Movies

Why was the movie Meenakshi Sundareshwar culturally inappropriate?

One more film that’s steeped in stereotypes!

Meenakshi Sundareshwar is a Hindi Rom-com starring Sanya Malhotra and Abhimanyu Dasani in the lead under the direction of Vivek Soni with Justin Prabhakaran’s background score. This movie was released last week on Netflix creating a lot of buzz especially with the promotions with South Indian references by the cast of the movie on social media. It created a hope that this would stand out, unlike every other stereotypical Hindi movie. But this one did not hit it right with the portrayal of South Indian sensibilities.

The movie is set in Madurai, Tamil Nadu where both the leads are Tamilians. Their families are on the lookout for an alliance for marriage for their kids and as the story progresses the two get married. These newlyweds are slapped with the fate of long-distance and how they survive that and evolve in their relationship is the remaining story.
Just like movies Ra. One and Chennai Express, Meenakshi Sundareshwar has very little research with too many flaws in its portrayal. Here are a few points that goes to prove this.
  • This movie had no reason or purpose to have been set up in Madurai, but they did it anyway. There was no sync or meaning for this portrayal of the story or the cast. It could have easily been a movie set up in any other place. If they desperately wanted to, then there should have been enough research done to support this depiction.

 

  •  We all understand that little to no logic is acceptable when it comes to movies. But this movie depicted Tamilians that too from the culturally rich Madurai speak Hindi with ounces of mispronounced Tamil words in a Tamil speaking city. Magically commoners and everyone in the scene speak and even sing in Hindi. This seems very illogical. In the age of 2021, where the filmmakers are trying to portray meaningful and responsible movies, a little logic and research is very crucial.

 

  • The heroine plays the role of Meenakshi, a Tamil BBA graduate. When portraying Tamils, the Hindi filmmakers have made sure to stick to the typical stereotypes like every Tamil is a vegetarian who loves non-veg – this very similar scene was in 2 states where Alia Bhatt played a Tamil girl as well. The other stereotype being every person is an ardent die-hard fan of Rajnikanth who gets offended for not using the title Superstar each time one addresses the star. And the most important of all, her name is Meenakshi but every character including the protagonist Meenakshi, calls herself Minakshi – which is a very not-so South Indian.

 

  • Many scenes proved that there has been no research whatsoever put into creating or making this movie. There is a scene where the grandfather of Meenakshi plays the ‘Sangu’ after an auspicious event, but here down south only the Chettiar clan play Sangu during such events. As per the remaining Tamil’s traditions and customs, Sangu is played only when there has been a mishap. As per the movie, they are addressed as Brahmins but seem to follow and perform Chettiar based customs, so there is a confusion.  Similarly, Sundareshwar played by Abhimanyu will be on the lookout for his Veshti/Dhoti clad father but during his search, he would be seen inquiring if anyone had seen a man wearing a Lungi.

 

However, this movie should be appreciated for breaking a few other stereotypes that  B’wood generally features while  portraying any South Indian characters in its movies.

One such stereotype is that everyone down south is dark or brown-skinned. This movie however broke this by showing a good mix of fairly dusky to fair-skinned people proving the diversity we truly are. Then this movie also removed the stoned stereotype of every South Indian in a Hindi movie speaking Hindi with a weird accent. Although there are such few positives, it is hard not to look at the many flaws as well.

Being in a culturally diverse country like India, making responsible movies and respecting certain sensitivities is needed. Yes there has to be a creative space but if this creativity is culturally correct and logically true, then that’s a win-win. It is heartwarming to see the cultural inclusivity but if these movies are made with more  research and correctness, it would be better received by the same section of people/community the movie represents. Much like 2 states which to an extent had certain correctness to the characterizations.

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