Like any other migrant community, the Malayalis of Bangalore are a hardworking bunch that’s trying to make it big in a bustling city.

Why do Malayalam film makers love to glorify or vilify Bangalore
Features Cinema Friday, September 02, 2016 - 13:02

As a Malayali who grew up in Chennai, I was never fascinated by Bangalore (it was still Bangalore back then). I’d visited the city a few times and other than appreciating the dosa at MTR, I didn’t feel especially amazed by Bangalore. 

So till I watched “Bangalore Days” – which I enjoyed very much - I didn’t know that as a Malayali, I was required to be in love with this city. When Aju (Dulquer Salman) goes, “Bangalore! What a city!” as if he was talking about Las Vegas, I was wondering why in the world he was so awed.

Throughout the film, Bangalore is presented as this fantasy land where anything and everything can happen. Like how anything and everything can happen in America in Tamil films – but at least, I was able to buy the latter fantasy because America is faaaaar away. Bangalore, on the other hand, was just a bus ride away and I didn’t know why and how this became the land of milk and honey.

Then I noticed that there were other Malayalam films too which had references to Bangalore – and the city was either intensely romanticized or vilified. "100 Days of Love", featuring Dulquer and Nithya Menen was shot in Bangalore. It’s a rather overwrought romance that could have been shot anywhere but as it is about two unconventional, good-looking people doing “modern” things, I suppose Bangalore had to be the place where it all happens.

Women from Bangalore are treated with a suspicious eye in Malayalam cinema. They are the “jaada” type – “modern” dressing, English speaking, and consequently, with lax morals.

In “Charlie”, Tessa (Parvathy) is asked about the “freedom” that she must have enjoyed in Bangalore when an auto driver finds out that she is coming from there. In “Ann Maria Kalippilaanu”, the villainous PT Master makes disparaging comments about the women in Bangalore, suggesting that they are easier to bed than the women in Kerala.

Same goes with “22 Female Kottayam”, where there are references to the “easy” ways of the women in Bangalore, with one of the characters shown to be sleeping around with an older man for cash.

In “Bangalore Days”, perhaps because the director was Anjali Menon, there’s a scene where Aju punches a hole in Kuttan’s (Nivin Pauly) stuck up morality and tells him not to judge people who’re indulging in PDA on Bangalore roads.

Otherwise though, Malayalam films tend to worry that the moral yardstick of people in Bangalore is somewhat shorter than what they’d like it to be.

The projection is that Bangalore is a highly “Westernized” city. The 90s romance film "Butterflies" was supposed to be shot in Australia but when that didn't work out, where do you think the director went? Bangalore!

Bangalore, in Malayalam cinema, is that city where life is super fast (I have only two words for you – Silk Board) and everyone’s always partying and having a blast. The women, especially, are depicted to be from another continent altogether and not the same, staid “Kuch-bhi-allowed-nahi-hai” India that we’re all part of.

If you were to believe the average Malayalam film, you’d think that women in Bangalore, Malayali or otherwise, are frolicking around town and having free sex whenever they please. Not that it is wrong to do so – just that like most stereotypes, this one is without basis. 

It’s probably true that women dress differently in Bangalore (or for that matter any big metro city in the country) but that doesn’t mean that they are “perverse” or that anyone gets to talk down to them for their lifestyle of choice. 

(Courtesy- Kanigas.com)

Women tend to dress according to how judgmental the society around them is - which is why you'll find the same woman dressing conservatively in one place and not in another. This doesn't prevent sexual violence by any stretch of imagination. It's an internal censor born out of living in a culture of victim blaming. The "nalla penkutty" who dresses in a salwar kameez in Kerala may wear a sleeveless top in Bangalore but that doesn't mean her "moral" values have gone for a toss. 

 Like any other migrant community, the Malayalis of Bangalore are a hardworking bunch that’s trying to make it big in a bustling city. On every visit, I run into at least one tired Malayali who is somehow pulling through, dreaming of his or her next "naatleku" trip. The “fantasy” that’s projected in Malayalam cinema is true of perhaps a tiny, blessed minority. The rest are crawling to work and back, metre by metre, in the agonizing traffic and they don’t deserve the vilification.

As for the glorification, I hope I discover Bangalore’s magic soon because it looks like I may never become a real Malayali till I can stargaze and say “Ah, Bangalore!”

(We have used the term Bangalore instead of Bengaluru in the article as Malayalam films still refer to the city that way).

Become a TNM Member for just Rs 999!
You can also support us with a one-time payment.