I was listening to Radio Mirchi this morning, and the song “Eeshwara, vaanum mannum…” sung by Udit was being played. My friend suggested that I pay close attention to the lyrics. At one place, Udit sings “Periyamma ponnai rasikkalam”. That was sacrilege because it means “Let us have fun with our aunt’s daughter”. The actual line is “Priyamana pennai rasikkalam” (“Let’s have fun with those we like”). Such a glaring error, and everyone let it pass. My friend informed me that when the soundtrack of that movie was released, the lyricist Vairamuthu was ambushed by journalists at this outrageous line. Only then did everyone realise that it was caused by Udit’s prowess.
This is not an isolated instance of mispronunciation. In fact, this is the rule with most singers from the north. I don’t belong to any cultural, moral or language police, but the average person would agree that there is not even a million-to-one chance of an SPB or a KJY (or Susheela, Janaki, Chitra) creating such a mess.
The Larger Picture
This comes at a time when there is a nationwide debate about what’s wrong with Chennai. First the dress code in colleges, then Kushboo’s comments on pre-marital relationships and then the Park Hotel scandal. The question posed is “Are we being too conservative, old-world and resistant to change?”
It seems to me that Chennai is an India inside India. The way Indians of the north view Chennai isn’t much different from the way the Westerners view India – hot, conservative and mired in outdated opinions and traditions.
It can be observed that if people migrate from their place to a different one, they tend to follow the customs and practices of the new place, not forgetting their roots. Indians who have migrated to the West are a good example. Indian Americans celebrate Diwali with lot of pomp and grandeur.
[What is surprising is that, we in India celebrate a lot of American events, though there is no great influx of Americans. We celebrate Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, Great Grandfather's Day etc. of our own accord. In the coming years, India will overtake America in celebrating Halloween and Thanksgiving Day. Pundits of globalisation would remark that this marks the arrival of the global Indian. But if this were true, why are Indian festivals like Pongal (Shankaranti) not celebrated by Americans with the same zeal and fervour that we display on their fad days?]
Chennai isn’t a confused city with outdated views. It is, like most others, an evolving city. The selfsame people who raise a hue and cry about moral policing in bars… where were they when Ricky Ponting was thrown out a nightclub in Calcutta during the 1998 series? Does that make Calcutta conservative and old-world?
The fact is each city is different, and has its own ways of life. Chennai’s nightlife isn’t as pulsating as Bangalore’s not because we are short of electricity. It is the way the city is. Those who hold conservative views are considered boring. But the fact is, it is those who wear the tag of liberals who are a boring lot. They want Chennai, Bangalore, Mumbai, Kolkata and every other city to have the same party circuit as New York City and Paris. To them, individual identity is a strict no-no. And a city which tries to guard its identity is mired in contradictions.
If Chennai doesn’t want to let go of its traditions, then that must be respected. We need not change our value systems for the worse just to accomodate those whose definition of liberty is to get drunk late in the night in bars without license and run over pedestrians.
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