Tollywood vs Women
CE takes a look at misogyny in Telugu cinema, especially the trend to use punchlines that target women in trailers
Who isnt familiar with Chalapathy Rao’s infamous comment at the audio launch of Raarandoi Veduka Chuddam, that led to the entire industry going up in arms against him? But amidst all the hullabaloo of his sexist comment, the fact that the tagline of the film itself was quite sexist itself was lost on everyone. Ammailu manashanthi ki haanikaram (women are injurious to peace of mind) it says. And why drag only Naga Chaitanya’s recent one? Lately, many films have been releasing trailers and teasers whose hook-lines often have a line stereotyping women. While stalking and harassment is commonplace in Telugu cinema, this seems to be the new favourite. Take the most recent trailer which released, Shamantakamani, which is meant to be a heist thriller, it also ends on the note, “Mana kurrollaki ammaila valle problems bro”. Why this kolaveri? CE explores.
Always the focus
Although trailers and promotional videos are the new trend, the misogyny has existed for ages. Or so opines Prema Malini, film journalist, “The focus has always been on women. Films have always been opinionated about how a woman is or should be. Earlier it used to be a projection of an oh-so-chaste woman as the heroine and now it’s about a complicated young girl who can’t be understood.” Either way, women are objectified and generalised as per the ongoing trend she says. “In short, women have always been the selling point. Now it is through these meme-worthy one-liners,” she sums it up.
Ammailu chala danger roi chala danger
(Women are dangerous)
Kittu Unnadu Jagratha:
Ammailu, Mandu okate ra macha
(Women and alcohol are the same)
Ammailaki idi common e kada. Bakra okadu stand by okadu
(It's usual for women to take advantage of men)
Rarandoi Veduka Chuddam:
Ammailu aarogyaniki Hanikaram
(Women are injurious to health)
Ammailu inthe. Anni alavatlu unna vadni premistaru, ye alavatu leni vadni pelli cheskntaru
(Women pick men with bad habits to love, and those without to marry)
Mana kurrollaki ammaila valle problems bro
(Our men suffer from women-related issues)
A commercial ruse
Selling point, women certainly are. Mahesh Kathi, film critic, explains, “If you notice, the scene in Rarandoi... which was applauded the most in theatres was the one where Naga Chaitanya bashes Rakul about her behaviour. So it clearly has an appeal amongst the masses.” And the appeal is not necessarily qualitative. “It must be noted that the target audience for most movies are youngsters, of which the theatre-going ones are mainly men. So selling the trailer to appeal to their target audience is merely a strategy. Taglines which stereotype women are merely a lure to drive these audience into the theatre, no matter what the actual content consists of,” he says adding, “And it does seem to work.”
Time to call it out
As much as using women to sell the movie is common practice, Varsha Bhargavi, a women and child rights activist, says it’s time to speak against it. “Movies have been a major influence on the society and they have to be responsible about the content they make,” she asserts. “Perpetuating gender roles and propaganda against women is definitely getting out of hand. It is the responsibility of everyone to call it out,” says Varsha.
Perspectives notwithstanding, women do seem to be the object of interest for Telugu movie makers and audience alike. Whether it helps in promoting equality or only promotes the shunning of women’s attitude is ultimately in the hands of the filmmakers.