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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Raame Aandalum Raavane Aandalum movie review: A well-intentioned but middling social drama

Raman Aandalum Raavanan Aandalum is the opening phrase of the blockbuster Rajinikanth song from Mullum Malarum. The full verse is “Raman aandalum ravanan aandalum enaku oru kavalai ila” (Whether Rama rules or Ravana, I don’t care). In Mullum Malarum, the song is a boisterous proclamation of Kaali’s bravado and morality. In Arisil Moorthy’s Raame Aandalum Raavane Aandalum (RARA), it’s a plea from the common, impoverished man — no matter who rules us, our situations are not going to change. The stage for political commentary is set, but does the film use it well?

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Ms Representation: A journey through time to denigrate women

A clip from Santhanam’s latest Zee5 release Dikkiloona made waves on social media (no, it’s not Anagha dancing to Per Vechalum). In this trending clip, Mani (Santhanam) criticises a woman for wearing a little black dress. “Freedom is not living as per your wishes but living in a manner that’s acceptable to society,” says Mani, who probably graduated in freedom at the Whatsapp University. The clincher comes next. He says, “Konjam izhutha avundhrum, idhu suthanthiram”. The first question is, why should someone tug on her dress? Let’s bypass that for a moment though. Mani is wearing a veshti in the said scene. Is he saying his ‘virtuous’ veshti would not come off were someone to tug at it?

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Ms. Representation: When life is war

What does ‘being girly’ mean to you? The colour pink might pop up. You also think candy and candy floss? Or perhaps prancing sensuously in satin clothes with matching ribbons in the hair? Pillow fights, sure. Voices in shrill pitches with generous amounts of giggling? Lots of mascara-lined eye batting too, maybe. At least this is what men believe ‘girly’ to mean. What does the term actually mean though? It is holding your keys like you would a weapon. It is sharing your live location when you come home late. It is having your bag in front of you, so you don’t get groped. It is taking a longer route because it is safer. It is mapping exit routes, as soon as you enter a place.

The male gaze has been criticised in several films, but it’s perhaps never been as weaponised as in Promising Young Woman that got released recently in India. Cassie (a terrific Carrey Mulligan) is a med-school dropout who works at a coffee shop. Once a week, she dresses up and pretends to be too drunk to stand at a bar, waiting for a ‘nice man’ to help her. This ‘help’ usually means that he is going to exploit her state. Unless…

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Ms. Representation: Terminator: Judgment Day

Abortion is the Voldemort of Indian cinema: it must not be named. For years, unplanned pregnancies have been used as miracles that fix pretty much every problem. Relationship troubles? Extra-marital affair? Toxic partner? Problems with parents or in-laws? “Oru kuzhandhai porandha ellam seri aagidum.” Sure, it may not be everyone’s preference, but why is it never shown to be an option? Even worse, this perfectly legal procedure is often equated to ‘murder’ or ‘sin’, like films like Puppy, or AL Vijay’s short in Kutty Story. The latter even dubs abortion illegal, while the former guilt-shames a woman into being a mother.

It has been 50 years since the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, 1971, legalised a woman’s right to terminate pregnancy within 20 weeks (24 in special cases with legal and medical permission). And yet, there is SO much misinformation around the subject and the procedure. So, when a character in the recently released Netrikann claims that she didn’t know that abortions were legal, it’s perfectly understandable. 

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Ms Representation: The Perfect Wife Syndrome

It has been close to 20 days since the release of Pa Ranjith’s Sarpatta Parambarai, a film there’s so much to like about. But this column isn’t about that. Ever since its premiere on Amazon Prime Video, social media has been rife with hot takes. The most curious of all is all the men who proclaim their undying love for Mariyamma, Kabilan’s feisty wife who sticks around through his alcoholism and indifference, and turns out to be his ‘pillar of strength’ who motivates him to success. Men, it seems, want wives like Mariyamma.

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Ms Representation: No place for a woman

“Brahmins, Thakur, Shudras… These castes are to categorise men. Women are different. They are beneath them all.”

These lines from Sonchiriya stayed with me as I watched Leena Manimekalai’s Maadathy. A haunting story of societal injustice, there’s a lot to unpack in this film. First, the gender. The free-spirited protagonist, Yosana, is an adolescent girl firmly held by the chains of patriarchy. Then there’s caste. The film’s narrative emerges from the collective experiences of the Puthirai Vannar community from Tirunelveli. They are often referred to as the ‘Dalits of the Dalits’ and thought ‘unseeable’. This means Yosana is at the absolute bottom of the social hierarchy ladder. Maadathy is important on several counts: one, it documents and platforms the pain in these hitherto ‘invisible’ stories. And second, it once again reminds us why feminism is incomplete without intersectionality.

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