Vellaikkaariya? – Constructing Amy Jackson, Nativity and Whiteness in Tamil Cinema

by Meena Saverimuttu


This podcast is of a seminar presented by Meena Saverimuttu at UNSW Australia for SSSN on 1st August 2017. Meena’s paper is followed by a question and answer session facilitated by Dr Michelle Langford and involving the audience present on the day.

Meenaatchi Saverimuttu is a postgraduate student at Macquarie University. Her research interests include film studies, gender studies, postcolonialism and representation studies. She is currently writing her M. Res. thesis on race and gender representations in the South Indian Tamil film industry.

Since Liverpool local Amy Jackson’s debut in 2010, where she played a young British woman in the Tamil period-drama Madrasapattinam (Vijay), Jackson has played exclusively Tamil/Indian characters in all of her films. Despite her Caucasian background, Jackson is nativised for these roles, her skin spray-tanned, her hair dyed, and her blue eyes hidden behind dark-brown contact lenses. More baffling is perhaps the recurrent in-film references to Jackson’s Tamil characters as white. I will focus my analysis on a recurring reference to Jackson’s characters as “the white chick” in two of Jackson’s more recent Tamil films Thangamagan (Velraj 2015) and Gethu (Thirukumaran 2016). These films position two vastly different Amy Jacksons: the on-screen Indian and the off-screen Westerner. This presentation uses the case of Jackson to explore the necessity for an interdisciplinary approach when discussing non-Western films. As such, I combine intersectional feminism, whiteness studies, and stardom studies alongside film theory in order to fully unpack the signification of Jackson’s on-screen presence.

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