Editor’s Note: This month, that is November 2019, FII’s #MoodOfTheMonth is Regional Indian Cinema, where we invite various articles on regional films (Bengali, Telegu, Gujarati, Tamil Cinema etc.) from across the country which have had some impact on you or on the society, in either positive or negative, or in both ways. If you’d like to share your story, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Don’t go behind and beg her. We should make them beg us“. *Applause*.
“Girls who get too angry and men who get too greedy will never prosper in life“. *Thunderous whistles*
“You can touch a girl anywhere, first, touch her heart“. *Claps, whistles, and high-fives!*
If you think these are callous statements made by extremely misogynistic men, haha! welcome to the world of Tamil Cinema. This is a tiny sample of what is considered normal dialogues for the ‘hero’-worshipping audience. I am a proud Tamilian. I was born in one of the southernmost towns in Tamil Nadu, but grew up (and continue to grow up every day) around the world. The staunch Tamilian in me seeks out Tamil movie screenings even in the most remote part of the globe. I have watched Superstar Rajinikanth’s Sivaji at a College Auditorium in NewZealand and his 2.0 at a super-shady cinema in Finland.
As much as I love to watch these movies with the same enthusiasm as any Tamil cinema fan, I always feel let down when our heroes make unforgivable misogynistic statements to reinforce their vain macho image. And, the audience laps it up with deafening claps. And, worryingly, many of them internalize it.
As much as I love to watch these movies with the same enthusiasm as any Tamil cinema fan, I always feel let down when our heroes make unforgivable misogynistic statements to reinforce their vain macho image.
One of the early signs of warning of the rising objectification of women was the coining of the term “figure“. Although I can’t trace the exact origin, the 80’s and 90’s were producing movies where heroes and their friends would invariably be at a college/bus-stand/bar/office referring to women as “figure“. There was no more talk of her beauty (which too is problematic); everyone was a “figure“. Sadly, it gained a permanent place in the urban dictionary and soon became part of normal conversations everywhere.
I would hear boys hanging around my all-girls school use it, boys in my college use it and worryingly, young men in my office cafeteria use it. It never seemed to bother anyone that such a term was disrespectful. Every time I would ask someone to refrain from using it against some other girl, I would get mocked for lecturing and that they were just being funny. An entire generation of impressionable boys has grown up with an inherent thought that this is okay. No hero has told them otherwise
To make matters worse, most women in the movies are portrayed as “dim-witted” girls with questionable IQs, with no serious career aspirations or life aspirations for that matter.
To make matters worse, most women in the movies are portrayed as “dim-witted” girls with questionable IQs, with no serious career aspirations or life aspirations for that matter. They merely exist to walk in slow motion, look pretty, blush, catch the hero’s attention, at first reject his ‘proposal’ but ultimately pine and yearn and ache for him, in the same predictable sequence. But when they are portrayed as women who can talk against the hero, they are smacked down and shown their place.
Take the Santhanam’s movie, the pathetic “Dhillukku Dhuddu” for instance where the woman character does the unthinkable task of teasing the hero. So Santhanam immediately ‘teaches’ her a lesson by slapping her and hence, making her pine, yearn and ache for him. Actors like Santhanam represent everything that is wrong with the Tamil cinema. He has made a livelihood by getting claps for cheap jokes belittling women.
Also read: Dear Tamil Cinema, Let Brown Women Play The Role Of Brown Women
In one of his biggest hits “Oru Kal Oru Kannadi“, he ‘sight adichufies‘ (which is, unfortunately, another very common and acceptable word for ogling) random women on the road and literally spits when he finds one ‘sappa figure‘ (super ugly) woman. It is shocking to see the audience fall over their seats laughing at something this crass.
In reality, this is no laughing matter. It reinforces a false sense of entitlement that make men think that such behaviour is justifiable. Women are leered at, gawked at, rated on a scale of ‘semma figure‘ to ‘attu figure‘ (best to worst), thanks to these degrading movie references.
Every time I watch a new movie with a young hero of the current generation, I hope that they would put an end to such nonsense, but they do not. Be it Vishal or Atharva or Sivakarthikeyan who takes immense pride in his movie being family-friendly, there is at least one dialogue that objectifies women. Even Jyotika, who strives to make movies that portray women with worthy causes can’t seem to make a movie without a reference to ‘figure‘. You can watch her new movie Jackpot in which two boys discuss each other’s girlfriends in objectionable terms.
I do hope with all my heart with cherries on top that people realize that this needs to be taken seriously. Censor Board, rather than banning good content, should ideally ban the word “Figure“.
Also read: How Tamil Cinema Normalises And Promotes Rape Culture
Heroes, directors in the Tamil cinema circuit and audiences alike, should realize that in this age of growing women’s empowerment, the word “figure” is disgusting, offensive, degrading and just not acceptable.
Aarthi is a massive movie-buff. When she is not working on tech articles as a Content Strategist or winging it on being a mum to a feisty 6 year old girl, she is lining up a list of movies to binge. After sharing a lot of feminist banter with over-enthusiastic friends and highly-disapproving uncles, she has now started writing about it. You can find her on Facebook.
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