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Chennai Express vs Madras Café

Aug 29 () : Chennai and Madras are one and the same. Madras was once claimed by Andhra Pradesh but remained in Tamil Nadu and has become a name identified with Tamils.

For most North Indians “Madarasi” is a common term to refer South Indians. In most Bollywood films, the looks, body language and the accent of a “Madarasi” were well-defined and followed for decades. Most Hindi movie viewers have heard the word “Aiyaiyo”.

Recently in the film “English Vinglish” the vowels of the English language, ‘aeiou’ were shown incidentally to remind the “Madarasi” fun.

But now Bollywood is trying to make inroads in to the Kollywood market. If a Tamil film Enthiran dubbed in Hindi can rule the box office up North, why not a Hindi film harvest money from the South? That is good. If Hollywood films can take away the money from Tamil Nadu, a Hindi film should also be able to the same.

In these circumstances we can compare Bollywood’s newest releases “Chennai Express” vs “Madras Café”.

Chennai Express starring Shah Rukh Khan is having its greatest ever dream run at both domestic and overseas box office circuits.

Chennai Express has crossed the magical 200 crore mark, according to recent BO reports. Impressive indeed! Looks like either the charm of King Khan or the working of powerful PR machinery of Shah Rukh and the makers round the clock on Chennai Express promos has certainly done wonders for the revenue generation.

Well,what was the storyline of Chennai Express? A boy from North India falls in love with a south Indian Tamil girl.

The bigwigs of Bollywood armed with a sharp sense of marketing wanted to seize the market down South and also cash in on the Bollywood craze of South Indian youth. They rightly zeroed in on the storyline, making the female lead a South Indian portrayed by Deepika Padukone, who herself hails from South.

Now, we come to the controversial Madras Café starring John Abraham, who also happens to be its co-producer. A political espionage thriller and revolving around the Sri Lankan civil war in early 1990s, Madras Café earlier titled ‘Jaffna’ is said to be portraying Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in bad light. One has to be cognizant that after the 2009 massacre of lakhs of Tamils in Sri Lanka, the sentiments in Tamil Nadu have changed.

Madras Cafe’s portrayal of the Lankan Tamil rebels has irked the students, activists and pro-Tamil organizations in Tamil Nadu.Those who watched its preview in Tamil Nadu strongly felt that it is ‘anti-Tamil’ and should not be screened in Tamil Nadu as it could stir up social turmoil in the State.

The rebel leader in the film closely resembles Tamil Tigers leader Prabhakaran while the actor playing the former PM resembles Rajiv Gandhi. The director called it a fictional work, but also said it draws from real-life events.

Seeman, leader of Naam Tamizhar Katchi said that the movie is a propaganda attempt funded by Rajapakse regime and cannot accept the movie in any form.

Though John Abraham said he would not give into ‘bullying tactics’ of Tamil activists, the movie had no shows in Tamil Nadu though it ran to full houses in other parts of India. The movies screening in UK and Canada have also been impacted due to protests by Tamil diaspora.

Like a coin having two sides, one movie from Bollywood attempts to be pro-Tamil while the other with sensitive political content comes with anti-Tamil package.

One aims at wooing the Tamil audience with the right mix of elements having mass appeal like the ‘lungi dance’ which got its due popularity among the film audience with tributes to superstar Rajinikanth. Whoever conceived the idea, it was Advantage Shah Rukh.

King Khan came in a lungi and conquered the film audience in south where as Johan Abraham who played intelligence agent in Madras Café was forced to buckle under societal pressure not to screen the movie in Tamil Nadu. Both the Tamil Nadu government and Police also chose to maintain silence over the issue.

Interestingly,Tamil Nadu did not witness any pouring of outrage in social media over ban on Madras Café unlike Kamal Hassan’s Vishwaroopam and Vijay’s Thalaivaa that had to run through troubled waters prior to theatrical release.

Media is also abuzz with stories that Madras Café had been produced and directed with the support and blessings of Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapakse.

Shah Rukh Khan has won the hearts and earned good money from Tamil Nadu. John Abraham has however won the hearts of the Rajapakse regime.