Voices of Meenakumari: Sound, meaning, and self-fashioning in performances of an item number

South Asian Popular Culture, 10:3, 307-318

Another paper that takes into account just one song to make a larger point — but this one does an intriguing job. In this paper, Amanda Weidman explores the various meanings of an item song — En Peru Meenakumari from Kandasamy — as it jumps off the screen into other arenas (remediation/re-animation).

She “show(s) how a song that on its surface seems to invoke only the most exaggerated stereotypes of lower-class, sexualized femininity actually participates in complex projects of self-fashioning that exceed the conventions by which female voices are given meaning within the Tamil culture industry.”

As one listens to Tamil film songs, even outside the visuals and the lyrics being sung, one is able to identify it as a romantic song, hero-introduction song or item song. While often the difference is obvious, one couldn’t tell what makes it obvious. Weidman does that in this paper.

She explores the idea of an ideal female voice (singing voice, of course) and how the voice in this song differs from it. She then talks about the meaning and significance of the song in it’s re-animated in stage shows and reality TV. Fascinating and delightful read.

On research gate here.

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