Recently, South Indian Star Tamannaah Bhatia came out with a statement on twitter condemning the remarks of the director of her most recent release, Kaththi Sandai , a Tamil action-comedy-romance mixed film. Director Suraj has said in an interview that low-class film audience like him, especially men, pay to see women dressed in a revealing manner, in skimpy dresses and short skirts. According to him , boys should enjoy the movie , therefore actresses should wear less. He went as far as to say that actresses that make it to the top are the ones who show more , he even suggest actresses that wanna act to do a movie solely for that elsewhere. His movies are for entertainment. His statement is not only extremely regressive, it defines actresses in a derogatory way and also objectifies women in this already misogynist society. Top heroines like Nayanthara and Tamannaah, who are currently working on women centric movies, slammed the director and asked him for an immediate apology towards all woman in the industry. This is definitely a low for woman’s place in the industry and the image of woman on-screen, however, unfortunately, it’s not a low we haven’t seen before.
Directors like Suraj are the ones who perpetrate the portrayal of women in a very low angle and the presence of incredibly sexist jokes on-screen even in 2017. The number of movies that either demeans women, blames them or compromises their safety are insane. None of the directors have been held accountable for such productions. Let’s just take a look back at few movies from the last decade , shall we?
1. Manmadhan, Tamil , 2004.
The cult classic of women shaming movies, the 2004 film classified as “crime thriller”, more like a horror movie if you ask me , Manmadhan stars the king of women blaming songs and films, Silambarasan. This is extremely unfortunate, considering his father is well-reputed for showing high respect towards women. I guess the “like father , like son” proverb didn’t apply to this father-son duo. Coming back to Manmadhan, the crux of the story revolves around a man who avenges his twin brother’s suicide on all women he judges prone to betray men, as his brother committed suicide because of love failure ; when a women whom he deeply loved used him for her selfish benefits and cheated on him. Simply put, he revenges his brother’s death by raping and killing women he considers will eventually be unfaithful to their partners by seducing them into his traps. This whole movie not only impels a crude generalization of women, depicting them all as cheaters , but also justifies rape culture. This movie was a shame to the whole film fraternity as they brainwashed the audience into thinking that rape and murder can be justified. More than ten years later, the cinema industry is as insensible towards sexual harassment; when Bollywood star Salman Khan compared his physical pain to rape, many of his co-stars remained silent and avoided any question about it.
2. Trisha Illa Nayanthara, Tamil, 2014.
One thing I would’ve liked to be spared of is this movie. A film with very cheap dialogues that objectifies women as the title itself suggest women as commodities. Trisha if not Nayanthara, is a movie that revolves around a man and his relationships. His first relationship was cut short when he initiated a break up because he didn’t approve of girls who consume alcohol. His second relationship falls apart as he believes the girl has betrayed him because she wasn’t a virgin , claiming he prefers only virgin women. The film ends with him throwing the title as he woos after a third girl , suggesting that if it doesn’t work out with one girl, onto the next one. You might think that the plot itself is horrendous , but you haven’t experienced the true misogyny, entitlement the men behind this movie think they possess towards women until you have listened to the dialogues and actually manage to sit through those two painful hours. This movie just reinforces to men ideals of women to satisfy their selfish needs and those ideals are completely unfair as men are exempt of those and aren’t shunned by society for not answering such expectations. If a women was found to be non-virgin in this society, it is considered a sin of bigger impact than if men didn’t obey to the social-construct that virginity is. If a woman is found to smoke or drink, it is unacceptable whereas for a men , it is seen as normal and even encouraged. These type of movies fortifies double standards when we are trying to abolish them and make a regressive step each time we take a step forward.
3. 3, Tamil, 2011.
A movie we’ve all heard about and went to be known across seas because of the sensation that the song Why This Kolaveri Di sparked on Youtube back then. How shameful to think that this is one of the movies that possibly highlighted Kollywood across seas. It is very unfortunate that this movie educates address psychological disorders , a topic that is less talked about in our society, but in the process, encourages another problematic of our society. The movie promoted stalking as the protagonist thought it’s okay to follow a girl wherever she goes in order to get loved back. The crew did a great job at masking the fact that this could be a very dangerous and creepy situation in real life by romanticizing the whole thing. This is just one example among the million of films that suggest stalking as a way to approach their love interest, directors and story writers seem to not acknowledge that this is a very poisonous image they feed to youngsters in a misogynist society like the South Asian one. They are engraving an image into youngsters that the first step of love is chasing after a girl, literally. Interaction between men and women weren’t like today in South Asia, previously. Unlike the West, everyone is not privileged to go to schools where they offer sex-ed or people are taught how to approach women without being creepy or harassing them. Therefore, a lot turn to cinema, in the hopes of getting some advice on how to approach women as cheesy as this may sound.
4. Raanjhanaa , Hindi, 2013.
Another movie that not only glamorizes stalking but also emotional blackmail. In this movie, you can see Kundan, the main character, self-harm in the hopes to get Zoya’s love back and out of pity, she reciprocates his love. They send a message to the audience that self-pity will get someone’s love back. Now, you have to know that cinema is a big part of the Indian society, every state has his own cinema industry and many people worship the people they see on-screen like gods. In other words, what is showcased on-screen during two hours has a high impact on people’s mind, they are feeding to the upcoming youngsters that emotional blackmail is valid in order to get loved back. They are feeding false ideas of love. You might think that all of this is extremely pushed to the limit and there’s no way people believe this is what love looks like,but trust me I wish I was lying. The BBC reported that the main cause of acid throwing in South Asia is the rejection of love/marriage/sex proposals. Men in South Asia have a hard time accepting rejection, they think that women must drool for them as soon as they propose, they seem to omit the whole notion of consent. Our movies do an excellent job at reinforcing this entitlement. Even in movies, when the women refuses their love proposals, they use the “love failure” motive to abuse women with derogatory terms and blame all their misery upon all the women on the planet and proceed to add a complement with a song sequence where they are drunk and bash women. This reinforces the stereotype that women who reject proposals are cold-hearted and men are always the poor sad soul.
5. Sivakasi , Tamil, 2005.
Remember this so-called iconic Vijay punch in Sivakasi that boys didn’t hesitate to praise? This Vijay dialogue was remembered as iconic because it contained most South Asian men’s favourite content : misogyny and slut-shaming. The scene involved a girl getting harassed, her calling the predator out in public and showing him a lesson. However, the “amazing” hero had to intervene and defend the predator’s actions. The hero promotes rape culture by suggesting women’s dressing sense are the reason why they are harassed. This scene made me lose a couple of brain cells. I was extremely disgusted by the plain ignorance that is showcased on-screen. Imagine yourself being a girl, in a country where harassment and rape is extremely on the rise, and being told that you are the reason ,and the sole reason, for harassment and men’s misbehaviour. Imagine being a victim of harassment and watching such scene that make you feel guilty for something you didn’t deserve at all. No wonder so many women refuse to report the atrocity that happens to them when individuals with a cult-status across the nation showcase on-screen that women are responsible for all the harassment they experience.
With only five example of movies, it is possible to acknowledge how lightly we neglect women’s place and safety in society by promoting rape culture, showcasing their objectification, encouraging stalking and finally, condoning emotional blackmail. Now these were just one solid example for each case, there is millions of cases and million of examples of films out there, however my point isn’t to only prove you the existence of such films , but highlight the issue with these movies. Many of us have grown up watching movies from an industry across the sea and the soundtracks of those films have composed many of our childhoods, few years back we might’ve never,even slightly, noticed the issue with those films , because the messages and images proliferated by the directors, producers and story writers were subconsciously implanted in our minds and the industry did a great job at masking it by romanticizing the whole thing and adding a dash of self-pity so we sympathize and ache with the protagonist. To be honest, it worked pretty well for the generation before us as they even went on to critically acclaim movies that had the same issues back then such as Guna, a Tamil cult-classic from 1991 and Darr, another psychological thriller classic in Hindi from 1993 but, be that as it may, we are in 2017 and these type of movies hold back women from moving forward. We continuously reinforce unreasonable and false ideas that threatens women to be independent and walk down the street on her own. We indulge in justifying what men think they have the right to do by remaining silent at what we see on ads, on tv and on big screens all the time.
Ways you can stand up against sexism in cinema? As hard as it may seem, listening to the soundtrack of such films can be harmful , because we still stand by the storyline by doing so. An example of that is the soundtrack of the movie Remo (click here to checkout my review of Remo). The film gained huge promo because of the soundtrack composed by Anirudh Ravichander. Yes, the songs have a killer beat , but the lyrics are as harmful as the stories. Another way you may resolute to, is avoiding to watch these movies and boycotting them. You might think how such decision will have an impact on the industry that exclusively does movies for people in their country and not for people across the seas ? You would be surprised to know how much money those producers across the seas make from what may seem to you like a little sum. An article in The Hindu describes the overseas market of the Indian Cinema Industry as a golden mine around the globe. In fact, according to the author of the article, more than 35 countries airs indian films and the revenue that are gathered only in North America, Malaysia and Singapore reach crores. Your implication does have an impact, so next time you plan to go watch a movie, second guess the stars that act in the movies and the type of movies they usually act in.
Sources and Readings :
DE CASTELLA, Tom. “How Many Acid Attacks Are There? ” , BBC News , [Online], August 9 2013 , [http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-23631395] , ( consulted January 9 2017 ).
PATHAK , Ankur. “South Indian Star Siddharth Slams Glorification Of Stalking In Our Films ” , The Huffington Post , [Online], July 17 2016, [http://www.huffingtonpost.in /2016/07/17/south-indian-star-siddharth-slams-glorification-of-stalking-in-o/?ncid=tweetlnkinhpmg00000001 ] , ( consulted October 3 2016 ).
PILLAI, Sreedhar. “A Globe Mine Around The World” , The Hindu , [Online], April 17 2016 , [http://www.thenewsminute.com/ article/glorifying-stalking-and-violence-when-will-kollywood-end-kolaveri-45845 ] , ( consulted January 9 2017 ).
RAJENDRAN , Sowmya. “Glorifying stalking and violence , when will Kollywood end this Kolaveri?” , The News Minute , [Online], July 3 2016 , [http://www.thenewsminute.com/ article/glorifying-stalking-and-violence-when-will-kollywood-end-kolaveri-45845 ] , ( consulted October 3 2016 ).