Meenakshi Sundareshwar Does Away With Stereotypical "Southern" Accent. Can Others Follow?

Bollywood is guilty of heaping regional characters with age-old stereotypes. Will Meenakshi Sundareshwar change that?

Yamini Pustake Bhalerao
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Meenakshi Sundareshwar teaser released: The teaser of Sanya Malhotra and Abhimanyu Dassani starrer Meenakshi Sundareshwar was unveiled today. The film, which revolves around a couple in a long-distance marriage, will have an OTT premiere on November 5 this year. One of the highlights of the teaser is that its leads, despite representing a southern state of India, stick to their usual Hindi accent, which is a breath of fresh air.

Now I may not hail from any southern states in India, but coming from a Maharashtrian background, I have a fair idea of how stereotypical representation of people from regional states in Bollywood is a problem that runs from North to South and East to West. Who can forget Deepika Padukone's interpretation of a southern woman in the 2013 film Chennai Express, that too despite herself being born and brought up down South? The Aaiyyos, thooms, "yem" and "yes" are a deliberate part of any southern character.

The same stereotypical representation is true for characters with Marathi, Punjabi, Haryanvi, Bengali or Goan roots as well. And it doesn't end with random insertions of "agga bai" or "balle balle" or "ich" in all sentences. For instance, any Punjabi character's appearance on the screen has to be accompanied by upbeat Punjabi music, because how else will the audience know about their roots? Goans are often depicted to be lazy individuals who either drink or sleep.

This doesn't mean that people from various regions do not have a certain accent that seeps into their Hindi or English. What's problematic is the way this accent is accentuated to further stereotypes that were cooked up decades ago. To make matters worse, most of the time, regional characters are not played by actors with regional roots, they are played Hindi speaking actors - which makes their over-the-top accent even more unconvincing.

However, the makers of Meenakshi Sundareshwar made a wise decision by letting their lead actors retain their original accent. This could keep viewers from being distracted from the story and visuals playing out in front of them. Will this gamble playoff,?. Does the team behind this Sanya Malhotra starter reject other stereotypes as well? One hopes that it does, so that Bollywood can finally bid adieu to the cringe-worthy stereotypes that it cakes on its regional characters and focus more on them as just people, not cutouts of their interpretation of a regional person.

Check out the teaser of Meenakshi Sundareshwar here:


Views expressed are the author's own.

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