Lakshmi- Feminism? or not?

I believe that movies are a great medium to talk to the masses. Of course, it is a one-way communication mode, but it makes us think. Powerful stories with the apt background score and cinematography can create magic on screen. Short films are no less effective than feature films.

My post is about the short film, Lakshmi, and its widespread discussion in the social media.

The movie is about a woman in a sad marriage and her thoughts. It doesn’t stop with her thoughts, it manifests in her actions too. At least for a short while. I am not spoiling the movie further, please do watch it here. (It has subtitles too!)

So a few of my friends tagged me in one of the discussion pages where the movie was being dissected beyond the normal level of human comprehension. I mean, it is a movie. It could represent the societal realities as much as it represents the overhyped and unrealistic aspects. But a few comments alarmed me. When did this become anything related to feminism?

Nobody questions when a man cheats on his wife, but why is the hell breaking loose when a woman does the same? asked one of the ‘feminist pages’.

From what I saw, this had zilch to do with feminism or the absence of it. The movie was about abusive marriage and infidelity as a tool to set off such abuse in the marriage. How is it even justified? The last I checked, two wrongs do not make one right. Just because one person in the marriage is abusive, it is not a license to indulge in an extra-marital affair. It does not address the problem. It creates a new problem for the couple.

Individual freedom is a different concept from relationship rules. Any relationship revolves around an unsaid charter, I feel. There are points classified as Green, Yellow and Red light ones, signifying the acceptability of each of them. The red ones are the deal breakers. What I don’t understand is that why is everything linked to feminism these days? So much that the mere term scares even the well-meaning people off.

I personally felt that if one is in an abusive marriage, one must either talk and sort it out or walk out of the marriage. The individual frustration is not a good reason to cheat on the significant other.

In fact, the movie left the crucial bits to the audience to conclude. So the views might change according to the way each of us perceived those crucial junctures. I liked the movie for what it is though. It made me reflect on the ideals of a relationship.

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Mindless thoughts after a movie

Three love stories. Two had a ‘happily ever after’ ending.

A fiery-filmy one, a slow and uncertain one and a mature one. It is confusing, isn’t it? I was just speed-watching the movie Kandukondein Kandukondein and couldn’t help but notice the contrasts in the storylines.

I am not sure if the director meant the audience to notice this. Did he imply that the fiery, too-good-to-be-true affair to fizzle out eventually and the ones that withstand the odds to survive at the end? I really don’t know.

A tiny note about this movie- Amazing songs, beautiful cinematography (worth remembering for a long time) and star cast. 

I am not qualified to talk about love or relationships. Heck, my reputation till recently was of ‘breaking up relationships’. No, before you conclude, let me explain why.

If someone asks me for a ‘relationship advice’ (dressed up term for ranting about the significant other), I listen. I listen with all the patience I can possibly muster. I realise at the 23rd minute of the rant that this person is just a party to an abusive relationship and is being taken for a ride by that other person. So, as a good Samaritan, what do I do? I express my expert opinion on that subject.

It is not as if one aims to split people up. Often I find people getting swept away by the glitz and glamour of a relationship. The honeymoon phase, you know. It is after it wears off that one gets to the evaluation mode. So yes. I advise. Free of cost and only when solicited.

So post that phone call, these people wake up from their self-imposed slumber and see what I said. They understand the nitty-gritty of my opinion and the rest is history.

So back to this movie, I was wondering what would I have done, if it was my friend, who fell for Bharathiyar poems? ( I would totally fall for the poems, for the record, and not the guy who recites it. Okay, maybe for the guy who sings it just like Hariharan did in Suttum Vizhi Sudar thaan) Would I have stepped in, suo motu and given her/him a piece of my mind? Probably no.

Over the years, the one thing that I learnt the hard way was to not give my opinion on something unless asked for it. Expert opinion is not meant to be given free of cost, right? I just smile and move on. Whatever has to happen, will happen.

I also was surprised that the director chose to make the underrated love stories in that movie, a success. I was talking about this to my mom. We often discuss these issues. She says that a relationship must be tested as much as possible before it becomes anything significant, culturally ( you know the socio-cultural ceremonies and recognition). She says that it must witness quarrels, distance, possessiveness, helplessness and a whole range of concepts before one can safely trust it.

I am not sure I agree with this fully. To an extent, yes. It makes sense. I would go for the practical aspects of any relationship to its theoretical version. To carry my SO in my pocket and roam around is just impossible. Even if we decide to take the plunge, it is not as if we are gonna sync our office timings to the T and spend amaaaazing weekends together. C’mon! I have seen my parents, and hell no! They don’t do that. And theirs is the perfect marriage I have ever known.

So is love a compromise? A decision? or an impulsive feeling? Did Meenakshi settle to marry Bala because he was the most accessible and available person then? Did Mano come back to marry his love because he knew she would remain unmarried for the rest of her life, given her so-called bad luck?

I must not be allowed to watch movies. Hence proved.

Lipstick Under My Burkha- An Afterthought

 

This post comes as an afterthought. A thought that cropped up in me after having watched the movie, Lipstick Under My Burkha.

The movie is about four women, from different walks of life. Each of them is dealing with their own set of problems. There is also a rule book prescribed for those women by the society which they are expected to adhere to at all times.

There is this middle aged widowed woman, who is seen as the bold and uncompromising matriarch of an entire mohalla. She commands respect and is warm to those living there. A young mother of three, who is seen working in a job and doing great at it, all unaware to her husband. Inside the confines of their bedroom, she is just seen as a woman who is supposed be an object of pleasure for him. An unmarried girl, who is forced to take painful decisions regarding her own wedding, because of many other constraints. This girl is seen as a repository where the woes of the other women are shared for consolation. Lastly, there is a young college girl, who yearns to live in her own free world, devoid of a burkha.

The stories of all these women are related and yet parallel. They all represent a certain class of our society and the expectations the society has of them, how ever unreasonable those expectations might be. Each of the above-mentioned women has been suppressed in various ways, which makes for a disturbing revelation later on in the movie.

I loved the way this movie opens a can of worms. I was left with the question of substitution. Would the degree of ostracising be the same, if it were men in the places of those women? One can only imagine. The movie, in a way, portrays what is wrong with the social set-up that we live in. The different rule book, the unrealistic expectations, the fear of being slut-shamed, the reluctance to assert one’s own preference or sexuality for that matter, everything.

The dark undertones (lighting) in around half the movie might be to convey the dark reality of the society that we live in.

Personally, I loved the movie for having been a mirror to our lives, and I swear any woman could relate to at least one scene in this movie on a personal level. The movie moves a tad slow at places, but overall, I enjoyed it. I just fervently hope that this spirit does not die down.

 

Thoughts from the Hull

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A noon show of the movie Titanic pushed me to write this post.

One particular scene in this movie always stumps me hard. The scene where Jack makes Rose promise that she will not die that night and not let go of her hopes of staying alive. He goes on to say that she must move on, have a lot of babies and die a peaceful death in her warm bed.

To people with critical eyes, it might seem too good to be true. I mean, how on Earth would have those two lived a fulfilling life, had they gotten together. Differences would have definitely crept in, breaking them apart. Right? Maybe, I say.

Thinking deeply, I realise that most of us have gone through this phase. The phase of letting people we love, go. A point comes where ‘we’ gets unhappy and the other person seems to be better off without us. What do we do then? Should we cling on to them or should we move on?

Would moving on be seen as an act of selfishness or indifference? Or would it seem cowardly? There is no right or wrong here. There is a lot of grey areas in the world that seems black and white.

But then, I ask, isn’t that what love is all about? You care for a person so much that their happiness and welfare matters to you more than your idea of togetherness. At times, I have also felt that may be a considerable number of divorces too happen with this as the underlying thought. We want the person we love to be happy. We see that they can be happier elsewhere and we decide to move on. That’s it.

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Rose, in the end, says that the heart of a woman is an ocean of secrets. I have to disagree, albeit a little. The heart of any human being is a deep ocean of dark secrets. Nobody but that person knows what brews inside the multiple layers of thoughts and memories. One can always decide to shut the door towards a particular chamber of memories and throw away the keys. One can choose to keep the keys to himself too. Or one can choose to take that occasional sneak-peek through the keyhole and be done with it. It is just as dark and deep, but hauntingly beautiful. So beautiful that it aches your heart.

Ulaga Nayakan

When one can go and write about the style factor, one should also write about the talent factor. That is what fairplay teaches us. Who else can fit into the tag of ‘Ulaga Nayakan’ better than Padmashri Kamal Hassan?

Born in the southern town of Paramakudi, Kamal Hassan has been around, in the filmdom, since one can remember. The earliest memory of seeing Kamal Hassan in movies in like the one in the image below, probably a tad younger too.

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He has been acting for a very long while now and trust me when I say that he is one actor who would fit in to any role given to him with elan and do his homework meticulously. Also, he is one actor who doesn’t bother about his leading ladies much. Remember Kovai Sarala in Sathi Leelavathy?

Personally I have a few movies of him that are close to my heart. Sathi Leelavathy, Anbe Sivam, Panchathanthiram, Vasool Raja MBBS etc to name a few. These movies make my day, every time I watch them and are worth every minute I spend watching them.

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He is one actor who is unabashedly himself in real life and is multi talented. He can write poetry and screenplays, debate and sing with equal mastery, just as acting. Many of his movies have not been commercially successful when they were released, but went on to become cult movies later on.

While people fell for the Superstar for his charm and style, Ulaganayakan ensnared people with his sheer talent and superfine acting. He is probably the only actor now, who effortlessly can be called as an ‘actor’.

Do watch his movies to catch various faces of Ulaganayakan. 

 

Padayappa and The Women

“En vazhi, thani vazhi”

How much have we clapped and swooned for this line? Uttered in repetition by our own Thalaiva, Padayappa is a movie that we would watch time and again, to just enjoy. My earliest memory of this movie is going to the theatre with Appa and Amma and watching the movie unfold in the big screen, in all its glory. I was all of 6 or 7 years of age then. This was infact the first and last movie that I watched with family in theatre.

Padayappa is a typical Rajinikanth+ K.S Ravikumar movie. A “Good wins over the Evil” type of storyline with a nothing less than God Hero, a coy and shy heroine, the usual masala sentiments and motions running high amidst family feud over wealth. Now what this post isn’t is a movie review or a technical analysis. No. That is not my thing to do. This post is something else.

After watching the movie a couple of times after I grew up, I understood that more than the style of Thalaivar and the usual jingoisms and cliches of the Director, the thing that makes me want to go back is the quality of the female characters in the story. Who could forget the oomph of our own Neelambari or the typical ideal coy bride that was Vasundhara?

Let me try and give what those characters in the story meant to me.

Anitha- Padayappa’s daughter

This woman is born out of a wedlock that was filled with nothing but love and moral values. She is sent out of town for her studies and comes back, educationally qualified and in love with a young las, who typically hails from a forbidden family ( Movies guys!!). Now she hides the affair from her parents obeying somebody else who claims to be her well-wisher and causes insult to her father in front of a whole lot of people. Now, after all the ususal drama that goes on for this, when Padayappa asks her about the affair, she stands her ground and affirms that she loves the guy and she is not going to be betrayed into falsities in the name of love.

This, I think, was such a moment when the confidence of Anitha comes out. She stands for her love and is confident about her decision. Power to her!

Padayappa’s Sister- Played by Sithara

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She is cheated by her fiance who runs of to marry another girl, from her own extended family, because of wealth and fame. She stews in her misery and is speechless as to her future. Gradually in the gap of one song, she finds her ground and comes back stronger to become a teacher and also marry another man, who is a better human being. She loves her groom to bits and is unapologetic in having done so. She has not one bit of regret and she doesn’t get wasted in the name of love, like many other contemporary women who have been portrayed to do. Setting aside the stupidity of the song, I admired the way she gathered herself up. That is what we call guts and courage.

Padayappa’s mother- Played by Lakshmi

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Losing her husband might have shook her world , but she was not the one to be pushed over. She stood by her children till the end and made sure that they remain happy. She had many, many opportunities to succumb to the pressure of being a single parent and dance to the tune of others around, but she chose to live by the legacy of her family that she has raised and by the principles that she had set for herself.  Women who put their devastating past behind and look forward are the ones who end up ruling the world and the hearts of many out there!

Neelambari

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Ah! Where do I even begin? A woman who is born into a rich family, pampered to bits by the family, comes back into town and falls for the most eligible bachelor there. The bachelor, like anybody who watched Rajinikanth movies would expect, shuns her saying all the possible misogynistic reasons ( Remember? “Nan oru pombalaya kalyanam panniknum nu aasa padren” and the various criteria that he doles out for a woman ranging from “nidhaanam” to “not being a bajaari”). She tries to get to the guy by hook or crook only to be outwitted by him at every juncture. All is fair in Love and War, you see? The guy goes on to marry his “ideal” woman and lives happily ever after. She ends up becoming the most loser version of a psycho and locks herself up in a room. Story ends. Or does it?

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Nope. This is where it actually begins.

She comes out after a self imposed exile of 18 years, in a more ravishing appearance and style. (She steals the thunder totally after this and Whattey friggin screen presence man!) She schemes and plots the downfall of the guy whom she had the hots for and still ends up being outwitted. She refuses to succumb. She shoots herself in the end, thus dying a death that boosts up her ego bigtime and gives her the eternal satisfaction of having won over the guy.

What I observed meanwhile was that she ended up alone. She didn’t marry anybody else because she wanted him and only him. In an era of “Beep songs” and “Pombalainga kaadhala thaan nambi vidadhey” this was refreshing for me. She totally ruled the space and I am sure that nobody else could have done this any better! Total surender to the woman who lived as Neelambari.

The equality of women was also mentioned here and there in the movie. Those mild gestures interspersed with the storyline are such a treat to watch and I have no regrets at all in being a complete fan of this movie. Gives me a fresh perspective, every single time.