‘Kodava Hero’, ‘Appear Only Once Before Me’:

The Assimilation of Internal Exotics in Indian Film Songs.


  • Dr. John Napier The University of New South Wales


India, minorities, song and dance, Exoticism, Indian film music


In this paper I examine the representation of a minority community, the Kodava, in film songs. The Kodava are frequently portrayed in popular discourse in India as ‘internal exotics’: the men warrior like, the women fair, beautiful but slightly racy. I first outline why representations in song and dance sequences matter, whilst framing discussion of exotic representation within a discourse developed in the study of exoticism in Western music. I will then make some observations on depictions of other Indian‘exotics within’ – tribal groups, Christians and indeterminately exotic women – showing how such groups are variously depicted as assimilable, unthreatening, or dangerous. After a brief description of the Kodava as a group, with attention given to their image in popular imagination, I will show that images projected effectively and affectively through songs in the two Kannada language films, Muthina Haara and Mungaaru Male, not only exoticise the Kodava, but do so along gendered lines, showing differentiated paths of ‘assimilation’ of the exotic to the Indian state: as Hinduised warrior on the part of the male protagonist of the first film, as a dangerous sexuality best controlled by marriage to the already assimilated Kodava warrior in the second.

Author Biography

Dr. John Napier, The University of New South Wales

John Napier is Senior Lecturer in Musicology and in Performance at the university of New South Wales. His research interests include the classical music of North India, music of the story-telling Jogi caste of Rajasthan, music of the Kodava people of South India, and music of Australians of Asian background. His book on Jogi performers, They Sing the Wedding of God, was published in 2013.




How to Cite

Napier, J. (2022). ‘Kodava Hero’, ‘Appear Only Once Before Me’:: The Assimilation of Internal Exotics in Indian Film Songs. Journal of Music Research Online, 8. Retrieved from https://www.jmro.org.au/index.php/main/article/view/28