Thursday, December 23, 2004

The Nataka in Karnataka

I really enjoyed reading this..!!

Karnataka film ban
A cosmopolitan culture going nuts

Posted online: Thursday, December 23, 2004 at 0000 hours IST
Every nation has its share of nutcases. But Dr Chandrashekar Kambara, a venerable gatekeeper to Kannada literature, certainly deserves the epithet Chief Nut. ‘‘Everybody should join hands to protect the Kannada language,’’ he declared grandiosely, in a display of solidarity with a breed of fellow nuts—protectionists in the Kannada film industry who have ‘‘restricted’’ the viewing of other language films, including Hindi, Tamil, and English, in the state of Karnataka.
In a sickening web of double standards, a section of producers and directors has launched the pro-Kannada language Kannada Film Chamber of Commerce, to take over the Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce! We all know why this jittery bunch want to ‘‘ban’’ competition—the lot doesn’t have stomach enough to gulp a good, strong dose of fair play. And what do you do if you’re a coward and you’re losing your share of business? Well, you gang up with fellow cronies and cry foul. Then you concoct some nonsensical story of protecting the Kannada language, while in reality, all you and your schoolyard bullies want is to protect your own profit margins. But no, you can’t even say it straight to the face that it’s margins you’re terrified about. So you hide behind your phony image as guardian of language and literature.
I’m as proud of my native language—which incidentally is Tamil—as the next person. Who can ever read classics like Kalki’s Ponniyin Selvan and not feel goosebumps on the back of one’s hands? Sivasankari, Akilan, Sujatha, Asokamitran, R K Narayan; they all make you so proud to be a Tamilian. The Kannadigas have their own stalwarts: scholar B M Srikantayya, Dr U R Ananthamurthy, pioneer of Dalit literature in Karnataka, Shivarama Karanth, and many more. But guess what? We Tamilians adore Kannada authors and playwrights as well. Girish Karnad, for instance.
So isn’t it time that frogs in the well discover the world beyond? It will be quite an experience. The frogs will learn, with great difficulty, that no, this is not 500 BC! The world has moved on. People’s definition of home has changed. And yes, it’s quite possible to feel at home from 10,000 miles away, with hyphenated identities such as Indian-American, or Indian-British. One of my friend’s daughters describes herself as Chinese-American-Dutch, half-Jewish, half-Christian. She’s 10 years old. And yes, there are such things as Hinglish and Tinglish, and Bollywood Broadway plays in New York and London.
Still, such cowardice on the part of the Kannada film industry is understandable. After all, they are protecting their own back against losses. But what’s astounding is how literary giants like Dr Kambara are applauding the cause! It’s true the award-winning playwright and poet has always taken an antagonistic stand against ‘‘foreign’’ influence, nevertheless since when was English, or Hindi for that matter, ever foreign to Karnataka? How is it all right for English-speaking countries like America to outsource jobs by thousands to tech capital Bangalore, but not all right for English films from Hollywood to run in Bangalore theatres? Such hypocrisy is indeed enviable—there are few parallels. And journalists like me who live in the US and write articles supporting outsourcing take flak from a section of the readers after every piece runs in the American newspapers.
But we keep going because we’re convinced that this is how the world works. If you want a world without borders, a veritable international village where people, goods and services flow back and forth, crisscross and diagonal across the globe, you’ve got to shape up or ship out. I’m sorry if this is bad news to some producers. But guess what, it’s great news for consumers. And in today’s world—thankfully—that’s what counts.
The writer is a Connecticut-based freelance journalist


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