Stars under the microscope
The week that went by saw plenty of outrage directed at two legendary men, Kamal Haasan and AR Rahman
Outrage... the week that went by saw plenty of this directed at two legendary men. One was within India, the other was outside, and both men are, of course, from Tamil Nadu. The outrage against what A R Rahman did in his London concert and Kamal Haasan's role in Big Boss Tamil has occupied headlines. Rahman sang Tamil songs (most of them with Hindi words too in them) and made some Hindi-speaking brethren walk out of his show, grumbling against him. The last time I heard, both Kadhal Rojave and Roja Jaaneman (its Hindi version) were sung by S P Balasubrahmanyam, and both became hits in 1992. Twenty-five years later, a track from Kaatru Veliyidai, a Tamil film, goes by the name of Jugni, which is definitely not a Tamil word.
One of my favourite albums from A R Rahman is a Malayalam film called Yodha (1992), which he did right after Roja that year. There is a track in that film which is so 'Kerala' in its composition that a discerning music lover from West Bengal will see it as an introduction to the sounds of another state. At least that's what I got to hear, unlike those who complained about refunds and listening to Tamil numbers in a concert which bears a Tamil name, ‘Netru Indru Naalai’. Rahman is the sole South-Indian music director to have a pan-Indian global audience, which makes him a national treasure. To get intolerant about a few Tamil songs goes to show their negligent understanding of music as a language, as art. I’m sure their smartphones will have Spanish and Chinese songs under the International music category, but to listen to Rahman’s songs from India, which includes a language called Tamil, is a no-no?
Similar intolerance was seen with Kamal Haasan and the most watched television reality show by now in Tamil small-screen history, Big Boss Tamil. By protesting against the show and demanding Kamal Haasan's arrest, the TRPs for the show reached an all-time high. But there is something called nuisance-value which comes along with such occurrences. Those who protest forget that we live in a multi-cultural democracy. The content of the show comes under the scanner for all the wrong reasons and who becomes the one convenient soft target? The star, of course! But characteristically, Kamal Haasan has made it very clear he is not one. Constructive criticism gives way for mere outrage when there is zero introspection of the times we live in. To ask for a ban on this show in Tamil Nadu alone, when its original in India has seen many a successful season is superficial.
Making sensational demands, dividing art, issuing threats, and asking for bans will only make artistes stronger. It makes them firm in their resolve to voice their beliefs, and express their thoughts in more creative ways through their art; the spotlight shines brighter on them. Both Kamal Haasan’s and A R Rahman’s response to the outrage tells us that art is universal and inclusive.