Society

Busting the Madrasi myth

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For all practical purposes, a Madrasi is anyone who hails from the south of the Vindhyas.

“Oh! You are from Madras, so you must know Malayalam.”

Venkatesh Harinathan is stumped. He’s not sure how hailing from a Tamil-speaking region means he can speak the language of the neighbouring state. It’s the strangest misconception, but most of us who’ve travelled to North India have been subjected to it. We are often asked if we are a ‘Malayalam’, sometimes if we are a ‘Karnataka’ and other times no one bothers with questions, we just get labelled ‘Madrasi’.

“Who’s a Madrasi?” asks Rajiv Rajaram, a little confused, a little amused, but mostly just frustrated. For all practical purposes, a Madrasi is anyone who hails from the south of the Vindhyas. For those looking at us from the north, South India seems to be more than a geographic entity; we’ve morphed into an ethnicity. Not all the women here wear jasmine in their hair, not all the men have vibuthi gracing their foreheads and our preferred exclamation is not always ‘Aiyo Rama’. “This is not racism,” says Rajiv, “This is generalisation.”

Enter four performers from Stray Factory who have decided to call out these stereotypes. Set to the tune of Billy Joel’s ‘We Didn’t Start The Fire’, the four South Indians sing about lungi-wearing chetas, Malabar parottas, MTR ‘masal’ dosas, Tirupathi lattu and jallikattu. “It’s a way to send out a message saying there’s diversity in South India and it’s worth your while to educate yourself about it,” says Yohan Chacko, adding that the humorous lyrics also deliver a light-hearted message.

Rajiv came up with the idea that all South Indians are “not Madrasi, just Padosi”. Yohan, who helped pen the song, says that they got it together with just a little help from Wikipedia and the rhyme zone dictionary. When they roped in Pooja Devariya and Venkatesh, they had four people to sing the four verses of the song and represent the four South Indian states. “It is sheer coincidence that the four of us are actually from the states we represent in the song,” says Pooja.

The video, released on YouTube on November 3, went viral within the first 24 hours, garnering over one lakh views. The simplicity of the video, Billy Joel’s catchy tune and the relatability of the lyrics sprinkled with humour are making the video trend on social media platforms. “It was a fun song to write,” says Rajiv. The five lakh views the song has received so far show that it’s a fun song to listen to as well.

While Yohan confesses that he thought the song had a possibility of going viral because a lot of people can relate to it, the speed at which it has taken off has left him stunned.

The team is thrilled by the response and is looking forward to producing more online content under the ‘Ennada Rascala’ banner, with Rajiv revealing that the upcoming content will have a strong South Indian connect as well.

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Printable version | Dec 11, 2019 7:26:48 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/society/busting-the-madrasi-myth/article6567644.ece

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