‘Kodava Hero’, ‘Appear Only Once Before Me’: The Assimilation of Internal Exotics in Indian Film Songs.

John Napier


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.


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

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