Journal of Arts & Ideas, no. 29 (Jan 1996) p. 5.

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Kaadalan and the Politics of Resignification

Fashion, Violence and the Body

\Z\Vwek Dhareshwar Tejaswini Niranjana

The song 'Mukkaala Muqabia', from the Tamil film Kaadalan (Loverboy), has been the biggest hit of the year, perhaps of the decade.1 The peculiar voice of Mano has been resonating in cinema halls, living rooms, streets, and video coaches across the nation. The visual sequence of the song which dominated various TV count-down shows such as Superhit Muqabia, BPL Oye and Philips Top Ten is quite fantastic, even bizarre. A pastiche on spaghetti westerns, the sequence opens with the hero his hair and beard bleached blonde sitting on a horse with a noose around his neck and the bad guys about to shoot the horse. The heroine gallops into the frame with a gun and shoots off the rope to liberate the hero. Then begins the dance, performed with great elan by Prabhudeva. The sequence itself is a strip of narrative very much in the MTV genre, and has no apparent link to the larger narrative of the film. The song/dance sequence in Indian films has always been a relatively autonomous block, one of the requirements of the dominant form of manufacture rather than a diegetic necessity. This tendency of the song/dance sequence toward autonomy has been intensified in recent years by the competition of television and the MTV genre as well as by the market opened up by them. So elaborately orchestrated dance sequences, each representing an autonomous strip of narrative, have become an imperative for the survival of the film industry.

At first sight, therefore, the 'Mukkaala.. / dance sequence seems to instantiate this logic and respond to its imperative, its link to the filmic narrative seeming to be only a loosely metaphoric one. The hero has been in police custody undergoing elaborate torture. The heroine, whose father had ordered the confinement, embarrasses him into releasing the hero. Then follows the song/dance we described above; clearly a celebration, an expression of liberation. But why the peculiar form and 'western' theme?2

The narrative action within the song has a bizarre moment where the hero, now dancing with a hip MTV-type baggy suit, hat and shoes, has the visible parts of his body the face, hands, ankles shot off. And, with only a moment's pause, the garb

Number 29

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