[Originally Written For Talk Magazine, Bangalore]
Modern romance and love in Tamil cinema has taken the two steps forward and ten steps back route – basically an urban, real, raw story with a 1980s Naatamai ending. Now the urban, real, raw hero’s idea of an urban, real, raw romance is basically harassment, and that he gets his way at the end of it, is really disconcerting, because if you peel the sticker of “hero” away, all you get is your everyday stalker who hangs around in your bus stop. Whenever I see these kinds of movies, as a girl, I feel seriously offended. It’s not even just about the harassment, but that the hero-stalker believes that he’s been victimized because the girl “rejected” him – it’s, for the lack of a better word, bogus. What’s even more bogus is that after the relentless pursuit, harassment and invasion of personal space, the heroine realizes that he’s the absolute one for her and that he is actually a really lovable guy in his own urban, real, raw way.
It’s important to note that Tamil Cinema is an education by itself for most people, which is why “mass” heroes always have a title song about important values like doing good, praising the lord, living in villages, charging correct autofares, the lot. So when movies that glorify harassment and teasing and “correcting” the deviant ways of women (which includes wearing jeans) it is not just validation, but encouragement for that kind of behaviour to thrive. Every time I see the upper middle class to rich, educated, heroine falling for the “diamond-in-the-rough” Prince Charming psychopath who had to call her crude names to win her heart, I can’t help but wonder if the Directors would be okay with their sisters doing the same, their daughters doing the same. Ah, but it’s only a movie!
There is no equality or balance in the equation anymore. The girl isn’t an object of affection, but prey, like some exotic deer rabbit that our hero has to hunt down to prove his ability as an expert marksman. And the girl has no say in this, because if she’s not interested, she’s simply heartless. Or doesn’t have morals. Or both. Because you know, this is how urban, real, raw love stories are! Here’s an idea for a realistic movie – boy sees girl, boy follows girl, girl says no, boy still keeps following, girl says no, boy doesn’t listen, boy keeps following, girl asks him to stop, boy gets angry, says she doesn’t deserve any better, tells her that the only good decision she can take right now is to reciprocate his truelove, girl tells the police, they put him in jail, the end!
This rant comes from a place that is sick of watching extreme creepiness being peddled as “romance.” 7G Rainbow Colony, for instance, was a huge exercise in frustration. Oru Kal Oru Kannadi gave me blood pressure. Avan Ivan made me want to punch a wall or two.
At this point I’d like to reaffirm my love for Tamil Cinema. I love the experience, to just sit in the theatre and watch an ordinary man becoming something larger than life in a span of three hours is an experience that is unparalleled. But when things start hitting you closer to home, it becomes uncomfortable and consequently unbearable. Recently, when I talked about this with a friend, he pointed out to the classic (and probably the greatest) Romantic Comedy of our generation, Singaravelan.
I love that movie to the point where I can quote entire scenes off it. But when I think about it now, something doesn’t feel right. Underneath the hilarity, there are a lot of questions – why did Sumathi have to change her wardrobe to only Sarees after she decided she was in love with Velan? Velan had made a family promise to marry Sumathi, yes, but does that justify the endless pursuing? I think the reason Singaravelan stands out and makes you want to forgive it’s subtle moral lessons/misgivings is because it gave us a chase, not a hunt, and it gave us two characters that even the audience wanted to get together, it gave us romance, unlike the movies of today where all you want to do while watching it is get right into the movie screen, grab the “hero" and punch his face.