Ms. Representation: All is not fair in cinema

In last week’s release, Bala, Bhumi Pednekar plays Lathika a strong-willed, independent lawyer who practices in Kanpur. Lathika doesn’t give two hoots about ‘log kya kahenge’. She believes women deserve to be respected and shouldn’t settle for anything else. More importantly, she strongly believes that the beauty standards women are subjected to are unfair. But Lathika had to suffer before she could wear her indifference as an armour. You see Lathika is shown to have dark skin. But guess what? Bhumi doesn’t.

This irony is just impossible to escape from. Lathika doesn’t allow fairness products in her office. She advises an older woman that she is perfectly fine the way she looks and that her extra weight isn’t an excuse for her husband to cheat on her. Well-intentioned, of course, but it feels like a sham. Every time, Lathika says, ‘You’re good as you are’, or talks about fairness or society’s skewed beauty standards, all I could think about was how unfair it is that an actor with fair skin had to be darkened for this role. It’s common knowledge that dusky women don’t get enough opportunities. And now, even roles tailor-made for them seem to be going to fair-skinned women.

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Ms. Representation: Where are the older heroines?

One of the most exciting casting announcements in recent times was that Khushbu and Meena were going to be part of Rajinikanth’s Annaththe. Naturally, there was curiosity over the announcement. Two of Tamil cinema’s successful heroines from the 90s, Khushbu and Meena have played the female lead in several Rajinikanth blockbusters. Conventionally, older heroines do not get to play the female lead when they return to cinema. They turn into sisters, sisters-in-law, or even mothers of the same heroes they had once been partners of. Annaththe followed suit: Nayanthara was paired with Rajinikanth, while Khushbu and Meena played Kalaiyan’s (Rajinikanth) hung-up ‘morai ponnunga’ in a ridiculously unfunny track that did no justice to both women. Pachakili (Soori) says, “Ivanga close panna account-a reopen panna vandhrukanga.” The film and the treatment stop that from happening.

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Enemy movie review: Vishal and Arya keep locking horns in this trite action drama, but we don’t care why

In the final few minutes of Anand Shankar’s Enemy, Chozhan (Vishal) asks his son about his desires. The boy thinks for a second and then says something close “ I want to fight like Batman, be funny like Shin Chan, and act like Kick Buttowski… etc”. It made me wonder if this eclectic combination was the actual inspiration for Enemy.

Starring Vishal and Arya in lead roles, Anand Shankar’s Enemy is a trite, formulaic action drama that laughs at logic and people who expect the same.

Chozhan (Vishal) has a dull childhood, thanks to his ‘Risk Ramalingam’ (Thambi Ramaiah). For Ramalingam, everything is a risk. And this meant that Chozhan had to stick fastidiously to his ‘home-school-home’ routine. Enter Rajiv (Arya) and his father Paari (Prakash Raj), who move to Ooty and become Chozhan’s neighbours. Paari, an ex-CBI officer, decides that his son should become a police officer, and trains him for the same. Chozhan, who is intrigued by what Rajiv does, eventually joins him. Chozhan turns out to be better than Rajiv is, much to the latter’s jealousy. But one day, Pari gets killed. To avoid complications for his family, Ramalingam moves to Singapore. The frenemies grow apart only to meet under very different circumstances 25 years later.

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Annaatthe movie review: Even Rajinikanth can’t save this film

In a recent interview with The New Indian Express, director Siva revealed that when Rajinikanth asked him what kind of film he had in mind, he said, “It’s a film that has everything.” But when you watch Annaatthe, what this actually means: a mixtape of themes and emotions from their previous work. (If Viswasam was the battle between two fathers, Annaatthe is the clash of two brothers.) And they do not stop at their own work.

Annaatthe has pieces from almost every film in the ’90s and early 2000s, so much so that it feels like we have discovered the film from a time capsule. This family drama is so familiar that the audiences become autocomplete tools — it is enough if you just hear the beginning of the dialogue, you know the rest.

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Ms. Representation: MeToo from the Medieval times

“Are you sure you didn’t dream that he raped you?” “Was the sex pleasurable?” “Perhaps you had another lover, and you are accusing this man to cover it up.” No, these aren’t comments from the internet trolls on a #MeToo testimony. These are remarks made by the prosecution in the court while interrogating a rape survivor in Sir Ridley Scott’s latest release, The Last Duel. Set in 1386, the film captures the last judicial duel ordered by the Parlement of Paris — between Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon) and Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver), where the former accuses the latter of raping his wife, Marguerite de Carrouges (Jodie Comer).

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Jai Bhim movie review: Suriya leads a decisively realistic courtroom drama

In his last speech to the Constituent Assembly, BR Ambedkar observed that India as a republic ‘would enter into a life of contradictions’. He believed that while we will be equals in politics (one man, one vote, one value) we will deny that equality in our economic and social life, thanks to the structures in place. Ambedkar strongly believed that as long as one doesn’t achieve social liberty, the freedom provided by the law is of no use to you. Several decades later, the words still hold extreme significance as we struggle to achieve that mandate. Suriya’s latest release, appropriately titled Jai Bhim, reflects the contradictions Ambedkar speaks of and the harrowing trauma that follows. The film sees Suriya play Advocate Chandru who fights a legal battle for Sengeni (Lijomol Jose), a tribal woman whose family is subjected to brutal custodial torture.

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Ms Representation: What makes a woman?

Mard Ki Body. This was the comment Taapsee Pannu received when her look for Rashmi Rocket was unveiled. The Pink actor sports a tough, sinewy look to play the role of a medal-winning international athlete. Our society, however, ascribes that description only to a male. Responding to the comment, Taapsee wrote, “Many women actually hear this daily for no fault of theirs. An ode to all the athletes who give their sweat and blood to the sport and their nation and still get to hear this.”

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Udanpirappe movie review: Jyothika is fine, but can’t elevate this rehash of age-old narrative

Udanpirappe is Jyothika’s 50th film. Her ‘second innings,’ as she calls it, has been dotted with stories that champion women. More specifically, her films speak of, and for the middle-aged woman, a demographic that is often left out on screen. Tamil cinema rarely engages with middle-aged women, beyond her identity as a wife or a mother. Jyotjika has spoken very candidly about the gender bias in the industry, and her films have been crucial in representing this space.’

However, Udanpirappe is not a female-centric narrative like her earlier films. The film revolves around the bond between Vairavan (Sasikumar) and his sister Mathangi (Jyotika). An ongoing feud between Mathangi’s husband (Samuthirakani) and Vairavan has led to a falling out. While family feuds are no stranger to Tamil cinema, Udanpirappe has an interesting clash of ideologies at the centre. While Vairavan believes in quick justice, even if it means turning vigilante and resorting to violence, his brother-in-law is a stickler for rules. The latter argues that violence will only add fuel to the fire, and can never be the solution. However, Vairavan argues that our snail-paced systems rarely get around to delivering justice. However, Udanpirappe does not explore these contrasting perspectives in detail. It is content to stick to the surface — happy to make an Anniyan out of Vairavan and an Ambi out of his brother-in-law.

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Mugizh movie review: A simple but charming slice-of-film about grief

In the past few weeks, Vijay Sethupathi has had three film releases. He is also hosting a show on a popular Tamil television channel, has given umpteen interviews. Suddenly, Vijay Sethupathi is everywhere: in theatres, on digital platforms, on TV, Youtube. Memes flooded the internet and they progressed to trolls, fuelled by the failure of his recent projects. But VJS is showing no signs of slowing down: he has a long list of projects that are in various stages of production. Thus, the popular opinion came to be: “Are we seeing too much of Vijay Sethupathi”

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Ms. Representation: Danger in disguise

In his paper, ‘Castes in India: Their Mechanism, Genesis and Development’, BR Ambedkar says that subjugation of women is inherent in the process of caste formation. “Man—as a maker of injunctions—is most often above them all,” says Ambedkar, as he formulates the genesis of caste. Endogamy is the essence of the caste system, and so, women who marry and reproduce become important for the caste system to flourish. Intercaste marriages are ‘allowed’ as ‘natural order’, when a man from a higher caste marries a woman from a lower caste (described in Manusmriti as anuloma).

However, an upper-caste woman marrying a man from the lower castes (called pratiloma) is banned. It’s thought ‘unnatural’ and worthy of ‘punishment’. That’s why we see devastating crimes occur around such developments. Furthermore, women are to be ‘taken by her father, then her husband, and later her son’. Woman, as an unwitting instrument in caste politics, is controlled, often by the violent suppression of sexual liberties. In speaking of caste, we must notice intersectionality and acknowledge the deep gender factor.

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Sivakumarin Sabadham movie review: Refreshing changes save an age-old narrative

Independent musician turned actor Hip Hop Aadhi’s first ticket to fame was his 2011 single ‘Clubbula Mabbula’. The rookie video — a mobile recording of two youngsters rapping in a radio station — became a viral hit, even before we knew what that meant. For the uninitiated, ‘Clubbula Mabbula’ is a song that trashed women who consumed alcohol and partied, branding them as harbingers of cultural doom.

Ten years later, his latest directorial Sivakumarin Sabadham has a similar instance. Shruthi (Madhuri) is harassed at a club by rogue men, saying the same things ‘Clubbula Mabbula’ did. While a usual Tamil cinema hero would have patronised Shruthi, Sivakumar (Hip Hop Aadhi) speaks of the initial culture shock and the subsequent realisation of his erroneous understanding. “Avano avalo ellam onnu dhana, adhu arivu varappo ungaluku thaana puriyum. (Whether it is a man or a woman, the rules are the same.)” And further consoled the sobbing heroine saying, “Nee correct nu unaku theriyum la. Yaaru enna sonna enna?.” (You know you are right. Why do you care about what other people say?)

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