Is South Indian cinema better than Bollywood’s?


In the fourth week of August, Madras played host to a three-day jamboree to mark 100 years of South Indian cinema.

Song and dance delegations from each of the four states got a chance to show their wares. By all accounts, it was an event hogged and monopolised by the Mysore-born actress-turned-Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalitha Jayaram, to the exclusion of all else in the film fraternity, in an election year.

But does South Indian cinema really have much to celebrate, regardless of the snooty South Indian belief that south cinema is better than Bollywood cinema? Regardless of the talented stars, the macho mustachioed actors, the sexy actresses, the villians, the vamps, the directors, music composers and technicians?

The long-time film critic Randor Guy alias Madabhushi Rangadurai, offers a blistering critique of Kollywood and Mollywood and Sandalwood, in The Pioneer:

“We are where we started in 1913. Indian movies in general and south Indian movies in particular have not moved an inch forward. It is all the same. Personalities have been changed to accommodate youth. That’s the only notable change.

“South Indian language films continue to be the extension of the old theatre. There is no semblance of reality to the real life. There should be logic, reasoning and art in the product.

“Do you think hard hitting dialogues, songs shot with hundreds of co-stars in exotic locations, the hero single-handedly bashing up the goons and walking away with the heroine makes a good movie? I am aghast.. Most of the directors have not seen classical movies and they have not read good books too.

“The movie Nenjil Oru Aalayam (A temple inside the heart) was sent as an entry for the Oscar Award. The man in charge of the category for which the movie was sent laughed at us and asked weren’t there any divorce laws in India. He told us that the story could have been cut short had the protagonists approached the court of law instead of singing songs and mouthing tough dialogues.

“If films represent only glamour and nothing else, well, there is no need to elaborate. If even third grade movies could throw up global leaders from the fraternity, imagine, what could have been the scenario had we produced movies matching the ones made in Hollywood?”

Photograph: courtesy Cinema News Today

Also read: Poll: Is Hindi cinema Indian cinema?

‘Bollywood: India’s most moronic cultural export’

Has Bollywood wrecked our cinema sensibilities?

Do only Bollywood beauties possess glamour?

The greatest actor in the history of Indian cinema?

The sexiest South Indian south Asian actress is…

Why national media ignores the national awards

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15 Responses to “Is South Indian cinema better than Bollywood’s?”

  1. chidu22 Says:

    With regret I have to say kannada movies,one’s produced of late, are at the bottom of the filthy pile called Indian movies, probably piped to the dubious post by Tollywood I guess.

  2. R.K. Says:

    The film critic has a warped view of South Indian cinema. Shows he has not seen many Malayalam films and some good Tamil films… the person seems to have very little idea of what is Tamil Nadu or Kerala beyond the state capital. many of these movies relate to a rural place in a state… from story and screen play perspective, some of these movies are much better than Hindi films. proof of the pudding is in eating… ask how many movies in 2012 were remade in Hindi from South Indian languages and vice versa. That is one way of knowing who does good work

  3. DHL Says:

    Enough said about Bollywood

  4. raghavendran Says:

    Anyday Tamil movies are of superior quality in Indian cinema. Tamil movies comes in all dimensions, be it commercial or classical or experimentations.

  5. dr ramesh Says:

    Kannada films offlate, have been doing extremely well. Not surpsing because of young filmmakers have entered the industry bringing new ideas and executing them brilliantly.
    Films like GOOGL,VICTORY, MYNAA, LUCIA this year have succeeded both in terms of economy and content.
    BOLLYWOOD is stuck in cesspool of porn, Kannada film industry is the most improving film industry in India.

  6. the colonel Says:

    if you watch any movie you haven’t seen anything.

    if you don’t watch you haven’t missed anything.

  7. D P Satish Says:

    Beautiful piece! I wholly agree! He is 1000% correct. I am also of the opinion. Indian movies can be anything, but great.

  8. D P Satish Says:

    Beautiful piece! I wholly agree! He is 1000% correct. I am also of the same opinion. Indian movies can be anything, but great.

  9. Praveen Kodbagi Says:

    This article has some valid criticisms but on the whole the article misses the point of why the movies are made in the first place? is it because they want to show the reality? make it realistic? why?. the critique obviously has not mentioned socio political movies made in these industries which go on to bag so many international awards.

    Cinema is a representation of society, the collective consciousness of masses. If the film critique is trying to suggest that movies have not progressed does that mean that society on the whole has not progressed at all? If this is so, then it will be a mere contradiction of South developing so rampantly, economy booming so and so forth.

    There are different classes in society, There is a political society, elite class, working class, middle class. WHo is the main target of these movies? the main audience? Cinema in the South is mainly an entertainment medium. a detachment from everyday stuff in real life.

    The title of the article did not make much sense. The comparison with Hollywood seems very faulty because the conditions are way different in India than they are in Hollywood which are more globally based. Instead of comparisons the South movies should be understood in their own context.

  10. Vivek Says:

    One really has to wonder from where this so called ‘film critic’ harvested his opinion. What exactly does he mean by “what could have been the scenario had we produced movies matching the ones made in Hollywood?”
    It is people like this who are always comparing everything with something else that undermine our country and culture. Yeah, we make commercial movies, so what? Not everyone who goes to the theater is looking for highly-intellectual, brain stimulating content. They go to have a few hours of fun and to take their minds away from whatever mundane lives they are living. There is a big difference between entertainment and infotainment. If you want realistic content, please go watch a documentary!

  11. Shyam Says:

    100 years of ‘South Indian cinema’? So Raja Harischandra made in Bombay in 1913 was south Indian?

  12. Rastrakoota Says:

    Lucia is an awesome Kannada movie. Something of a rarity in this film industry! It’s an amazingly well made movie.

  13. Shruti Says:

    Once upon a time, we had classics like “Sharapanjara”, “Malaya Marutha”, “Nagarahavu”, ‘Bangarada Manushya’…Even some recent ones – “Apthamitra”, “Raama Shaama Bhaama”…

    In the last decade, we have had absolutely shameless trash like Kalasipalya, Maadesha, Bhakta, Baba, Indra, Ooda Bandha, Bindasss, Mourya, Smile, Mr. Putswamy, Kitty, Chappale, Gaja, Arasu, Bombat, Ranga SSLC, Namanna and 100s more!. In fact, almost every kannada movie nowadays has nothing but violence, rape, sex, third-rate language and stink of filth!

    Every other film has an oxymoron of an idiot as a hero posing with a matchet and bottle in hand The film is full of violence and dialogues which are pathetic. Usually the Hero shouts “Aaaaai” in every other scene as if someone has stuck a rod down his…. There are loads of vulgar comedy and pathetic songs, where the hero and heroine would dance as if some mad dog has bitten them in their groins (eg: Darshan, Rakshitha, Ravichandran…..etc).

    Look at some of the so-called heroes… Ambareesh, Jaggesh, Duniya Vijay..etc. Almost all will probably get a villain’s role in a 3rd rate B-grade movie. Regretfully, the Cong-I in particular has a fascination with these so-called stars. Ambareesh is always into his next Patiala scotch with bulging eyes, uneven hair, pot-belly and Halloween face! Darshan is one big time, mandya rowdy in reel life. Of course, in real life too he famously tortured none other than his own wife, dragging her with child, through the outer-ring road with cigarette-but treatment..etc. With elections round the corner, he may soon become another Cong-I leader!

    Regarding actresses, the less said the better. Kannadigas have become helpless spectators to the deluge of mafia-black-money funded north-Indian starlets into Ghandinagar. Some of the ‘part-time pros’ are controversial too. Among those in limelight are Radhika Kumaraswamy and the most arrogant, ego-centric dumbo called Ramya. For those interested there is enough dope on her in here

  14. Shemej Says:

    “Cinema is a representation of society, the collective consciousness of masses”

    That was long back. From 1970s to late 1980s or eaven upto late 1990s cinema was the most influential mass media. But today, it is not even TV….. TV, Newspaper, Mobile ,Internet all are converging. People can sit indoor and have some or another form of entertainment.

    Result: It is very difficult to persuade the families to come to movie theaters. As a result film producers and directors are forced to target young guys.. such movies have more violence, vulgarity, low standards. The producers think, anyway families wont come to theaters, why target them…

    Another aspect is, traditional movie production has become very expensive and a big business. You now have multi-language, multi-crore budget films. Such films should not fail. If they fail, companies will get bankrupted. Hence they have to play according to market formulae.

    Tehcnology also offers, new avenues. Anyone can become a film producer tomorrow. Small short documentaries are already produced and circulated… Tomorrow, I am sure, they will come up with sophisticated, mature films. May be they will be more like news reports, but having the narrative style of fiction movies.. I am not sure… As every form of entertainment needs audience, and big budget entertainment product can not always do experiments in narrating the lives of ordinary people, I guess, new low-budget forms of entertainment/art shows will emerge… How many tens of thousand people watch Pranesh in youtube and mobile phones, do you think? Such new forms of entertainment shows with more serious content will emerge. Ultimately an art form can not exist without the participation of audience/viewers. Hollywood films are boring technical cliches. They dont have soul.

    Early Indian films were imitations of western movies. By 1960s and by 1970s India produced good films rooted in Indian realities. Now we are once again producing re-makes of Hollywood films.

    Kannada film is not a big industry. No big player is going to invest crores of rupees to address a small audience here. (Most kannadigas watch bollywood, Tamil and english movies?)

    This is why good movies can still come in Kannada. We have some of the best film makers here- Kasaravalli, Karnad… Tamil and Telugu films are going on bollywood way… Kerala society has become middle-class society. Such society cant come up with good films like they did in 1970s, 80s… Plus Kannada has a rich theater movement. Let us hope for better.

    Many of Kasaravalli’s films were never watched here. I wish they will make a re-entry in the digital form, may be in multiple languages… They should completely avoid depending on movie-theaters. Organize serious movie audience groups online, or using membership etc.(like they do for classical music concerts– but not exactly film-society movement…

  15. Jayashree Prasad Says:

    You have heard of this Guy?!
    Rajnikanth was bragging to Amitabh Bachan one day, “You know, I know everyone. Just name someone, anyone, and I know them. Tired of his boasting, Amitabh Bachan called his bluff, “OK, Rajini how about Tom Cruise?” “Sure, yes, Tom and I are old friends, and I can prove it” Rajini said. So Rajini and Amitabh Bachan fly out to Hollywood and knock on Tom Cruise’s door, And sure enough, Tom Cruise shouts : “Thalaiva! Great to see you! You And your friends come right in and join me for lunch!” …Although impressed, Amitabh Bachan is still skeptical. After they leave Cruise’s house, he tells Rajini that he thinks Rajini knowing Cruise was Just lucky. “No, no, just name anyone else” Rajini says …”President Obama”, Amitabh Bachan quickly retorts …”Yes”, Rajini says, “I know him. And off they go. At the White House, Obama spots Rajini on the tour and motions him, saying, : “Rajini, what a surprise, I was just on my way to a meeting, but you and your friend come on in and let’s have a cup of coffee first and catch up”. Well, Amitabh Bachan is much shaken by now, but still not totally convinced. After they leave the White House grounds, he implores him to name anyone else. “The Pope,” Amitabh Bachan replies …”Sure!” says Rajini, “My folks are from Italy and I’ve known the Pope a long time”. Rajini and Amitabh Bachan are assembled with the masses in Vatican Square when Rajini says, “This will never work. I can’t catch the Pope’s eye among all these people. Tell you what, I know all the guards so let me just go upstairs and I’ll come out on the balcony with the Pope.” And he disappears into the crowd headed toward the Vatican.. Sure enough, half an hour later Rajini emerges with the Pope on the balcony. But by the time Rajini returns, he finds that Amitabh Bachan has had a heart attack and is surrounded by paramedics. Working his way to Amitabh Bachan’s side, Rajini asks him, “What happened?” Amitabh Bachan looks up and says, “I was doing fine until u and the pope came out on the balcony and the Italian man next to me said, “Who’s that on the balcony with RAJINI ”

    You decide South or West?

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