First Rambha came on stage and danced to a Tamil song. Then Naresh Iyer crooned Cruise Control from Rang De Basanti which was followed by Mukta George dancing to the Tamil song Kutti Pisase. Naresh Iyer sang Kathal Koncham followed once again by Rambha dancing to Valayapatti and Mukta to a song from the new Hindi film Race. We looked around. The place was Kochi and it was the Amritha Film Awards 2008.
Looking for a Malayalam song or dance in such award events is like searching for a Priyadarshan movie which has not been ‘lifted’ from English. There are a few here and there, but rest are all imports. Then we cannot blame Amirtha TV alone. In Surya Awards 2008, there was a dance by Sada, Mayya Mayya by Chitra Iyer, Swetha Menon dancing to Ramana Puranthalum, Karthik singing Hindi songs and Oru Maalai, Shaan singing songs from Don and a Hindi dance by Isha Sherwani. Fortunately we also got to hear MG Sreekumar, Rimi Tomy, Swetha Mohan and Vineeth Srinivasan sing one or two Malayalam songs.
Since Kerala is so much into Tamil and Hindi film songs and dance, we decided to watch a few Tamil, Telugu and Hindi award functions to see if they had any Malayalam songs. There were none. All of their songs were in their language and none other – old songs, new songs, people like Prabhu dancing to the original Ponmagal Vanthal, Sharath Kumar and Radhika dancing to a new A R Rahman song, or Chiranjeevi dancing on stage to Nagarjuna film song.
There are two conclusions from this.
The first one is that basically no one outside Kerala cares about Malayalam songs or dances. Our pizza slice of a state does not have the cultural power in terms of music and dance to influence anyone. It is like the situation in politics. We read newspapers cover to cover and conduct protest meets condemning various world events like a bunch of ants complaining about elephant droppings at Punnathoor Kotta. We are inconsequential in the world stage about which we talk a great deal and we have the same influence at the national stage in film music as dance as Pinarayi Vijayan’s speech has on American foreign policy.
Second, we lack pride in our own culture and think adopting Tamil and Hindi songs is cool. In fact they are cool and we should enjoy the latest AR Rahman album or Pritam’s adaptation of Korean songs. We should not have hatred towards Hindi the way Tamilians do, but watching Amritha and Surya award programs, we do not see fascination, but an obsession. It is not just the award programs: in our reality singing shows there are more other language songs, and in our movies all our heroes now are settled in Pollachi. Some folks spin this as open mindedness of Malayalis, but spinning this obsession as open mindedness is just a cover for our inferiority complex.
Sitting few rows ahead of us in the award show was Kaithapram Naboothiri and he was so enjoying Karthik’s jamming session with Stephen Devassy. We too enjoyed it as much. But when one Tamil song follows a Hindi song and it is followed by a Hindi dance and a Tamil dance followed by two Malayali singers belting out the latest Hindi film hits we start feeling so shallow inside us.
The saving grace: At least for now, the hosts are speaking Malayalam. Soon that too may change.