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Making sense of heroic acts in South Indian films

It is not uncommon to hear criticisms of unrealistic feats accomplished by heroes in South Indian films.  People are offended by the disregard to physical laws exhibited in these movies.  More often than not, the victims of these criticisms are Telugu films.  In this post, I attempt to explain, how to make sense of (or how I see) these unrealistic, physics-defying acts.  Hopefully, at least some of you would be able to better appreciate these films after reading this article.

Say, for example, we are watching a Superman movie and you see Superman flying.  Does that bother you? If yes, you can stop reading right now.  This article is most probably not for you.  If not, why?  I guess it is because the storyteller has given an "explanation".  Notice that this explanation need not be there in this movie.  Someone watching Superman is expected to know that.  Now, let us come to a South Indian film.  In contrast, it appears as if there is absolutely no explanation of this sorts and that is what puts off people.  Fair enough.  If you see these films as stand-alone movies they are quite non-sensical.  However, I claim, that is not how these films should be viewed.  

Then, how should it be viewed?  For example, if you are watching a movie starring Rajnikanth, you should be conscious that you are watching a "Rajnikanth movie".  Irrespective of the different names or setting the characters might have, IT IS THE SAME PERSON.  If it helps, you can consider them as different "avatars".   For a second, let us assume, this is the way it should be viewed.  Does it make sense now?  Perhaps not.  You might complain that Rajnikant's superpowers were never explained.  Again, fair enough.  But, observe one thing.  His earlier movies did not feature such feats.  His superpowers grew gradually over time, the jump between two consecutive films is not that high.  And thus, it makes sense to someone who has seen this "growth".  And that, in my view, is the right approach towards these movies.

How do I know this is the right approach?  To a large extent, this is just my opinion.  However, I can give some justifications, namely, indicators that suggest the fact that they are their real persona.  References to earlier films by the same hero are extremely common, irrespective of the language.  Just the other day I saw Sarkar and in it, Vijay repeats his famous "I am waiting" in pretty much the same way.  Many of these superstars have their special titles - Rajnikant is Superstar, Kamal Hassan is Ulakanayagan, Ravi Teja is Mass Maharaja, etc.  You can see references to this title in some of the films.  One example I remember vividly is Ravi Teja's film Bengal Tiger.  During his introduction, it is said, "friends maharaja antaru, public mass antaru, intlo akash antaru" (friends call him maharaja, public calls him mass, at home he is called akash).  The lyrics of the introduction song also allude to the same.  There is also reference to their lineage in many films.  The lyrics in Racha says "Konidela vaari kodukka", when talking about Ram Charan.   Konidela happens to be their family name or something similar.  In the film Bruce Lee, when Chiranjeevi saves Rakul Preet, she says Chiranjeevi and Ram Charan looks and talks the exact same way.  Notice, Chiranjeevi comes as Chiranjeevi in this film.  Rao Ramesh plays the role of the father to the character played by Ram Charan.  Finally, and most importantly, after I started watching these films with this approach, I was able to enjoy and appreciate them much better.  I am having a lot more fun.    

While I was discussing this idea with one of my friends, he pointed out to me that this phenomenon was quite common in the silent era.  For example, Charlie Chaplin is Charlie Chaplin in all his films.  This familiarity with the character saves time and effort needed to create a connection between the character and audience.  It is possible to directly plunge into the main theme.  

Finally, coming back to Superman, I have a question.  To believe the explanation in Superman, we have to trust that life exists in other planets.  Moreover, there exist intelligent life forms.  Further, one of them look exactly like humans and possess advanced technology.  Is it not easier to believe that there exists a human who can fly?  What purpose does the explanation in Superman really serve?      


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