Hooray for Tollywood

Cataline: Dear Readers have you ever wondered what would have happened if Bruce Lee and Cheech Marin had a baby?

Reader 1: Oh god, what’s he doing?
Reader 2: I don’t know and I’m not into this!
Reader 3: I‘m scared!
Reader 4: I’m leaving

Cataline: Too late! Doors are locked from the outside.  Now buckle up we’re headed to…Kollywood. Spawning ground of the craziest adventure movies on the planet, the home of Tamil films.

Before looking at Tamil films we should probably take a quick look at the Tamils themselves. Tamil Nadu is in the running for the title oldest extant civilization.  The recordable history goes back six thousand years and there is a school of thought that says their unrecorded history as a people goes back quite a bit further, quite possibly back  to the first migration wave out of Africa approximately 100,000 years ago. There is also evidence that the Tamil Nadu region was inhabited by pre-homo sapiens going back 200,000. Whether these inhabitants interbred or not is under a very big question mark.

They have their own language, their own culture, follow their own fashions in clothing, architecture and peculiar political thought. They are ferociously proud of  their own ancient traditions of the martial arts. It can be argued that the Tamils are more of a race than a simple ethnicity. The facial morphology is fairly distinct…although that could just be the mustaches.

Tamil Nadu was a hotbed of resistance to Brittish Colonial rule in the early twentieth century.  Conversely, it was one of the calmest places in the brand new country in 1947. 

Also, it is HOT. In July the temperature rarely falls below 88 degrees and frequently shoots past 100.  As of this writing it’s in the low 80s although there is the problem of being drowned in the monsoons.

In case I didn’t make it clear, cultural self expression is vital to the Tamil nationality.  When they first heard about this moving picture thing, they jumped in with both feet.

I will now fail to bore you to tears with the history of Tamil Cinema on the grounds that you were only going to skip over it to get to the insanity of the fight scenes. Below is a quick sampler before I start in on the Cataline Recommends proper.

Kadaikutty Singam (2018) This is advertised as a seering indictment against the injustices of the caste system. Okay I guess. The bucolic compassion of this simple farmer is on display and deeply touching.  You will note in the bridge scene that he says that if any of the men in the mob that is about to attack him have any chronic medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes or a weak heart they can leave now… before stomping the mob flatter than naan bread.

Whenever you hear about death in that part of the world, it’s never in small numbers. “One death is a tragedy. One million is a statistic,” Joseph Stalin. In south-east Asia it’s a Thursday.

You are gonna go anyway. Why not go with style? seems to be the attitude. Kicking somebody’s ass isn’t that important in a Tamil film, it’s how cool you look when you are doing it. Also it’s location near the equator seems to provide some unique centrifugal properties that offsets the mundane effects of gravity.

Stop at the 7:35 mark

And finally getting back to my original question. What if Bruce Lee and Cheech Marin had a baby? The result would be Superstar Rajinkanth and yes, ‘superstar,’ is in his stage name. This is the first scene I ever saw him in. A writer for Cracked (back when it didn’t suck) wrote, “he’s here to kick ass and chew bubble gum…And he still has gum!” Rajinkanth is so far from the ideal of an American action hero you can’t believe that he is supposed to be one. Let alone that the Superstar thing is no joke. He’s about to turn seventy and the utter devotion of his ocean of fans makes him the biggest movie star on the planet.

Coming up next: Cataline Recommends Enthiran 2.0 Superstar Rajinkanth’s latest and easiest to find film.

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