Kabali does not resonate with Malaysian Tamils, says report

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SINGAPORE: Many Malaysian and Singaporean Indians do not relate to the righteous Tamil versus villainous Chinese story of the hit movie Kabali, according to an article in India’s The Wire.

It said the film’s message of the persecution of the overseas Tamils had little resonance with the lives of the diaspora.

“We are great fans of Rajini sir but we do not relate to the film. This is not a Malaysian story,” M K Muralee, a Kuala Lumpur-based movie producer and member of the Malaysian Indian Film Producers Association, was quoted as saying.

“In Malaysia, the Indians and the Chinese are not pitted against each other unlike what they show in the film. We have friendly relations with the Chinese,” added Muralee

Pointing out that the majority of Malaysian Indians were poor, Karmveer Singh, a doctoral candidate in Southeast Asian Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, told The Wire that Malaysian Indian discontent was directed primarily at the majority-Malay authorities rather than the ethnic Chinese.

He told The Wire that many of Malaysia’s Indian workers were displaced after plantations, where they were traditionally engaged as labourers, were acquired for national development in the 1980s.

The article said Malaysia had policies of affirmative action that assured the majority Bumiputera population special privileges in securing housing, government jobs, business licenses and education.

Written by Suruchi Mazumdar, who recently submitted her doctoral thesis to the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, the article said Malaysia’s race-based politics primarily represented the Malay-Chinese ethnic tension, not Indian-Chinese tension.

For instance, when massive rallies, known as Bersih 2.0, were organised in Malaysian cities in 2015 to call for the resignation of Prime Minister Najib Razak over the 1MDB saga, Malay rights groups saw the anti-corruption demonstrations as Chinese-led protests against the leadership of the ruling United Malay National Organisation, an ethnic party that represents the interest of the Malay population.

In, Singapore, too, the article said, race remained a sensitive and controversial matter. Although Kabali had the crowds, it did not resonate with the viewers. The article noted that the Chinese formed the majority population here.

“Issues such as the pay disparity between the Chinese and Indians that Kabali shows are controversial matters and cannot be discussed here,” said Prakash, an Indian-Singaporean student who is enrolled at a university in Australia. “But we love Rajini sir because we see him as an elder brother and he represents the common man’s struggle,” Prakash was quoted as saying.

“The minority has disadvantages in any country but as a society we have progressed since 40 years back when racial prejudice was not uncommon in public in Singapore,” it quoted Ravi Philomen, an independent blogger and member of the opposition Singapore People’s Party.

In Singapore, it observed, Tamil was an official language along with English, Mandarin and Malay.

It noted that government policies such as the system of Group Representation Constituency required political parties to field minority candidates in each GRC team during elections. Singapore also has a minority quota in housing estates to ensure ethnic integration.

The article said that despite the less than realistic portrayal of Indians in Malaysia and Singapore, Kabali was raking in the money.