Thursday, July 05, 2007

Sivaji and Colours of Black


"…being interested in stars is being interested in how we are human now"
- Richard Dyer

Shankar's Rajnikant starrer 'Sivaji the Boss' is about colour – of the skin as well as money. "Why did you give birth to me as a blackie?" Sivaji asks his mother at the police station, to which she blithely replies, "So that you won't get dirty". What does she mean by that? Does it mean that black, by donning the colour of dirt cannot be dirtied over again, or, black being pure incarnate, can't ever be dirtied? The humour of the situation keeps our guesses ambiguous. But blackness or being black is obviously something which one has to pay with one's life. And this is where the major themes of Shankar and Rajni intersect. While Shankar is obsessed with the theme of corruption and degeneration of values in India, signified here in the form of 'black' money, Rajni, in film after film, harps on skin colour that is constantly displayed and flaunted against the fair, and fairy heroines. Here, in Sivaji you have the dark hero fighting against black money, in the process laundering it into white. So, the hero is dark outside and an angel inside, the money he is fighting against is the other way round, personified by the pure-white clad, fair Adi (Suman). Sivaji makes this transformation from black to white at both levels in the film. He himself turns white at the instance of the fair heroine (Shreya, em-bodying the fair white body in a dark world lighting up male fantasies of all kinds – nostalgic, physical and familial). But turning into a fair body would suddenly turn him ordinary, just like any other guy or star. So he has to literally 'wash away' his whiteness to become the same old self again, whose USP is style and not skin colour. Likewise, when he is systematically robbed of all his hard-earned 'white' money which he wanted to put to good use at home, he makes a comeback by amassing all the black money and re-routing it back to India as 'white'. (Significantly, it is made possible with the help of the only visible Muslim characters in the film!). Ironically, Sivaji himself is a software engineer who has returned from the West, something that gives his money 'fairness' in the economy. But stardom is something that straddles economic and moral economies in curious ways by working on our subterranean desires and yearnings, which is what makes it alluring and enigmatic.

Never 'blessed' with the pure one-dimensionality of the white – like the villain or the heroine, the black is inexorably mired in conflicts that are obviously not just skin-deep. Like in the case of money and the body,. there is the dark black and the fair black; there is abhorrent black and attractive black. And it is invariably something that sticks to and out of the surface. There is no way one can escape its hold. You either flaunt it of suffer it. And in both cases, it is a very tricky issue, something abhorred and at the same time adored and loved. For instance, what makes the two dark girls who live next to the heroine's house unworthy of Sivaji's companionship? And why does the dark-skinned, US-returned multimillionaire software engineer like Sivaji who is keen on marrying only a true Tamilian girl, find his true love only in a fair brahminical body and that too in an upper caste temple? These are below-the-belt questions that we encounter and have to address to understand star-magic and ourselves.

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Blogger Vinod Khare said...

Wow! Never thought one could think of it that way. Really liked it!

3:04 PM  

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