Thamizh Talkies: The problem of fame
The writer is a content producer and art curator
Ever since Samantha dropped news of her divorce, the trolling and digging into the ‘whys and whereforths’ have been doing the rounds. Nevertheless, her ‘comeback’ has been nothing short of a thumping slap in the face of misogyny. I’m not a fan of the word ‘comeback’, which suggests a sort of afterlife miracle. However, from time immemorial, the world has only been good to the heroes, the men. They romance younger girls, they marry and retain their ‘romantic image’, they get divorced and still retain their sex appeal. However, when a heroine does this, it’s met with disdain. I’m compelled to call out certain sections of the media which keep putting up videos asking why Samantha got a divorce and suggesting reasons like “heroes supporting her” or “doing an item number in Pushpa” or “doing that bold role in Family Man 2”. The fact remains that Samantha is an actor (and a good one at that). It’s her job to act in whatever role she thinks she can pull off. She has a career to excel in and bills to pay and a home to run. Much like for any other working woman, her marital status doesn’t really matter here!
Allu Arjun might have hit gold with Pushpa but the song that has propelled the film into another league of success belongs to Samantha. Despite the popularity, Oo solriyaa maama (Oo antaava maama) came in for trolling and even the rehearsal video wasn’t spared. Did anyone listen to what Samantha says in the video? When asked how tired she was at the end of a long working day and still rehearsing for this song, she says, “100/100”—that’s how exhausted she was and yet, there she was learning the moves for her shoot! I’m not a fan of item numbers, but as an actor, one has to do many things as per the choices one is presented with and without having to owe anyone else an explanation. We all love to stand on a moral high ground and judge icons, specifically women celebrities and what they should or should not do!
In this context, I’m reminded of this lovely scene from Director Mahendran’s film Johnny. It’s my favourite scene of Rajinikanth’s and yet, it’s Sridevi who has all the dialogues. She proposes to him, leaving him stumped and unable to say yes immediately. She feels hurt and tells him, “Perhaps you are hesitant to accept my proposal of marriage because you are thinking that this woman (degrades herself with a slur) sings in front of so many people (men); she may have wealth and status, but does she have character?!” Rajini redeems himself. How can she think of him like this? He respects her so much, and so, how will he ever think of her along these lines? The key word here is ‘respect’. In our society, this word gets attached more to a man than a woman.
Actors like Samantha have redefined the meaning of this word for this generation. There was a college event in which she said to a resounding audience, “‘A few years ago, I was where you all are (pointing to the crowd) … I wish each one of you so much success that you come up to where I am today (on stage).” She says this with a lot of affection to the girls in the audience. What truly matters is whether the icon we adore on screen is worthy of our respect more than our love. Choose your icons, but don’t choose their life decisions based on your moral choices.
I’m looking forward to who signs on Samantha next in Tamil cinema, and I’m eager to see her shine in a film that features two other stars who have redefined what a hero and heroine should do with their careers: Vijay Sethupathi and Nayanthara in Vignesh Shivan’s Kaathu Vaakula Rendu Kaadhal.