Honestly, I don’t think it matters whether people make or remake Masala movies, just as long as they are done right, because when they are, they are so much fun. Masala movies are the epitome of the Indian Movie Experience. I know quite a few people who argue for the cause of finer film making in India, with more realistic subjects, honest emotions and matter-of-fact endings. Personally, I am against that cause. When I watch a movie, I want to be told that the impossible is possible and that there is no such thing as too much ambition. I want to be told that there are police officers who stop at nothing to uphold law, I want to see bad guys go down for whatever they did wrong and I want to see everyone getting their happily ever after. Cinema, to me, is escape. Besides, if I wanted to watch something “real”, I wouldn’t watch a movie. I’d watch the news.
Love has always been one of Tamil cinema’s favourite narratives, somewhere between Corrupt Politicians and Evil Maternal Uncles. But lately, Tamil Cinema’s interpretation of love the past decade – that is, post 2000 (bet you thought 1990, ha!), I have issues with. The post 2000 decade saw a lot of evolution and shifts – in ideas, thought processes, values, technicalities and more importantly, in stories, the kind of humour people enjoyed, the kind of cast the audience wanted to see on screen, the parts of North India from where heroines were sourced (and consequently cast as the “simple local girl” of some village in interior Tamil Nadu, because let’s face it, if the audience can buy a plot where a guy can become a millionaire overnight by singing in front of a black background, Chandigarh and Theni are practically neighbouring cities), the works. Unfortunately, where the element of romance in Tamil movies was concerned, it was less evolution and more Frankenstein experiment gone wrong.
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.
once in a while, I get all Indiana Jones And The Cave Of Horrors and try to
clean my room up. Now what usually happens in my pursuit of organizational
nirvana (you know, the kind that I can take pictures of and post on instagram
and brag about on twitter) is that I bring everything that’s inside shelves
onto the floor and in the process, discover some boxes of chewing gum that
probably dates back to the Indus Valley Civilization, Salman Rushdie novels
whose pages one to three are very soiled because I kept reading it again and
again trying to understand what he’s saying, but failed miserably and
eventually gave up on reading, lots of notebooks filled with either
miscellaneous calculations for currency swaps or long winding sentences. Then, just
as I’m about to begin the actual cleaning process, my mother calls me to eat
and I end up forgetting all about my mission to make my room fit for human
habitation. Eventually, our Man Friday who comes in the next morning just puts
everything back in its old place, exactly the way it was before – He has a
special talent when it comes to recreating a mess.
yesterday, when I was seriously pursuing my new favourite hobby of time-wasting-on-Pinterest,
I saw a couple of organization blogs which immediately kindled my inner
Organizational Goddess (whose appearance is only more frequent than my inner
Baking Goddess – trust me, you don’t want to ever call her unless you need to
like, burn a kitchen down or something) and keeping in line with protocol, I
started pulling down stuff from shelves when I chanced upon an envelope of
photos that I’d printed and meant to put into an album but like most things I
mean to do, I’d conveniently forgotten about it. So like all people who try to
find excuses to stop cleaning after they make a giant mess, I absolutely had to
go through those pictures and get nostalgic about whatever it was.
turned out they were pictures from our family’s vacation to Hong Kong &
Singapore from a couple of years ago, also known as those 12 days I didn’t have
any internet and it turned out internet is overrated when you actually
have a life. AND THEN I REMEMBERED THAT I NEVER WROTE ANYTHING ABOUT THAT
VACATION ON MY BLOG WHICH IS SO SAD, IN FACT, SADDER THAN THOSE
K.BALACHANDAR MOVIES THEY SHOW ON KTV EVERY WEEKDAY AFTERNOON WHERE EVERYONE
most striking memory from that vacation is when we got to go to one particular
city in China, called Shenzhen, which was apparently the China part of “Made in
China”. It was pretty amazing – apart from all the crazy manufacturing that
they did, it was also the place where they made all the fakes, and not just
designer bags or whatever (That said, the FakeLouisVuitton and FakeGucci bags I
saw were so genuine looking that I’m pretty sure they even made fake FakeLouisVuitton
bags). I mean, they make fake EVERYTHING. They even have this sort of park
where they have fake 7 Wonders of The World. Like Fake Eiffel Tower, Fake
Pyramids, Fake Taj Mahal – it’s faking awesome (See what I did there?).
this story is not about those gorgeous but fake Chanel 2.55 bags I saw there.
This is about how, on our way back to Hong Kong from Shenzhen, we were detained
by passport control at the Train Station, who took us into their office for “questioning”.
My father was very confident that we just happened to be part of their
compulsory random check, and asked us to keep cool, but my mother was totally
freaked out, as if the authorities suspected us to be armed and dangerous
Russian Ninja Assassins who were trying to spark a Nuclear War, which is crazy
because we’re not even Russian. My mother got completely paranoid and suddenly
started chanting Hanuman Chalisa and MantharaRajaPadam Sthothram under her
breath in between high pitched whines in Tamil that involved calling the
Chinese Passport Authorities “Shaniyan”. Very cool.
the middle of all this I was sitting and copying a Chinese character from a
flyer that was next to me, on to the back of my wrist with a black ball point pen.
fifteen minutes later, the Authorities confirmed that we were neither Russian nor
Ninja and let us leave. Just as he let us out, one of the guys at the door,
pointed to my wrist and smiled, which I thought was awesome – maybe my attempts
at copying Chinese characters was what had actually changed their minds and forged
a new bond of trust. I beamed back, fully convinced that I had done my part as
a Future Ambassador to the Country, when I realized his smile was less smile
and more smirk. Two more guys spotted my ballpoint-inked wrist and started giggling. Some Engrish and lots of dubstep dance moves later, I got to know that the flyer that was next to me was about the symptoms of Bird Flu and the character that I had been so intently drawing on my arm was the Chinese symbol for…Diarrhea.
From personal experience, in Chennai at least, I’ve found that making a scene and calling a molester out, especially in a public space, works, because in this city, if there’s anything men like doing more than groping women, it’s playing hero. So do your best to gather a crowd, bring their attention to what’s happened and ask them if they’d stay silent if the same thing happened to their sisters or daughters or wife. Rest assured, they won’t stay silent. When an individual molester gets jungle justice in a public space, it sends out a very clear message to everyone watching – if you molest, you’re going to get mauled. At this point, women, if you see another woman calling out her molester, go and support her right then, right there instead of hesitating/thinking/coming back home and blogging about it or whatever.
So before you teach your son to not rape, teach your sisters to fight back. All these years, we’ve been letting molesters violate our space, simply because we didn’t stand up to them. If there must be change, then this is where it starts – stand up for yourself,because you’re not some delicate wilting wallflower, you’re a woman. And just how progressive are you if you still need a man to fight your battles?
It seems a few people have an issue with a couple of statements in this post. I hope the following clarification will help.
A. “95% of actual/potential molesters can’t read this, or can’t be reached with this.”
I did not claim that 95% of molesters are completely illiterate. I merely claimed that they cannot read and comprehend an argument in English, which this post is. According to the census of India (the latest official stats are 10 years old), only 3.7% of Indians have a college degree, and only 7.7% of Indians have finished 12th standard. (http://www.censusindia.gov.in/Census_Data_2001/Census_Data_Online/Social_and_cultural/Educational_level_and_Age_groups.aspx) Even assuming very liberally that this number has grown by 50% in the last 10 years, that puts graduates at 5.5% and 12th pass-outs at 10%. While several news articles claim that many of our graduates cannot even comprehend English (http://www.deccanherald.com/content/266674/four-10-indian-engineers-cant.html,http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703515504576142092863219826.html), even assuming liberally that 100% of all people who have a 12th+ education can comprehend English language adequately, that still means 90% of Indians cannot comprehend written English. Assuming molesters are equally likely in every educational segment, then it means 90% of molesters can not read this blog either. Sorry for stating 90% as 95%, but my point is that when you write in English in India, you write for a very small section of society, certainly <10%, unless it is something that an educated person can freely pass on to another less-educated person within the confines of normal social interactions.
B. “Thankfully, rape as such is a lot rarer than the sexual harassment and assault that we have all been subjected to.”
According to the National Crime Records Bureau, there were 24,206 reported cases of rape in India in 2011 (http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-07-03/india/32522876_1_ncrb-report-cases-cognizable-crimes). Against a population of 600 million women, that makes about 0.04 incidents per 1000 women per year. We all know that most rape victims in India are afraid to report cases to the police, and even very liberally assuming that ONLY 1 OUT OF 100 of rape incidents were reported to the police, that caps rape at 2.4 million potential incidents a year. Against a female population of 600 million, that is about 4 incidents per 1000 women per year. Compare this statistic to sexual harassment in the form of groping on a public bus, having lewd comments passed on or being threatened/ stalked by strangers, or even having your trust betrayed by a friend/ relative/ employee who touches you in perverted ways. I do not know even one girl who HAS NOT been harassed in such ways, and I am shocked to know that there are those who believe that this form of sexual harassment (which this blog post is about) is not significantly more numerous than rape. In other words, how can you possibly believe that the number of women sexually harassed per year in India is in the order of 1’s/1000 or 10’s/100 instead of 100’s/1000, when almost every girl and woman you know tells you that they have been sexually harassed at some point in their lives?
Hello! So I wrote an article for the very nice people at The Banyan Tree. It’s on How I Fractured My Funny Bone. Read it here! http://thebanyantrees.com/?p=1766