Ms Representation: A critique of male gaze from within
This weekly column is a rumination on how women are portrayed in cinema and this week the author talks about the gender reversal song, Eva da unna petha, from Tamizh Padam 2
In Tamizh Padam 2, director CS Amudhan offers a critique of the male gaze as an insider, and as a small part of the larger spoof on the state of our films, I appreciated it. Especially considering how a lot of the material on the treatment of heroines in Tamil cinema isn’t as ‘punchy’ as that of our demi-god on screen heroes. While Amudhan deftly deflates the myth-making of men in Kollywood and that paves the way for laughs, when it comes to the women there is a certain depth that seems to have been aimed for beyond just the gags. It is funny and sad.
Amudhan counts the ways in which women are portrayed in these films – as the well-made-up wife of the cop who is fridged over and over again (hello Gautham Menon), as the ‘loosu ponnu’ (mad woman, a spoof of lyrics from songs by Simbu and Mental Manadhil in OK Kanmani), and the general ways in which the (fair) woman on screen is always made duller, dimmer, vacuous and ‘cutesy’ to make the hero look better.
With the song Eva da Unna Petha, Amudhan not only spoofs the many TASMAC songs that are excuses for abusing women in Tamil cinema, but also provides a smattering of a sharp response that decodes the absurdity of the hurt male ego. Even as newspapers continue to report murders of women who are stabbed to death by stalkers as acts of "jilted lovers" and as women continue to be attacked with acid thrown on their faces, men in Tamil cinema get drunk and abuse women for merely exercising free will. For, gasp, saying no to their advances (how dare they!) Glorifying criminal acts against women (adi da avala, odha da avala – hit her, kick her) by, that’s right, "jilted lovers" or asking women "Why this Kolaveri di," when in fact it is the men who literally kill women. It also takes on the karpu (chastity) and culture trope used against women on screen in Tamil cinema.
What I loved the most though was how Amudhan decided to spell out clearly just how big a disservice to women Kollywood is doing. I hope in Tamizh Padam 3, the Agila Ulaga Superstar will be a woman spoofing all the ridiculous things men do as heroes. God knows we need to break this myth-making down, even as the toxicity of this mass hero culture threatens to breakdown any semblance of civil discourse on cinema. Try writing an honest critique of any of these top heroes without attracting hate, abuse and 'memes'. Or just how young men who are part of these fan armies are out there fighting, abusing and some even lading up in jail, for the sake of their 'heroes', while these men thrive on this sort of faux myth-making that eventually leads them all to politics. All of them.