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Kannada mindsets

December 2, 2010

I read this recent post on a blog I follow talking about Indian culture, in a roundabout manner. The post was funny alright, but it was the comments that drew my attention. Particularly related to Kannada.

There has been much said and debated over the past few years about this fanatic drive Karnataka seems to have regarding Kannada. Ironically, the harder they try, the more the language seems to disappear. They (being the government and all these other bodies) tried changing the names on the buses to Kannada, hoping that would encourage people to learn the language (really???). Then they made the language compulsory in primary school (which made a little more sense. We learn 3 languages in school… one of them could be your local language). Then they pushed all multiplexes to screen only limited numbers of movies in other languages so Kannada movies could have more space and thereby, people, who according to them were not watching the movies because of space constraints rather than the bad quality of movies, would flock to cinemas.

I won’t go on about other such moves. I found it ridiculous and infuriating. Bangalore and Kannadigas were always known for their tolerance and now we were behaving like our neighbours, the Tams. The Tams were always known to be more fanatical. Anyone who came to Bangalore from there would find it so relieving that they didn’t have to know the language to survive. And slowly, people who lived her picked up basic phrases for the sheer fun of it.

Of course, there was that period when I thought maybe the rules were right. That was the time when I met those people who refused to learn anything other than Hindi and expected the whole world to adapt to them.

The thing is – you cannot force someone to learn a language. People who want to learn do so regardless of any rules and regulations. The ones who don’t, will not despite the rules. There was a myth that auto drivers charged you less if you spoke kannada. I wish that was true!

Languages evolve. Some do disappear. Kannada will not. Yet. There is a beautiful collection of literature and history to support the language. However, it will disappear if the literature that we are producing now does not improve. The mainstream form of art is generally movies.

Have you seen a Kannada movie recently? Do not blame the budgets. Blame those 50-year old actors who continue to play 20-year old college boys in  movies that cater to the ‘masses’ with such horrible plot lines, acting and sense that the only people who would watch them is the lower middle class, for cheap thrills. Or the cute faced 20 year olds who can’t even to convince the love of their lives that they really are in love.

“Shhh” which was a horror movie is one of my all time favorite horror movies. True, the acting wasn’t brilliant but they did pull it off  beautifully. The last Kannada movie I could appreciate – America America by Nagathihalli Chandrashekar. Movies are escape valves. If it is a commercial movie, you want pretty faces, cute plotlines and happy endings, all put together in a make-me-smile package. Even the tear jerkers need to have pretty faces, sweet dialogues. The cheap, women-bashing era is over.

A language or a particular set of people cannot be blamed for the state of Bangalore. It is the mindset of people in general. The mindset that says “This aint my city and I don’t give a damn.”

And that mindset is an Indian thing. If it isn’t mine, I don’t care. About everything – the house, a vehicle, a city or worse. And then we laugh at those people who make the effort to throw an empty packet into a garbage bin.

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