Columns

South-Side Story

A South star who’s making her Hindi debut walks the line between the twin industries

I am often asked to compare the South Indian film industry with the Hindi film industry but I am not sure I am the right person to comment on the subject. I have done many South Indian films but I am only one-film-old here. The South is famous for typically commercial, out-and-out masala entertainers and I have played my share of those characters. I really enjoy acting in the kind of films that are made in the South.

I have acted in numerous films and have portrayed different kinds of characters, from a journalist to an aerobics instructor to a college student. South Indian films have a healthy dose of action, drama and romance.

When I ventured into Bollywood and signed my debut Hindi film Barfi!, I had assumed that Hindi films had essentially the same ingredients. But Barfi! is not a formula film. However, I am really happy with the way genres are changing in the Hindi film industry. Everyone is experimenting with fresh concepts and unique story ideas in both industries. They are experimenting extensively even
down South.

In Barfi!, I was doing a role that required me to play this girl from the ‘70s. As if that wasn’t enough, I had to play that role opposite characters who were deaf and mute and autistic. Not only was that challenging but it also introduced me to a new industry.

Both these industries function very differently and are exactly the opposite of each other in some ways. I am two different people, depending on whether I am working in a South film or a Hindi film. I change as a person depending on where I am working. People here assume I was this shy girl who didn’t speak a lot and kept to herself. But down South, I have quite a notorious reputation! People there call me a ‘kothi’, which means monkey. So I am a complete brat when I am on the sets there.

People usually think South filmmakers are more disciplined but that’s not always true; it depends on who the director is. In the South, they don’t have bound scripts. So it’s really funny because, when I arrive on the sets here and ask them to explain the scene we are going to shoot, they give me this printed sheet of dialogue. In the South, we keep improvising on the sets. Sometimes, we even make up our dialogue there itself. There is no difference as far as punctuality is concerned. It depends on the director.

If there’s one thing that’s very different in the South industry, it’s the crazy call times while shooting. There are some directors with whom I have shot really early in the morning. I have woken up as early as 2:30 am in the morning, gotten ready by 4 am and arrived on the sets at sharp 7 am. I am yet to
experience this in the Hindi
film industry.

Another difference is that, in the South, directors are considered supreme, while Hindi films are mainly star-driven. I believe that both the industries are star-driven and both have some highly respected directors who call all the shots. On the other hand, both industries are male-dominated. You can’t really do much about that since that’s the way we have been functioning for so many years.

There are times when people have tried to take advantage of me just because I am a woman. So you have to be firm and make sure no one pushes you around. And this is true for all women in the industry. If you maintain a firm stance and give people the ‘don’t-mess-with-me’ vibe, then they are wary of you.

To sum up, I feel it is a misconception that the South industry functions very differently from the Hindi film industry. Through this column I’d like to say that the intrinsic nature of both the industries is quite similar. Sadly, even though writers are considered terribly important by filmmakers yet their status in the trade is discrepant. And this is true of both the industries. Thankfully, all that is now changing.


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