FRONT PAGE / POSTS
by Piyul Mukherjee| Mumbai, India
Wednesday, 30 November 2011
tags: asia, culture, emergence
Why this Kolaveri Di? This Tamil-Indian song has garnered a still snowballing 5.5 million hits in less than a week of release on 17th November 2011.
The funny thing about a viral is that – like news, it is time-bound, and after the initial buzz, fizzles so completely that you later wonder what it was about.
Kolaveri is relatable by all – and yet not quite one's own lingo. Most of it is understood yet leaves something incomplete to the Indian imagination.
Tamil is the not-quite-other 'other' to the rest of India. A Dravidian language spoken in the Southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, Tamil, and its brethren Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada form the base of the regional film industry. With a glancing acquaintance with Northern India's Bollywood, the two worlds rarely come together or collide. They could belong to different planets – going by the stars, sets, stories, music and fans.
Until Kolaveri Di.
The seamless social network and the vast Indian demographic dividend of the 65% less-than-35-years youth segment have finally made out with one another, cutting across regions.
In the Indian world mediated as it is by twenty two official languages, Kolaveri uses 'only English' – in Tamil. And this is the patois spoken in more urban homes today. Where the nouns and adjectives, in English, are strung together by the grammatical 'if’, ‘but’, ‘the’, ‘and’ and ‘is' in the tongue spoken by the parents. ‘Windanu shudda kar de’ (‘shut the window’ – in Punjabi), ‘Moonu-white-u’ (‘the moon is white’ – in Tamil), ‘Bread-e butter dao’ (‘give me buttered bread’ – in Bengali) is what the nextgen feels totally at home in.
Kolaveri sublimates and air-conditions the stereotypical broken heart, moon, holy cow, white girl with black heart – in Tamlish, and hits the sweet spot at multiple points. Why has this Kolaveri Kolaveri Kolaveri di exploded as an anthem of a cynical youth-gen fed 24/7 through dozens of channels and the internet on an over abundant supply of West and East – Lady Gaga, Bieber, Antabella, and the now jaded Rahman, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, Pritam, and worse, Punjabi Bollywood?
Dhanush has given multiple interviews in the last few days expressing surprise at the song's success because he says he is not actually a singer (he is a Tamil film actor and son-in-law of the Tamil super-god-star Rajnikanth). My dad, a Hindustani classical musician, laughs this off. After I got him to hear Kolaveri, (he enjoyed it), he said do not underestimate a South Indian's command over 'sur' (melody) and 'taal' (rhythm). One more of those wonderful beliefs we all live with, north of the Sahyadris.
The entire filming of the video is as if in the studio – right out of the reality show genre. The expression on the face of the music cast is poker-faced and vacant, not unlike the faces of the artists, waiting in the wings to go on stage of a highly theatrical and impassioned drama.
For now, let us leave the ensemble reveling in the encore.
Pa pa pa ppan, pa pa pa ppan, pa pa ppan ppan pa pa ppan
© Piyul Mukherjee 2011