Ms Representation: A journey through time to denigrate women
This weekly column is a rumination on how women are portrayed in cinema, and this week the author discusses Dikkiloona
A clip from Santhanam’s latest Zee5 release Dikkiloona made waves on social media (no, it’s not Anagha dancing to Per Vechalum). In this trending clip, Mani (Santhanam) criticises a woman for wearing a little black dress. “Freedom is not living as per your wishes but living in a manner that’s acceptable to society,” says Mani, who probably graduated in freedom at the Whatsapp University. The clincher comes next. He says, “Konjam izhutha avundhrum, idhu suthanthiram”. The first question is, why should someone tug on her dress? Let’s bypass that for a moment though. Mani is wearing a veshti in the said scene. Is he saying his ‘virtuous’ veshti would not come off were someone to tug at it?
I chanced upon this cursed video before seeing the film. I thought it was enough to set the stage for the film, and yet, Dikkiloona’s crimes are more sinister. Every sexist trope of Tamil cinema finds a place in this film, including new ones like Daddy’s Little Princess. It doesn’t stop with criticising the woman; it uses time travel to completely absolve the man of any responsibility and worse, validate his sexist expectations. Even worse, if that were possible, women in this universe show no intellect or sense. The heroines (Priya played by Anagha and Meghna played by Shirin Kanchwala) are written with mind-boggling inconsistencies and patriarchal platitudes.
Mani travels to 2020 from 2027 to stop his marriage. Why? Because he is disillusioned with his marriage to Priya. She is now a ‘sidumoonji’, one who calls him every five minutes to enquire about whereabouts. She also sits, with her feet up (the audacity!). She fights with Mani’s parents for imposing unrealistic demands on her, a working woman who’s also running a home. What has Mani done meanwhile? Lie about his career and refuse to take financial or domestic responsibility for the family. Continuously insult Priya’s father. Ignore a pregnancy and her subsequent depression. And yet, Mani is irate that Priya refuses to sleep with him. It is clearly ‘torture’ for Mani! “Chiththi kodumaikku mela enakku oru wife amanjuruche,” he sings. It seems that a wife’s job is to pamper her husband. Isn’t that what our culture dictates?
Enter Meghna, Priya’s friend. Coming off a divorce herself, she tells Mani that Priya doesn’t deserve him. “Oru wife-a un talent-a ava velila kondu varave illa. If it had been me, unna parakka vittu vedikka pathrupen,” she says. But our hero, being the righteous man he is, sticks to being with his wife. Now you would think he may attempt to repair his relationship with Priya. But instead, he hops on the time machine to change the past. Why acknowledge mistakes when he can start over and find a new wife, or as he thinks of her, a babysitter?
Except now, Meghna suddenly becomes a bratty rebel who only cares about herself. The woman who allegedly made her ex-husband a business tycoon is the same woman who now does not want her husband to fly and is focussed only on her Tik Tok videos. She's the Daddy's Little Princess, Tamil pop culture's favourite trope to ridicule the liberal woman. It's really the next 'Loose Ponnu' template. Meghna wears an LBD to a temple because that’s apparently what freedom means to modern women. Forget the misogyny, the ridiculous writing is not consistent or logical and suggestive of a dearth of experiences with real women. Did Karthik Yogi get his modern women checklist from one of the ‘dupatta podunga doli’ meme pages?
Once there is no more scope for mansplaining with Meghna, Mani goes back to Priya. Despite everything he put her through, including leaving her at the altar, causing her abortion, lying to her—she stays single to keep her promise to be with him. It is only after witnessing this ‘Thiyaga Chemmal Act of Pure Love’ does our hero even consider speaking the truth. And of course, the heroine has to relent. After innumerable journeys through time, a few dead men, and several abominable jokes, Mani finds his human incubator, I mean, wife.
Even the supporting women in this film get no respite from the condescension of patriarchy. Mani’s mother, for example, is called a ‘sahikaadha moonji’. Mani’s mother-in-law exists only to ‘blame men’. Santhanam’s filmography cannot exist without his body-shaming jokes, but Dikkiloona pushes it to the extreme. Apart from his usual quota of body shaming, Yogi Babu gets an additional serving while donning a female get-up. Anyone who finds ‘her’ pretty is said to be mentally ill. Such is Dikkiloona’s idea of humour.
Dikkiloona was promoted as a time-travel film. Well, it makes sense. It does take us back to a more regressive time, a period I wish this film were left behind in.