‘Pan-India’ benchmark in the country’s film industry. Although earlier Telugu film ‘Bahubali’ created a similar buzz in 2015 and 2017 which were only one-time incidents, but now both the media and the film industry are seeing it as a new sensation.

The fact is that the big names of the South Indian film industry and the Hindi film industry present in Mumbai have coined this new term ‘Pan-Indian’ because few non-Hindi speaking films have won the hearts of the audience in the Hindi speaking region. The premise of coining such a term is that only Hindi films are capable of doing this kind of language-neutral business across India. But how accurate this new term is coined socio-politically and if it can be repeated as a trend on a regular basis is an important question that needs to be explored.

Why is a South Indian film a Pan-Indian film?

Unfortunately, the problem lies with the word ‘pan-Indian’ as well as the excessive enthusiasm that surrounds it. At its most basic, it is ‘isolating’ non-Hindi languages, as actor Siddharth has said. He told The Indian Express, “Words like pan-India are a way to differentiate films that are not in Hindi. It means we are special people. Whoever comes is an outsider. You never say that a Bollywood film is a pan-Indian film. You just call it Bollywood. Then why a South Indian film is a Pan-Indian film? Is it a Kannada film or a Telugu film?

Siddharth is right. Films like ‘Dangal’ made in Hindi language and spoken only by more than 40 percent of Indian population are not called ‘Pan-Indian’. So why does the equally popular Telugu film become ‘Pan-Indian’? The reality is that both the films have reached the people who are used to watching movies only in their native languages? Malayalam actor Dulqer Salman, who has appeared in films in several languages ​​including Hindi, said that the term bothers him almost because all Indian languages ​​are equally important. Do Articles 344(1) and 351 of the Indian Constitution say so?

Unfortunately the issue is that Hindi is dominated by other languages ​​without any controversy. The South Indian film industry is actually acknowledging such supremacy by backing the ‘pan-Indian’ claim. Accepting such a term is an acknowledgment of a culturally homogenous India, if seen with the central government’s campaign to further promote Hindi; Or at least some films are trying to achieve such a homogeneous character which is against the basic spirit of the country. In fact, National Award winning Tamil director and actor Amir pointed to this political motive in a derisive manner.

Indian films potentially ‘pan-Indian’

Clearly, both Bahubali and RRR, the key icons of ‘pan-Indian’ cinema, have majoritarian cultural connotations that present India without the sense of its inherent plurality. If a non-pluralist India is ‘pan-Indian’, it clearly betrays the regressive cultural idea. Director Aamir said the same thing and probably Siddharth to some extent too. When Dulquer expresses a similar sentiment, says, ‘So, you can base your film on as much of an issue as you can, build that background story and enlarge it, cast it differently and maybe different. -Include some familiar faces from different markets. I get all that but I don’t think you should lose the sensibility or the culture of that particular story.

With the advent of OTT and digital theatrical distribution, all Indian films, including Hindi, are potentially ‘pan-Indian’. Rajinikanth’s films are released in Tamil in cities like Jaipur and Ahmedabad, just like Salman Khan’s films are released in Chennai or Kurnool. Similarly, Malayalam, Tamil, Kannada and Telugu films also release across the country with decent success. Some of the biggest commendable movies on OTT have been non-Hindi language. In fact Indian language films are shown not only within India but across the world. For example, Netflix released its Malayalam film Minnal Murali in eight languages, including Spanish and Portuguese, with subtitles available in 38 languages.

In terms of commercial success, these ‘pan-Indian’ films occasionally hit the big screen, although Indian films will continue to attract audiences across the country due to OTT and language-neutral universal platforms such as satellite or digital distribution . By increasing the exchange of new cultures and sensibilities, the Indian audience will get an opportunity to see and understand the films of other languages ​​more. It is the real change taking place in India that has garnered less headlines. Apart from this, some of those films make big money, but there is no reason for the Hindi film industry to call them ‘Pan-Indian’. The language industry should be wary of indirect compliments and stop calling themselves so, even if they are excited to pass on the profits of the Hindi industry. After all, all non-Hindi film industries or the South film industry alone make more films than the entire Hindi-speaking world.

(The author is a senior journalist, the views expressed in the article are the personal of the author.)

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