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Guest blog by Chinna Ammani

Here’s an interesting write-up by Chinna Ammani on stereotypical portrayals in Indian adverts. The opinion expressed is strong and the language uncompromising. Read at your own peril!-a

The Aiyaiyo Syndrome

These days I do what is called as a shooting supervision. When ads are filmed (with lip sync) in Tamizh, my job is to teach models their lines and rehearse with them. Most of them are from Mumbai and are non-Tamilians. So when they have to do a line in Tamil, for example "Adanaaladan Dettol ubayogikaren" (And that's why I use Dettol) , they invariably say "Aadanaladaanu naanu Detttaalu ubayogikkareanu" (Something hideous). Their exaggerated delivery of our supposed accent is all thanks to Hindi actor Mehmood. My blood pressure rises and I yell "DO NOT DO A MEHMOOD HERE. WE DO NOT SPEAK LIKE THAT".

Though their voice is dubbed later with a Tamil voice-over, I ensure that they pronounce it the non-Mehmood way. Mehmood has done this major damage to us South Indians by doing films like Padosan! Feel like sueing Lucky Ali, since his father is dead.

Saw a commerical for Alpenliebe toffees recently. The father in the ad is "Souuuueeth" Indian and is therefore dressed in a dhoti and is shown wearing a 'vibuthi pattai'* on his forehead. His son asks him "Appaaaa paaisaaa Alpenleibe kiliyee" in a Mehmoodish way. When will these ad guys ever learn? I wish I could put up a poster out there saying 'WE DO NOT SPEAK LIKE THAT!'

I was at a shoot for a headache balm the other day. It features a domestic help in a South Indian family. He is aged 28, wears a lungi and an Alen Solly full-sleeve shirt tucked in!!! And there's of course, the ubiquitous 'vibhuti pattai'. I protested and told them "No, this is not the way velakkarans (servants) dress" even though it was not my job to 'style' them. The assistant director replied "No No.. please don't change the dress . The costumes have been finalized after research(!) and umpteen pre-production meetings with the agency, client etc!

God please spare us!

* sacred ash usually smeared on forehead


Amrita said…
Hi Ammani,
that was a good one, I know its really irritating the way ads represent certain cultures, but let me assure you its not the case only with the way south Indians are protrayed in the ads, you should see that classic ad of some food masala where Satish Shah dresses up as a Punjabi for a moment and then a Bengali, and a Gujarati...and what not,they would make Bengali and gujaratis in Ads speak in usual ways. For instance if its a bong he would speak like this - "hum aata hai". Very irritating.
Thangachee said…
Thank you ammani, for posting it. You can see the ediroli in in the "opinions on the ads" section.


Ansh said…
I totally agree with you...I have a bunch of north indian friends and everytime i called them they say in the typical mehmood style "aiyaiyoo ji kiya bhaathu hy ji"....I gave up trying to explain the same...

I think I should ask them to read your post!
Good one. I have also been agitated time and again, seeing the misrepresentation of "Madrasi's" in Hindi movies. Mehmood, God rest his soul, was a jackass who propagated it in the first place and things never changed since then.
No wonder I love the so many "Seth" jokes in Tamil :)
Anonymous said…
Completely agree. I feel like slapping the lot of them! Even in the much loved Feviquik ad (I loved the 'idea' too), this guy in a dhoti says 'Onna, renda, moona Kaaaaadachirichoooo!' I don't claim to speak Tamizh very well, but I can recognize a fake (yeah, and pheku too) accent a mile away. Great article, small ammani.
Indi :-)
N about hindi singers singing in Tamil..... Eswara vaanum mannum ...... song sung by udit narayan , First he sang like follows" Periamma penna pon kekalaam thappile" periamma was to be piriamana -------Vairumuthu felt like hanging him i guess......
mischief editor said…
how many of us can speak thamizh or be a 'south indian'..........

i believe these are trivial to be discussed...
Harish said…
nice write up, err.. "Chinna Ammani"! :)

Mischief Editor,
guess u hafta be at the receiving end to empathise w/ it.
Anonymous said…
Happy to see a common and annoying practice articulated.Way to go!

yegi said…
happy to see a common and equally annoying practice articulated well. Annoying especially when those northies themselves have such cartoonish accents(?)
Way to go ammani
(Love that ID)

Anonymous said…
Couldn't agree more. I hate that exagerated tamil accent. I try my best to make sure people from other parts of India realize that we do not have that kind of an accent. I think when it comes to media, that Tamil accent is the one which has been used badly the most, but I feel it also goes to some extent about other languages - the loud punjabi, the gol-gol bengali are stereotypes we know too well. It's just a sick kind of comedy I can't relate to. In a larger perspective, I feel this is leading to contempt and ill feelings between north Indians and south Indians, something I really hate. This kind of supposed 'comedy' in movies/ ads should NOT be encouraged. I wish there was a way to take them to task.
Anjali said…
I'm inleague with you allwe here from hindi female and male singers,mumbai heroines in movies speak nothign but tnaglish includign all r vj's in tv.
Priyamvada_K said…
I was annoyed by the accent in Mr.&Mrs.Iyer too. I think Konkona Sensharma's exaggerated accent was plain annoying.

Anonymous said…
Am quite curious to know - what RESEARCH was done - how, when, where and thereabouts....

Wrong stereotyping to the hilt...

but wattu tu du.....


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