There is a viral video of Director Mari Selvaraj speaking about the film Papanasam, the Tamil remake of the Malayalam hit Drishyam. The film is about a girl who accidentally kills her harasser, after being blackmailed with a private video taken without her knowledge and consent. The father goes to extreme lengths to protect his daughter from the police and finally saves her. “Why does the father, at no place, tell her that she has nothing to be ashamed of? It’s the harasser who should be ashamed,” asks Mari. It is an important question, reflective of the cultural patriarchal ethos of our society. Finally, we seem to have an answer in Pandiraj-Suriya’s Etharkum Thunindhavan.
Tamil cinema is no stranger to love triangles, especially ones where the protagonist (usually male) is in an unhappy marriage. He falls in love with another woman, only to realise his mistakes and the ‘value’ of his wife. The protagonist returns to his wife and lives happily ever after with her. From older films like Sathileelavathi to newer films like Oh My Kadavule, this narrative is so popular that it should be deemed as a subgenre.
Hey Sinamika, veteran choreographer Brinda’s directorial debut, tries to give this subgenre a new twist by exchanging the genders of the leads. Instead of the usual nagging housewife, we have a househusband. Yaazhan (Dulquer Salmaan) is happy managing the house while his wife Mouna (Aditi Rao Hydari) brings home the money.
H Vinoth’s Valimai aspires to be a lot of things. On one hand, it wants to be a slick action-drama, Mission Impossible-style. It also wants to house deep ideological conflicts. But it also doesn’t completely let go of its commercial roots. So while we have grand, high-octane stunt pieces where guns and tech are free-flowing, we also have celebratory dance numbers and an over-emphatic need to deliver ‘messages’ to the audience. Valimai tries to use the best of both worlds but ends up being a kitsch combination of sensibilities.
Vishnu Vishal is one of the few Tamil actors who has made a career out of subverting commercial stereotypes and picking ingenious scripts. Vishnu Vishal’s tryst with content-driven scripts has proved more successful than his commercial films — from Neerparavai to the blockbuster Ratsasan. FIR, his latest release, aspires to be an addition to the list. He plays Irfan Ahmed, a struggling chemical engineer graduate from IIT Madras, who gets ‘framed’ as a terrorist. But is he one?
Manikandan’s films always operate on two levels. There’s a seemingly straightforward story and then, there’s the fine print. For example, Kaaka Muttai was about the permeating effects of globalisation and consumerism in our society. Even for people who miss the subtext, the film holds well as a charming comedy about two kids who lived in a slum and dreamt of having pizza. His films are examples of the middle ground Tamil filmmakers have carved in the mainstream — where social relevance and entertainment are significant equals.
Karthik Subbaraj’s latest film Mahaan, starring Vikram and his son Dhruv, has a lot to say on ideology. Naachi (Simran) hails from a Gandhian family and believes that ‘ideology defines a person.’ Gandhi Mahaan (Vikram), also hailing from a Gandhian family, doesn’t think so. With an austere, ascetic lifestyle being shoved down his throat — by his father, and later Naachi — Gandhi plays along. Until one day, he hits a mid-life crisis and decides to party. The situation escalates and Naachi leaves, taking their son Dada (Dhruv) along with her. Gandhi, on the other hand, ends up on the other extreme — running a liquor business with Sathyavan (Bobby Simhaa) and Rocky (Sananth).
Did you know our brains see men as whole and women as parts? A 2012 study in the European Journal of Social Psychology suggests that our brains process the images of men and women differently. There are two ways — global processing and local processing. Global processing is when your brain identifies objects as a whole. For example, faces. While we know and remember faces in their entirety, we don’t always recognise noses or ears separately without the rest. Local processing focuses more on individual parts of an object. The study says that people (regardless of gender) process female images ‘locally’ (to identify body parts even when they are isolated) while male images were processed globally — a sign of objectification. In a nutshell, men are people, and women are parts.
If you think of cops in Tamil cinema, you are bound to hear Duraisingam bellowing, “Ongi adicha ondra ton weight da.” Or, Aaruchamy saying, “Naa police illa porukki.” You might even hear, “Thimiru dhan pudichavan thimiruke pudichavan” in the background. If you’re an ardent fan of Tamil cinema from the 80s, then a montage of Vijaykanth from various films should run in your mind’s eye. In an industry that is obsessed with larger-than-life heroes, the police force is often used to create brash, loud, messengers of justice.
“We are violent people. Violence namma raththulaye iruku (Violence is our blood),” says Rocky (Vasanth Ravi) to his sister Amutha (Raveena Ravi). The film argues that violence is everywhere. You can either choose to acknowledge and participate or ignore it. But there’s no escaping it. For a long time, Rocky belonged to the former. (He is infamous for disemboweling Manimaaran’s (Bharathiraja) son.) After a seventeen-year jail sentence, Rocky wishes to be the latter. But he is forced to see the violence, quite literally — enemies hold his eyes open to make him see a near one die. After multiple failures, will he finally be able to protect what’s left of his world?
“If I have seen further, it is because I am standing on the shoulders of giants.” Newton’s iconic words have, for long, been used to symbolise progress. But watching Director Vasanth’s Sivaranjaniyum Inum Sila Pengalum (SISP) reminded me of all the battles our women have fought in their drawing rooms. Whatever modest progress we, women, have achieved, is because our female predecessors have fought tooth and nail for it. This isn’t always out of choice; in fact, they happen because there is no choice. When the space for a woman continues to shrink, at some point, she is forced to fight to reclaim it. Dissent becomes survival. SISP, an anthology, brings stories of three women and how they reclaim their space (all of them are stories adapted from short stories by Ashokamithran, Adhavan, and Jeyamohan respectively.)