Stereotypes or just humour? Do we typecast people?

By Meghana Mungikar

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When the trailers of Chennai Express came out, a lot of Tamilians took offence. And Deepika Padukone’s failed attempt at a Tamil accent was definitely one of the reasons. This is not the only movie that has indulged in taking to stereotypes to appeal to a larger audience. Ra.One portrayed the lead actor, supposed to be a South Indian, eating all his meals with curd because all Tamilians, apparently, do that. Entertainment. That is what these movies are supposed to provide. Is it principally okay, though, to stereotype an entire culture, language or gender just so that audiences can have a good laugh? That is the question that needs to be answered.

Various movies, since time immemorial, have used stereotypes to weave their scripts. And stereotypes are restricted not only to culture and language but are also gender related. With a very few exceptions, all Bollywood movies find a need to include an ‘item number’ – a flawed concept in itself because most of these numbers add zilch to the substance and story of the movie and typecast women as mere objects who exist to entertain the opposite sex.

It must be accepted, definitely, that the majority of the population appreciates and enjoys these same movies that use stereotypes albeit the fact that these men and women go back home and debate/talk over their dinner tables about the state of Indian entertainment and how it’s going into the dumps. And while this discussion is happening, someone’s phone rings and you can hear “Babbli Badmaash huii.” Hypocrisy, you may call it.

We could shrug off the item numbers and crass regional accents as comedy elements or there could be a call for stringent action to be taken against such social fallacies. To be fair enough, Kamal Hassan with his accent in Chachi 420 does not cease to amuse me even seven years after I first watched it. But “Pinky hai paise-waalon ki” boils my blood every time I am subjected to it. So, where do we draw the line then?

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