No Reader – this is not a post about Gzhand’s numerous girl friends. This is also not about his Krishnaleela (not the movie , but his offscreen shenigans , if one may call it that ). This is not about a DD or beedi wanting a chumban from him and this is not about his so called famous kissing scenes – and for the fans of his creation er daughters , this is not about the baby Gzhands . This is about the women in his filmy creations – women who are empowered and brainy yet surprisingly belittled.
It is indeed a fact that in order to become a superstar in the tamil cine industry , one has to pander to the male chauvinistic attitude prevalent in the tamil society. The hero is an all encompassing entity in his movies and his leading lady will almost always fall for him ( not the other way around) despite his shortcomings – his education , economical and social background , looks et al. She is expected to defer to him – and after being chastised for being rude , uncultured ( never mind that he speaks rowdy tamil and she convent English , never mind that he is poor , uneducated and uncouth and she well-off , well mannered and cultured as per her background) ends up swapping her louboutins for hawai , her louis vitton bags for manjappais , her cool dresses for cotton sarees and enjoys her happily ever after in a hovel , fending for her man and his whims , fancies and drunken binges.
For a long time I was a girl in la la land when it came to tamil movies – I whistled for MGR films , enjoyed the great Rajnikanth’s punch lines
and clapped hard for what I perceived as great endings and all this lasted until I grew up and realized that this was not ideal or realistic. As I cringed through the ending of Mannan ( a rather twisted version of the bard’s taming of the shrew) on a lazy sunday years ago I thanked God that the one hero I admired stayed clear of these cliches – why Hassan’s films had well qualified heroines with a backbone and more often than not the women held the upper hand in the on screen relationship.
So I carried on , content that there was at least one man who gave his female characters their due until one fine day in San Francisco when the axis tilted and I realized that he too was in the mold of his contemporaries . It was the premier show of his latest movie – Vishwaroopam and we reached the theater early – we wanted the best seats in the house . I had my whistle and paper-festoons ready and was cheering the movie loudly until that moment happened – that moment when Wiz and the other men , ridicule his nuclear oncologist wife . Up until that point I had found the movie immensely enjoyable , but I found myself wanting to just get up and leave the movie as the mockeries and wise cracking against nirupama continued. She was made to behave like a Bimbo , mouth inane lines and act like a silly twit fluttering around her Percy Blakeneyish hubby ( gzhand doffs a hat to Baroness Orczy by having Wiz behave in an effeminate manner before revealing himself to be a spy) despite her exalted background and I found myself going back in the annals of time looking at his previous heroines with horror even as the horror fest on screen continued on.
Nirupama aside there was Asin from Dasavatharaam , an irritating screechy voiced tam brahm who made a hyena seem better and who fell in love with Govind the scientist too soon enough ( yes readers he is the quintessential America Mapplai who is Gold for a tam brahm alliance – but hey what about this little problem of him being a fugitive) and happily kept saying abacharam as she contemplated her American future. Then there was janaki from Vasool Raja ( the medic who falls for a collection agent despite their backgrounds). She was the least irritating in hindsight though. Before these lovely ladies came another medico who fell for an uncouth stunt man of a stunningly rich background and a rich student of art who found her happily ever after with a fraudster who was happy enough to live off her ( her father happily agreed to their marriage – what was he even thinking). Before them there was Sumathi who traded her city clothes and married her cousin who may or may not have been cultural police in disguise ( He takes offense when she kisses a flute maestro for his splendid performance , yet he is not above taking advantage of her unconciousness. He forces her to wear a saree – never mind that she looks equally comely in her dresses). And before Sumathi came Preeti and an exotic princess who fell for a spy who employed questionable interrogation tactics , who may or may not have been a two-timer and who treated women in an appalling manner ( yet Vikram is a favorite movie of mine , as close to James bond as it got in the good old days).
As I renewed my acquaintances with these rather sorry souls , I couldn’t help but remember the lovely Shalini ( who raises a gun when she realizes that a boyfriend might have two timed her ), Sakkubai ( the scheming Roobini with $$ in her eyes) and Tripura Sundari ( the seemingly innocent palakkad iyer who dominates and strong arms her guy one too many times) from MMKR . Then there was also Sangeetha’s character from Manmadhan Ambu who is single and looks back at a bad marriage with a quirky sense of humor. There was also Malini and panchavarnam – strong ladies in their own right and the lovely banu too ( she realizes her erstwhile relationship has fizzled out and has the guts to tell her beloved to his face that he is no longer the same man) – and there are many many others who come off as characters in better control of their surroundings than the leading man.
Even as Hassan earned his partial redemption towards the end of Roobam , I realized that the situation was not that dire – for every character that was badly butchered , there was one which was finely etched and as the titles started rolling I regained hope – hope that this master artist and sublime director would continue to support strong woman characters in his films ( no matter how strong and flawed these women would be) and the Bimbos ( cos they are unavoidable) make few and far apart appearances.
P.S : This is a rant (well sort of) . But this doesn’t mean that I am spouting feminist nonsense or that I am ridiculing an artist of whom I am a great fan of.
P.P.S : What I’ve written is based on my observations and understanding . I know that there can be different views and ways of looking at things and I quite welcome comments and healthy discussions on this blog space.
P.P.P.S : As is my habit , I will be re-posting this piece in my other blog space. However you cannot do so and claim it as your own piece ( you can link to my post or share the post after giving true credit to the author)
P.P.P.P.S : I am back in C2blogs after a long hiatus ( thanks to an internal move and a change in my relationship status) but I will henceforth try to make frequent appearances .