Above: Dance at the end of Slumdog Millionaire
Almost everyone has heard of Bollywood by now, as it has eclipsed Hollywood in terms of number of movies and scope of audience, but there is another movie center in India and it is called Kollywood. Kollywood is the name given to movies from the Tamil Nadu region of India, whose main city is Chennai ex is from. Kollywood movies are all produced in Chennai and in the native language of Tamil. India has numerous official languages, anywhere from 22-26 depending on who you ask, and Tamil is the official language of two main regions plus it is spoken in Sri Lanka, Singapore and Malaysia.
When I lived in Santo Domingo, I watched at lot of Kollywood movies with my ex. We would get the kids in bed, cook dinner and then pick a movie online and sit on the floor while we ate and watched. Of course I didn’t understand much but it wasn’t about that; it was about spending time together and almost more importantly, about sharing his culture. So sometimes there were subtitles but most of the times I just had to ask what was going on. We watched all kinds of films but I often voted for romances because I was so curious about how love was treated in India.
I miss those nights so much. I learned that love is very very serious in India. Often a matter of life or death. Most marriages are arranged so if a couple is paired on their own and not accepted by their parents, suicide is often considered the only option. Marriage is serious business in India and it is based on status (caste) and religion. Also if a couple elopes without the parents consent, the consequences can be dire. The family often shuts the child out or worse, forces the partner away, sometimes violently. I started to understand my ex’s intensity a bit more.
But as intense as the movies could get, the style of Indian movies keeps it light. There is a rule,that all movies made in India must have a minimum of 5 songs in them. Each song is ‘performed’ in the movie at the appropriate time. So one minute there would be a fight scene, or a romantic moment and the next would be a song with the actors lip syncing the song. It’s quite funny.
So the other night I watched Slumdog Millionaire with my kids.
I had seen the movie before in Santo Domingo but I recently bought a copy and wanted to see it again. It’s not a Kollywood movie or even a Bollywood movie but it is the closest movie to be true to the culture. The movie is about a boy from Mumbai so the culture is very different from Chennai but my ex is proud that the score was written by a Chennai native, A.R. Rahman.