Saturday, August 07, 2004

The Omnipotent Midriff

Midriff = The middle outer portion of the front of the human body, extending roughly from just below the breast to the waistline.

A year ago, when I walked into a Body Piercing Store in downtown Philadelphia to fulfill a whim of having my nostril pierced (it's not a desi thing), I encountered a group of Indian girls who had just had their belly buttons duly pierced and bejewelled.They were decked in jeans and short cholis (a longer sibling of a conventional sari blouse strategically revealing the midriff) with the stones on their belly-hooks glittering in the neon storelights. Back then, I surmised that these ornaments were worn to enhance the appeal of the progressively open midriff. Now however, after coming back home and hours of channel surfing later, I know my assumption to be inaccurate. On the contrary, it is the midriff that signifies and incarnates the art of belly peircing. Just like it is the midriff that ratifies the essence of the on-screen Indian woman.

Now what is in the midriff, that it has wielded power over Indian audiences so rampantly? For one, it is a valuable signifier. The shape, color and volume of the exposed midriff is evidence enough to predict the kind of audiences who will be baited for the highly specific media/ midriff-product. Before I illustrate this with an example, it is necessary to understand that the 'midriff' is not to be indignified by associating it with the identity of the actress whose property it happens to be. Midriffs have a strong individual identity, and are capable of single-handedly marketing themselves and the films which showcase them.

For instance, if the midriff is fair and slender, curves softly traced from an hour-glass, and sporting an unassuming oval belly button several inches above the yoke of an embroidered skirt, then in all probability the actress has been imported from the northern states.The film in that case, can be presumed to revolve around an urban/sub urban protagonist dreaming of romancing the midriff amidst the swiss mountains...

Now if a browner chubbier midriff catches your eye with a dark sphrical belly button with the surface area lightly glazed by some glitter then in all probablity, it is a B-center musical. In such a case the midriff may be seen playing hide and seek amidst sensual embraces in mango orchards. In most cases the bearer of the midriff is the heroine who is courted by the village robinhood, who in turn has rescued her from the hands of the lustful Pannaiyar or his henchmen. It is important at this juncture to distinguish such midriffs as belonging to southern belles in most cases, although 'Kollywood' has seen some over-weight exceptions from the north.

The fleshiest of them all, has neither curves nor glitter. It jiggles and gyrates violently, depressing itself at places gouged by the hero's swarthy hands. The upper folds of the midriff flex rythmically to meet the lower ones, at times masking the belly button completely. The belly button here is a single horizontal line permanently cursed never to resemble its vertical or spherical counterparts. It is however never dispropotionate to the entire body which in most cases appears even heavier than the accopmanying actor's. These bearers are most often alloted 5 to 10 minutes of screen time with a few dialogues, the majority of which will be complemented with feminine screeches or melodious sobs at key plot junctures.

The above is one roadmap to understanding commerical Tamil cinema. It is important to learn the art of extrapolating the plot from flashes of screen midriff. This because television channels are overwhelmed with these teasers and if and when a certain midriff-riddle appears too hard to crack down, then that is the one movie that might be worth watching on big screen. Ofcourse, ocasionally there will be one or two movies without any type of midriff exposition, in which case there are only two inferences which can be made. One: It is some art-house nonsense. Two: The lady protagonist is some anachronistic, middle-aged prude harboring false virtuousness. Pssst: She's not that sexy anyway!

All this research, and I still had one question unanswered. The midriifs had a strong on-screen presence, but their off-screen identities were almost insignificant (atleast for now). Not many women revealed midriffs on the streets, and that i deduced was something the male population was losing out on. You see, if onscreen midriffs signified so many plot layers with a mere shake or jiggle, then it is only to be conjured what off-screen midriffs will do to tell of women's identities,class and ethnic affiliations. What is the lag, I wonder...of luscious midriffs in tight closeups on-screen on the one hand, and tighly shrouded sari-clad midriffs touting the streets behind their real-life male protagonists off-screen?...


Blogger Anand said...

Great stuff! This has to go on my clog.

August 7, 2004 at 4:28 AM  
Blogger Mitochondria said...

Anand, Thanks for the previlege. Horored.

August 7, 2004 at 4:59 AM  
Blogger Mitochondria said...

I meant hono(u)red. Carpel Tunnel Spelling Fiasco.

August 7, 2004 at 5:00 AM  
Blogger Anand said...

CTS or Freudian slip? Really many people can get 'horrored' by me. :p

August 7, 2004 at 10:41 AM  
Blogger anantha said...

Anand: Clog? What is that?
Mito: Madrasa suthi paathingala? Thala suthi kizha vizhalaye?

August 11, 2004 at 2:52 PM  
Blogger Mitochondria said...

Anti: In the process of Suththi parthufying.. Will be returning soon.

August 12, 2004 at 12:17 AM  
Blogger Anand said...

Anti: My blog has a link to my clog! That's my clip blog.

August 12, 2004 at 5:31 AM  
Blogger Anand said...

What? Off the blog radar?

August 15, 2004 at 9:44 AM  
Blogger Nilu said...

and at last,
my search for a funny South Indian woman ends!!!!!!!

August 27, 2004 at 2:11 PM  
Blogger Mitochondria said...

Nilakantan, I can be very moody and too, depending upon the flux of the socio-cultural mileu that surrounds me. Thanks..for visiting the blog.

August 29, 2004 at 11:58 PM  
Blogger Nilu said...

That everybody is......

August 30, 2004 at 2:18 PM  
Blogger Anand said...

Oy! Your next post is due soon!

August 31, 2004 at 4:32 AM  
Blogger Matter Mahadevan said...

This midriff has been the basis of a whole movie "kushi", first time here nice style of blogging

September 2, 2004 at 5:06 AM  
Blogger rajesh said...

Finding the word "Midriff" used 27 times in a single write-up!!wow..That in itself gave me a kick!
Good one..!
Looking fwd to a similar account of boobies and booties of Kollywood!

September 3, 2004 at 11:43 AM  
Blogger Anand said...

Raapi: I thought you were a samatthu boy with madhu and maadhu being anathema? You want to hear about boobies and booties?
Mito: I think you better post something new real soon or we guys will flood your blog with vetti talk!

September 4, 2004 at 5:25 AM  
Blogger anantha said...

Hmmm... agree with Anand!

September 17, 2004 at 2:48 PM  
Blogger Anthroponym said...

Gr8 post.
Lot of research on the midriff?

October 7, 2004 at 2:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I congratulate the author for coming up with this post. This is an important article on midriff. I have written an article on a much smaller region which is part of midriff, namely, navel. Feel free to read:


November 17, 2004 at 7:38 PM  
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