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Celebration of a 'Rasa' Called Disgust in Tamil Cinema

K. Hariharan

Among the nine ‘Rasas’ or emotions listed in the ‘Natya Shastra’ by Bharata, ‘Bibhatsa’ or disgust is a crucial one but few of our traditional plays or even our modern entertainment nedia ever use this emotion. For reasons mythological and political, the dominant emotion has always been ‘Sringara’ or the state of sensuous enjoyment. One could probably root it back to the poetics of the ‘Bhakti’ movement of the 8th century and also, perhaps, due to the fact that our Indian sub-continent and especially the south of India have hardly witnessed prolonged wars or gross acts of violence compared to the other parts of the world. So whereas some of the films of Germany and Korea indulge in strong overdoses of disgust via the depiction of dysfunctional sex and violence, our films usually end up in extravagant choreographed scenes of love and anger.   The performative circumstances of Indian dramaturgy seem to demand complete immersion in the formalistic codes of narration via the appreciation of ‘adornment’ or ‘Sringara’ as the affect of enjoyment. In the case of Indian Cinema, by the very fact that it has been ushered in the throes of a ‘nationalist’ movement, the concept of the ‘Nation’ becomes by default, a format for a sensuous ‘romantic’ engagement. The Nation gets prefigured within the emotion of ‘enjoyment’! This peculiarity gets further complicated in the Tamil scenario. Since post-independent Tamil cinema was seriously affected due to its polarization with the ‘national’ Hindi Cinema it ended up virtually oozing with voluptuous enjoyment in its valorization of everything ‘Tamil’. For all practical purposes Tamil cinema became the standard template for all of southern regional cinema which even today, accounts for about 65% of Indian Cinema!   Sixty years later the Tamil dream seems to have gone awry! If ‘Parasakti’ (1952) was a true emblem of everything that Tamil identity should be all about, then today’s Tamil cinema of ‘Pokkiri’ and ‘Shivaji’ (2007) has switched to a completely opposed direction. The only thing that is Tamilian about most Tamil cinema today is the title card and that’s because of the absurd tax exemption rule given by the state government here! One has to only hear the lyrics in Tamil cinema today and that too sung by strange Mumbai voices like Sadhana Sargam, Shreya Ghosal or Udit Narayan to understand what I mean. Most films of superstars like Vijay, Ajit, Surya and Vikram are blatant copies ...

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