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n independent educated woman, Yamini, meets her date’s best friend, Karthik, who abuses her with derogatory words the first time he meets her. Despite all these abuses, Karthik and Yamini end up getting married because of the strong attraction that draws them to each other. In the first half of the movie, every woman in the movie is abused with belittling words accompanied by cheap songs that scream “Adi da avala, Odha da avala” (“Beat her, kick her”.)
In the second half of the movie, they seemingly glorify a “good woman”. A good woman in terms of the movie is one for whom a mangalsutra and kumkum on her forehead is accompanied by a complete attitude change. She puts up with her mentally disturbed husband providing him with love, food, and sex. Like any classic Tamil cinema heroine the side-dish for her husband’s booze is also promptly served ignoring the fact that psychiatric help is what he needs! She chooses to live with him and even have a kid with him despite having suffered a miscarriage because of his actions. That is Mayakkam Enna for you, a critically acclaimed box office hit in the Tamil Industry today.
I agree that fiction has no boundaries, and I am no judge as to whether the movie was good or bad. However, what is the definition of “good women” that Tamil cinema today is preaching to the society? Is it someone who bears the brunt of domestic violence, stripped off her self-respect and continuing to serve her abusive husband in the name of “love”? Have we moved away from the ideology that love cannot exist without self-respect?
This is not the first Tamil movie I watched where gender violence is shown as a way of life. How many Tamil movies show a scene where the husband “corrects” his wife or his sister with a slap? On the contrary do we come across a movie where a wife corrects her husband with a slap?
Gone are the days when the word “hero” in Tamil cinema automatically brought to your mind a do-gooder with a pleasing personality. Of late, ‘rugged’ seems to be the trend as muddy, sweaty men who ruthlessly kill are portrayed as ‘heroes’. You no more need to seek justification to use violence. If you are a man who wants more money, you kill. If you want a girl, you can abuse her and her family to any extent. If you are a police officer, shooting down all the criminals is your style (with absolute disregard to laws and procedures).Today, Tamil movies seem to be telling us that violence is a tool which is at our personal disposal and can be used as and when we require to achieve whatever we want.
I was overcome with shock and disbelief as I watched a scene from a movie called Sivakasi. The hero, a local rogue, gives a lecture to the heroine about her dress in the most vulgar manner possible. He reasons with her saying that she is getting abused on the street because of the way she is dressed. Since when did our heroes transform into moral police correcting every woman?
Why are Tamil movies time and again emphasizing that if one shows a girl her place through the use of violence one is “man” enough? This trend is disturbing as it seems to tell the society that you can get a girl by proving that you are superior to her and masculine enough!
In a movie called Theeratha Villayatu Pillai, the hero ‘makes’ three women fall in love with him and chooses one! Like that is an act which is extremely moral, he lectures one of the women about culture and morality. At this point absurdity seems like an understatement to describe such movies.
The role of heroes in Tamil cinema has changed throughout the ages. Have you ever wondered what is happening to their lady loves? Women still continue to be meek lambs while dancing around with these men and yelling with fear and apprehension at the sight of blood.
It is however unfair to say that Tamil Cinema has always been biased against women. There are a few directors like K.Balachandar who have directed movies that show women in a positive light. Even today I yearn to see a movie where I can see a woman play a character like that of Simran’s in Kannathil Muthamittal or a Revathi in Marupadiyum.
The sad state today however is that heroines are mere eye candy, wearing skimpy clothes and dancing around in irrelevant sequences. Hardly do I see a strong woman character on screen who is not subjected to sympathy or violence from her male counterparts!
They say that the media is supposed to be a reflection of the society. The truth is many times the society becomes a mere reflection of the media. We can only hope that the film makers with this awareness make more responsible movies with quality and substance.
After all, fiction may not have boundaries, but who said feminism does not deserve a place in it?
By Nanditha Hariharan
Author bio: Nandhitha Hariharan is currently pursuing her 2nd year B.com and doing an internship with Women’s Web. She enjoys writing and strongly believes that words have the power to change this world. She is a feminist and dreams of a world where gender inequality is a thing of the past. She is a voracious reader and also enjoys debating.
Image Source: Arti Sandhu