If you're going to stereotype the South, at least get your cultural references right.

Dear Bollywood lungi and veshti are two different thingsScreenshot/ Youtube
Voices Opinion Saturday, January 14, 2017 - 13:28

The Internet is going gaga over Deepika Padukone and Vin Diesel dancing to Lungi Dance to promote their new movie XXX: Return of Xander Cage. Except, what they are wearing isn't the lungi, but the veshti. 

Allow this rant, please, Bollywood. You appropriated Rajinikanth who hasn't danced in a lungi in decades and made a song about him and the lungi -  for a movie that carried the worst stereotypes about Tamil people. 
 
We forgave you for that and even danced gamely to the song whenever it played on TV, simply because it was catchy. Though we didn't forget to cringe every time the "Thellaiiivaa" chorus came on. 
 
It's true Tamil films take potshots at Hindi all the time. But it isn't the laziness to understand another culture that makes us do so. It's the spilling over of a political standpoint into popular culture. 
 
The imposition of Hindi on the Southern states has had a long and contentious history, and Tamil movies reflect that resistance. The North Indian assumption that people all over India know or should know Hindi because it's the "national language" (it isn't, by the way) gets on our nerves. That's why a "Saroja, saaman nikaalo!" strikes a chord with audiences here. 
 
The representation of the South in Hindi films, though, is an extension of the same arrogance that makes the five states bristle with indignation. It smacks of a laziness to research and understand cultural references, sticking to the same old "Madrasi" stereotypes that are, oh, so old. 
 
For future reference, a lungi and a veshti are NOT the same. A lungi is a colourful/patterned piece of cloth that's worn for casual and informal occasions. So you may find a man (or a woman, if we're speaking of Kerala) wearing it at home, or on the road if he's going to the grocery shop, but not for a festival or a ceremony. 
 
The veshti is worn on formal occasions, or for celebrations and comes in plain colours (though mostly white or off-white) with a border. So you'll find a man getting married in a veshti, but not in a lungi. 
 
Happy Pongal to you, Vin Diesel. And don't let them tell you, pongal is curd rice!
 
Note: Views expressed are the personal opinions of the author.
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