The haunted house in Santhosh P Jayakumar’s Iruttu Araiyil Murattu Kuththu has a warning board that says ‘men strictly not allowed’. Theatres should have a similar warning sign for women who enter to watch the film. One might argue that the trailer might have given you enough warning and I do agree. In fact, the makers were kind enough to give another warning in the form a disclaimer where we are ‘advised’ to bring tissues in. I don’t need to explain why. No wonder, there were about four women in a 250 seater screen (which was full) on a working Friday afternoon.
So you can say I was fully prepared for the ‘adult horror movie’. Yet, it is impossible to not be taken aback at the film’s guts. Iruttu Araiyil Murattu Kuththu keeps its promise of being a full-fledged male erotica fantasy where women constantly roam around in short clothes that show off their legs and cleavage. The film didn’t bother me as I was ready for it — but it is impossible to not be annoyed when a ghost gets body-shamed. The same men were ready to ‘roll’ around with her the minute she gets a glamorous makeover. It was a battle for me to resist the urge to shout ‘can you look at yourself before you judge someone else’. The difference in standards for our men and women have always baffled me but to see the thunderous reception every one of these sexist gags and tropes received made me sickeningly queasy. You have to hand it to Santhosh for one thing, he clearly knows his bhaktas well; also for pushing his A certificate and making the most out of it.
Iruttu Araiyil Murattu Kuththu also made me think about the language that has crept in colloquial Tamil to describe lust and romance. Making love becomes ‘mudikarathu’ and ‘seiyarathu’; it becomes ‘correct panrathu’ or ‘ushar panrathu’ when a woman agrees to be with a man. I wonder if other women feel reduced to objects that exist to be conquered when they hear such language. IAMK pushes this phenomenon so far that it blows the lid of one’s patience. There is also a homosexual character who becomes the centre of so many belittling ‘avana nee’ jokes that I would need another review to vent out my anger.
And for all its adult content, the film continues to substitute lust with love like several other Tamil films. The men still continue to believe that having sex is equal to being in love. It doesn’t end there. In fact, what the women characters perceive about love is even more problematic. For example, take when Thendral (Vaibhavi Sandilya) tells Veera (Gautham Karthik) being a playboy is a positive quality. Her explanation is: “Women need to be pampered and seek attention. Also, a man needs to use pick-up lines like the ones that come in a Mani Ratnam or Gautham Vasudev Menon film to impress a woman. And if someone has managed to do that with so many women…” To make a woman character say this, the moment truly deserved a slow clap. Mani Ratnam or Gautham’s lines resonate with women because they treat their women characters with dignity and respect. And what more can I say about a film where a ghost gets the most sensible gag: “Instead of thinking of ways to conquer me, figure out ways to make me happy.”
And only if we could think of such a thing.