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The culture invasion

Sreedhar Pillai

Young viewers in Kerala make a beeline for Tamil and Hindi films while many Malayalam films bite the dust at the box office.



NEW-AGE ICONS: Do heroes from Tamil and Hindi cinema have an edge over Mollywood heroes?

Have Bollywood and Tamil films taken over Malayalam cinema? While Malayalam cinema is floundering at the summer box-office, it is the Hindi and Tamil films that are doing good business in Kerala. The generation-next audience in the State are growing up on a staple diet of Bollywood culture and their idols are from Tamil cinema.

A marketing agency that recently did a survey among teenagers in Kerala for a leading mobile phone company found that the top five male icons are Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan, Vijay, Surya and Mohanlal. Among females, it is Rani Mukherjee, Preity Zinta, Aishwarya Rai, Trisha and Sania Mirza.

Record collection

This trend is reflected in the fact that the Bollywood hit `Kaal' is a super hit in Kerala and the film grossed a record Rs. 4,20,000 from Sridhar in Ernakulam.

The brand equity of Karan Johar and its stars like Ajay Devgan, John Abraham, Vivek Oberoi, Esha Deol and Lara Dutta plus the item number of Shahrukh Khan and Malaika Arora seem to have done the trick. Says Suresh Shenoy of `Shenoy Entertainments,' Ernakulam: "Our young audience is growing up seeing the promos of Tamil and Hindi films on satellite channels. They simply adore and enjoy the glitz and glamour provided by these films." Today, films of younger heroes like Prithviraj, Boban Kunchakko, Jayasurya, Jishnu, Siddharth, Indrajith, Vineeth Kumar and others do not seem to enjoy the kind of adulation and fan following of Bollywood stars.

According to Roy Augustine of `Celebrate Films': "Our audiences refuse to see films with little-known stars. At the same time, they lap up Bollywood and Tamil films in a big way, especially in Malabar."

Theatres in cities like Ernakulam, Kozhikode, Thrissur and Thiruvananthapuram give priority to Mohanlal, Mammootty and Dileep films in Malayalam. Their next preference is for Tamil and Hindi films. A noted director like Hariharan is not getting theatres to release his `Mayookham' as Shankar's big-budget magnum opus `Anniyan' and Yash Chopra's `Bunty Aur Babli' are due the same week.

If theatres in big cities politely refuse to screen films of lesser-known actors, then smaller stations, what the trade calls the B and C stations, like Attingal, Kayamkulam, Aluva, Kunnamkulam, Manjeri and Kanjankad prefer films like `Tirupachi,' `Mayaavi' or `Chandramukhi.' In smaller stations, Vijay's `Tirupachi' has managed to get a distributors' share of Rs. 80,000 to 1,00,000, the same that a Mohanlal film gets.

Music

Even music albums of Tamil films like `Kaakha Kaakha,' `Ghilli' and `Manmathan' sold more copies than a Malayalam film. Many leading playback singers in Tamil like Chitra, Sujatha, Madhu Balakrishnan and Srinivas are Malayalis while Jassie Gift and Jyotsna are waiting for the big break.

Says Kala master, a leading choreographer of Tamil, who is now very busy in Malayalam films: "Songs in Malayalam used to be melodious and the dance movements very subtle, but today directors and leading actors want the same steps that are seen in Tamil. And surprisingly the songs are also becoming fast paced with a lot of Tamil lyrics in them."



GLITZ AND GLAMOUR: A scene from 'Kaal'

Even Malayalam satellite channels encourage Tamil and Hindi cinematic dances for their in-house programmes.

Adds T.P. Sathamangalam, noted music critic: "The influence of Tamil film songs in Malayalam is all pervading. We are gradually losing the melodies that Malayalam songs were famous for. And some of our music directors are merely copying tunes from Tamil films."

Says Ravi K. Chandran, a Malayalee cinematographer who has worked in films such as `Dil Chahta Hai' and `Black,': "I grew up on Malayalam cinema, which had great technicians and some of the best creative minds. But the quality of today's cinema is pathetic as they are trying to ape Tamil and Hindi cinema."

A leading Malayalam director who has had a few hits in the past says: "It is just not Bollywood and Tamil films that inspire film makers but it is satellite channels like MTV, Star, Sony, Sun, and SS Music that has created a new culture, and a new life style has emerged."

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