Viewfinder: The bizarro world of film promotions
Taking off from the recent Radha Ravi controversy, the writer talks about how film-related events are becoming lesser about films and more about random offensive statements
If someone took you blindfolded into a film-related event, these days, you’d have trouble figuring out where you are, if you were trying to go by the speeches being delivered. Celebrities — some connected to the film, many not — often ramble about topics that the film has little connection to, that they know little about anyway. Some have been known to use the opportunity to bring visibility to their own issues (like producer Thenappan did at the trailer launch of Kee, when he decided to open up over his issues with STR). Some indulge in attempts at humour that go awry (like Kasthuri’s dig about Sivakumar’s cellphone-swatting incident, at the audio launch of July Kaatril). Another case of an ill-advised attempt at humour is when Mysskin attempted to explain his love for Mammootty with the word ‘rape’, at the audio launch of Peranbu. But at least, his horrible comment was in relation to the film the event was about. Thank god for small mercies.
You never know what to expect from these events. You know not to expect it to be about the film it’s supposed to be about though. In the explosive world of film personalities, everything is unpredictable. You must tread carefully because there is no telling what will tick off a celebrity. Radha Ravi, at a promotional event for Iraivi, lost his cool when his name wasn’t mentioned by the emcee. It was a similar problem for T Rajendar at the press meet of Dhanshika’s Vizhithiru a year and a half ago. Dhanshika had not mentioned his name in the list of people she expressed gratitude to, and this was enough for Rajendar to tear into her and reduce her to tears. When she said sorry, he made the strange observation that a woman who was ‘not wearing saree was saying sorry’. This is what promotional events have come to. Petty insults, random observations, unconnected rambling, misogyny disguised as humour… And on Saturday, we got a speech that was all of the above, a speech from familiar rabble-rouser, Radha Ravi, at the trailer launch of Nayanthara’s Kolaiyuthir Kaalam.
As destiny will have it, he began his 25-minute rambling by wondering why he was invited to talk in the first place, given that he wasn’t part of the film. Unflustered, he carried on with his speech, flitting from one topic to another. He made light of the Pollachi case with a couple of horrible joke attempts; he lapsed into a jibe at mobile phone addiction; he stumbled on to another insult about people voting for money. It was the usual Radha Ravi insult-laced fare, but suddenly, from out of nowhere, he turned his crosshairs at Nayanthara. Without dignifying his speech by elaborating in detail, suffice it to say that he slut-shamed her, discredited her, and slammed her credentials for playing Sita (a reference to her role in the Telugu film, Sri Rama Rajyam). Seemingly satisfied with his attack on Nayanthara (who wasn’t present at the event), he made a strange detour to attack Anita Udeep’s 90ML and make proud proclamations about his own alcohol tolerance. Before he wrapped it all up, he praised Pariyerum Perumal, but as is the nature of his speeches, insulted it too — and called it boring. The rambling or the general toxicity may not be a surprise, but the sheer brazenness of his attack on Nayanthara is. It is, even by film event standards, shocking.
We have seen in the past that any time an incident or speech has threatened to blow into something horrible, celebrities have looked to explain it all away by suggesting that it was all part of a masterplan to garner attention (they probably mean notoriety) for the film. After her Sivakumar diss, Kasthuri tweeted as much. At the end of his unprovoked bitter speech targetting Dhanshika, T Rajendar said as much. At the time of this piece being written, media personalities and celebrities had begun voicing out against Radha Ravi’s comments. You know what this means. We probably will be told that it was all a big ploy for the film’s promotion. This time at least, I hope we don’t buy it.