It is still sad and rather unfortunate that in many parts of India the word ‘œMadrassi’ is considered a synonym for South Indians ‘“ ALL SOUTH INDIANS.
It is still sad and rather unfortunate that in many parts of India the word “Madrassi” is considered a synonym for South Indians – ALL SOUTH INDIANS. People from the southern part of India, on the other hand, consider it not only as an ethnic slur, but some even perceive it as a reference to their dark skin colour.
Hailing from Tamil Nadu, whose capital is Madras (err….Chennai), I personally would take no offense at being called a Madrassi. However, people residing in other states of Southern India might get pissed.
Note: Do not be surprised if you learn that your “Madrassi” friend eats beef or pork. This is another misconception that people have about South Indians. As a matter of fact, being a non-vegetarian is as common in South India as in any other part of the country.
So, From Where Did the Madrassi Misconception Originate?
Most people believe the term to have originated during the British Raj days when the Madras Province existed. This presidency mainly covered the whole of Tamil Nadu and parts of Karnataka (except Mysore), Kerala (excluding Travancore) and Andhra Pradesh. With the Madras Province consuming all these regions, people from south immediately were (…and are) presumed as Madrassi.
Madrassi Stereotype in Bollywood
Bollywood is also guilty for promoting South Indians the wrong way. One of the actors who popularised this trend was the well-respected legend Mehmood, when he portrayed the role of Master Pillai in Padosan (1968).
Although the portrayal did make people laugh their hearts out, the subsequent depiction by other actors has come as a blow. Chennai Express was a huge commercial success (I have no idea why), which starred Shah Rukh Khan and Deepika Padukone.
In the movie, the beloved Deepika played the Tamilian damsel in distress Meenalochni Azhagusundaram. Read again…and maybe a few times more! Where the critics and moviegoers did applaud her efforts, director Rohit Shetty and Shah Rukh Khan received criticism for the stereotypes.
Honourable Mention (or rather Condemnation) – King Khan also played a South Indian in the sci-fi superhero movie Ra.One, where he adapted a horrendous Tamilian-Hindi accent.
What can be done to rid the delusion surrounding Madrassis?
The misconception can be summed up as either ignorance or lack of awareness among the masses about people from South India. Stereotyping can set up a comic stage if you can play all the cards right. Nevertheless, blatant ignorance to facts is only annoying for the victims.
There is no longer a Madras Province, nor is there a place called Madras. It is Chennai now and the locals are Chennaiites.
Besides Chennai, South India comprises four other states
- Karnataka, where the inhabitants are called Kannadigas
- Andhra Pradesh, whose locals are called Andhraites
- Kerala, whose populace is recognised as Keralite
Be it movies or just everyday life, I am sure that South Indians, other than Tamilians (or a few of them, too) are reaching the saturation point of being called Madrassis. If you want to play this card, be smart about it; if you fail, be prepared to face the wrath of a pissed off “Madrassi”.