In glossy, hi-tech Bangalore, India’s virtual bridge to the west, decidedly parochial sentiments are aflame. Kannada groups, concerned about the influx of Tamilians, are taking a hard line stand against films made in outsider languages. This includes movies in English or Hindi, India’s two official languages. As a result, Veer-Zara, Bollywood’s current megahit, cannot be shown.
Policemen are frisking ticket holders at the gates as a security measure in the wake of threats to disrupt the first screenings of the film in the city. The film has been screened in defiance of an unofficial moratorium … on new films not made in Kannada, the language of Karnataka state. Police are taking no chances as the threat is real. [BBC]
This is pretty serious business for Karnataka nationalists since Tamils already form over 30% of Bangalore’s population. Symbolic battles like this one have been going on for quite some time — the statue of Tamil saint Thiruvalluvar in central Banagalore has been covered in sackcloth for over a decade. Nor have all the battles been symbolic. In 1991, “Anti-Tamil riots in Bangalore in 1991 over the dispute of sharing Cauvery river water between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu left 20 dead.”
The central government has gotten involved, but as of yet, has not enforced its writ effectively. I wonder if Manmohan Singh is afraid of stirring up further trouble and scaring away further investment in India. I doubt that foreign companies would make much of a distinction between Bangalore and Bonbay (also a site of ethnic violence) and Delhi (the same). Dharam Singh, the Chief Minister of Karnataka says that he does not support the ban, and that he is trying to resolve the situation through negotiations. Clearly local cinemas are not a powerful enough special interest, they’re losing alot of money as a result of this ban:
The Supreme Court in Delhi has ordered that the ban be lifted. But cinemas across Bangalore fear adverse consequences if they do not toe the pro-Kannada line. Only three of the 108 theatres in Bangalore have dared to screen Veer-Zaara – and they have had police protection. Police Commissioner S Mariswamy says protection will be given to all cinemas screening new non-Kannada films. But the owners are sceptical. “There is an atmosphere of fear,” says RP Odugoudar, chairman of the Karnataka Film Exhibitors Federation. The loss estimated to the film industry because of the ban since it was effected in August is said to be nearly $20m.All quotes taken from the Beeb: Bollywood ban in language fight [Yes, the author really did write short one-sentence paragraphs] Previous posts on Veer-Zara: “Veer-Zaara” Storms U.S. With Impressive Opening Weekend ImaginAsian showing Bollyflicks