The recent interview of Anupama Chopra with Sandeep Reddy Vanga, Kabir Singh’s director has brought into focus the following list of topics that has been prevalent among us but was not proudly celebrated in the open. With the release of such a film celebrating violence and selling it to the public under the name of ‘romance’, we must investigate the larger structure popularizing this patriarchal streak that the director, fans and the actor seem to be endorsing.
We live in a multicultural society that has witnessed the birth of different ‘-isms’ and nomenclatures. The understanding of society has also been in constant transience with time but what sustains through this process of ever-changing perspectives is the willingness to accommodate to changes.
It is true that love is a feeling that cannot be limited and boxed under one definition. But it becomes pertinent to understand the “personal and social dimensions of love to explore how love might be approached” is an intricate part of our living. Which is to say that the feeling of love demarcates and dismantles the difference between the public and private, the personal and the social. Like Franz Fanon said, “love could be considered sociogenic, where the sociological factors interact with individual psyche.”
When Anupama constantly nudged him to see through the thick sheets of misogyny in his story line and characters, he defended them by saying, “Intimidation has its own charm.”
It is necessary to understand this, because Sandeep Reddy started with a statement as a reply to Anupama’s question on his anticipation at the level of criticism that the film received. He replied proudly, “When you question their belief system, that is when they get angry.”
This was followed by Sandeep accusing the critics for their “pseudo criticism.” His argument was that a true and constructive criticism would look at all aspects of cinema making without restricting oneself just to the portrayal of characters. When Anupama constantly nudged him to see through the thick sheets of misogyny in his story line and characters, he defended them by saying, “Intimidation has its own charm.”
It seems that the director is talking about a love that is painfully divided to a point where the line of equality seems to fade into the oblivion. It has taken our society a very long fight to even acknowledge our rights and condemn the harsh mistreatment done against women under the various banners of ‘love’, ‘marriage’ and ‘romance.’ By endorsing unequal power dynamics within the relationship, the story incites us to go back several years where popular culture portrayed ‘intimidation’ as ‘desirable.’
Following the trail of intimidation, he also points at a Tamil film, Paruthiveeran for being more violent than his film, and despite its violence, he says that the film has won National award. However, what Sandeep Reddy fails to do is learn how to make a linear comparison between two different films that engages with two different topics. Kabir Singh deals with a misogynistic ill-tempered alcoholic man who is portrayed as the ‘tragic hero’ and on the other hand, characters from the film Paruthiveeran, both male and female leads engages with severe caste-based discrimination.
The violence in the film, Paruthiveeranis an effect of the the society’s disparity towards people on the basis of caste. The female lead in the film is fierce, assertive and strong, even in the face of violence. Kabir Singh, on the other hand, as the director points out in the interview, tries to ignite the violence of misogyny by stating that, “In every person there is a Kabir within them and they do not express it due to many reasons.”
It is unsettling to watch this interview and not feel uneasy. The way in which Sandeep Reddy talks about abusiveness by shrouding it under the blanket of ‘true love’ makes one question if love could be so unsettling and regressive. Bell Hooks, an American feminist wrote, “There can be no love without justice,” and extending Fanon’s sociogenic concept of love, she adds, “Men who embrace patriarchy must actively surrender the longing to love.” This is because “A love ethic presupposes that everyone has the right to be free, to live fully and well.”
The way in which Sandeep Reddy talks about abusiveness by shrouding it under the blanket of ‘true love’ makes one question if love could be so unsettling and regressive.
Again, there is no advocacy of just one kind of love because there are different kinds of loves that exist. What is important is to prevent the different forms of loves from the dangers of falling prey to the subtle ways in which they could be subjugated and shredded apart. The argument that often surfaces when spoken against the inherent misogyny of a popular culture’s icon is the normalization of it through looking at it as just a piece of art.
Sadly, the “art for art’s sake” here generates archetypes in real life similar to the models of regressive characters shown in the cinema. Sandeep Reddy pointed out accurately that he makes “product” keeping in mind the demand in the “market” and this outright business that he so proudly proclaims reeks of toxic neo-liberalism that lures its audience into conforming to the ideals of “true love” that only caters to destruction in real life.
Considering our present day political climate it becomes impossible for us to ignore the patriarchy that flows beyond the film. When Anupama asked if Kabir would have taken care of his ‘anger issues’ after his happy ending with Preeti, Sandeep said, “Everyone changes after having kids.” The importance of having a child for bettering the situation within the family is a key way through which patriarchy has functioned within the family set up. The need to have “kids” to make things smoother within the familial relations pushes us back to the place of conflict that we are trying to evolve out of.
Sandeep’s interview has been a matter of discussion that shocked everyone. His contestations is drenched with backwardness without a basic understanding of ‘equality.’ Anupama, throughout her interview had to constantly provoke him to see sense in the criticism against the film. Despite her efforts, Sandeep turned blind eye to the realities of the kind of violence that his film is propagating.
ANUPAMA, THROUGHOUT HER INTERVIEW HAD TO CONSTANTLY PROVOKE HIM TO SEE SENSE IN THE CRITICISM AGAINST THE FILM. DESPITE HER EFFORTS, SANDEEP TURNED BLIND EYE TO THE REALITIES OF THE KIND OF VIOLENCE THAT HIS FILM IS PROPAGATING.
As a resistance to his atrocious interview a lot of women on Twitter posted their personal stories of abuse by Kabir-Singh-like ‘Alpha male’ and their horrific experiences dealing with them. What is important to note here is, for the patriarchal society to understand the difference between rights and wrongs, it has become necessary for women to constantly recount horrors of their pasts. Through the twitter stories one could trace similarities between Kabir Singh, Sandeep Vanga and their harasser in real life.
So the question is: Is it a strategy to reinstate violence and wrap it in the name of love? More importantly, should love be punishing, taking away one’s dignity? The ‘true’ love that Sandeep talks about in his interview is coloured with sexism and horrors of the past. In a society such as ours, we are constantly battling against discrimination. Popular media is a place everyone spends a major chunk of time in. Wouldn’t it be a manipulation of masses if a film glorifies its patriarch as a tragic hero?
The idealization of womanhood that Sandeep spoke about in his interview is the same as the character played by Kiara Advani. “Intelligent, speaks less” said Sandeep in his interview. Hence, let us all sit back and contemplate the dangers the film and its director has imposed on us. Let us also think why the film has done so well in the box office. If this is a society that requires us women to stay mute, then let us come out more fiercely that ever because we will no more be “a mad woman in the attic.”
- Love by Keguro Macharia
- Backsteet Girls by Meena Kandasamy
- Sandeep Reddy Vanga interview by Film companion
Featured Image Source: Masala!