The depiction of the “City” in Indian cinema has changed from one of unbridled optimism and opportunity in post-Independent India to the ossification of the great urban dream in the post-liberalised phase.
No City exemplifies this cinematic trend better than Bangalore in which Karnataka’s urbs prima is shown by contemporary Kannada films (like Majestic, Kitty, Jogi and Duniya) in the eyes of Kannada-speaking migrants as a seedy capital of crime, injustice, unemployment, exploitation and worse.
1) Unlike mainstream Hindi cinema which has a large constituency spread across the nation, “Kannada cinema defies the expectation of a pan-Kannada reach: earlier, it restricted its vision to princely Mysore (made up of Bangalore, Mysore and the remainder of southern Karnataka) and it continues to exclude Kannada-speaking regions beyond.”
2) “Mysore, during its rule by the Wodeyar dynasty, was regarded as a ‘nation within a nation’ and, to a large degree, has retained its exclusive culture ever since the time of British India. Vestiges of this sentiment lingered on in Kannada cinema, which was born in 1930s Mysore, even after linguistic reorganisation…
3) “Linguistic reorganisation did not create unity in the way it was anticipated. Bangalore became the capital of Kannada-speaking Karnataka, though it was only a few hours away from Tamil-speaking Tamil Nadu, Telugu-speaking Andhra Pradesh and Malayalam-speaking Kerala. As the two sections of Bangalore grew into each other, the city came to exhibit an unusual degree of cosmopolitanism.
4) The IT industry and IT-enabled services favoured those with an English-medium education. “These companies started to recruit from all over India and estimates show that presently only 10 percent of the jobs in the new economy are held by Kannada speakers. Since these companies pay their employees substantially higher wages, the spending power of non-Kannada workers—increasingly visible in new consumption trends—has become a talking point in Bengaluru.”
5) “Another reason for the disaffection of Kannada speakers is perhaps the endless expansion of Bengaluru, marked by the entry of private builders. Families that originally owned bungalows, as well as farmers on the periphery, succumbed to the needs of the ever-expanding city. Those now occupying the apartments in the city are new entrants to Bengaluru, with visibly greater purchasing power. Farmers who gave up their land in exchange for the compensation available to them have realised its soaring value too late. Given this troubled history, Bengaluru may be expected to represent more than simply an archetypal ‘city’ for Kannada cinema.”
Photograph: A still from Jogi, starring Shiva Rajkumar, in which a country bumpkin attempts to find his feet in Bangalore.
Read the full article: Meanings of the City