In a wave of home sickness, more specifically, Bangalore-home sickness, I re-discovered Nenjukkul Peidhidum, after 4 years of having been obsessed with it. It was my loop song for the entire winter of 2009-2010.
And so, I decided to run an experiment.
In the span of a working week, I watched six movies- three pairs- the Hindi and it’s Tamil counterpart. And let me state my conclusion as plainly and non-diplomatically as possible, before I get into the details- I’m giving up Bollywood for the Vernacular, religiously, forever.
The Tamil versions of Yuva, Ghajini and Ravan(an) are efficient comaparisons, since they have the exact same story, script and cinematography, with even a few overlapping actors. But the Tamil versions beat the Hindi by miles, because they have better dialogues, better music. But most importantly, they move you because they have much better acting.
Abhishek Bachchan is ticklingly funny in his desperate attempt to be scary, in his portrayal of the notorious Guerilla leader Veerappan, in Mani Ratnam’s Ravan. He reminds me of a young child trying to play the Wolf on Halloween, huffing and puffing his way in his faked baritone through the film. But you hear Dr. Chiyaan Vikram say, “Nan paththa thale Ravanan illye?“, and even with your eyes closed, not looking at his face, you get goosebumps. And if you manage to open your eyes a crack and look at the screen, his blood shot eyes narrowing in eccentric anger and dirty claws for hands will make your heart sink.
Seriously, after watching Suriya in Ghajini, Amir Khan is a joke. I was shaking my head in disdainful laughter as he screamed and thrashed his body around. Amir, you are a vengeful lover, angered and frustrated by your failing memory. Don’t act like a giant green mutant.
And I think there’s a simple reason that explains this disparate quality in acting. The likes of Shahrukh Khan and Katrina Kaif becoming super stars in Bollywood clearly communicates to the actors of the industry that acting is of no consequence, when there is pomp, glamourous costumes and sets, and skinny waists and six-packs on the actors. Which is why, for his role Suriya read every piece of litereature written by George Reddy, the student activist his character in Aayatha Ezhuthu is based on, and Ajay Devgan, to prepare for the same role in Yuva, did nothing.
There is also the lesser important, yet unmissable truth that the Tamil actors are all better looking. Which is why Mani Ratnam has Vikram in a dirty yellow lungi and torn black vest throughout Ravanan, but has to put Abhishek in a fitted black handloom kurta pyjama, even to make him look half as attractive as Vikram. But more tragically, it takes away from the reality of the cinematography and true touch and feel of the character. Because, what do you think Veerappan wore in the jungles of the Western Ghats? A lungi, or Fab India merchandise?