Bachelor Movie Review: A takedown of toxic masculinity that isn’t
Perhaps the only really interesting portion in Bachelor starring GV Prakash Kumar is when matters of a court come into focus, and a ‘domestic abuse’ case gets debated
Darling (GV Prakash Kumar) in Bachelor is hardly a darling—the name, an evident attempt at a joke. He urinates on laptops, endangers friends with reckless riding, barely goes to work, lies to friends, ogles at women, gets petulant when he won’t get immediate sex… I could go on. The film seems to believe—under the mistaken assumption that duration is detail—that it is a revealing three-hour portrait of this toxic, chauvinistic man—and that it stands against him. I might have got on board, had the film’s creative choices not betrayed a desire to ingratiate itself with the ‘youth audiences’ at the cost of its subject matter. When Darling ogles at the heroine, Subbu (Divyabharathi), the camera too does this, introducing us to the woman’s posterior first. When Darling is nice to her, the film romanticises his decency. Subbu, interestingly, tells Darling, “People like you who come to the big city, romanticise even innocuous relationships.” When Darling, yet again, chooses silly aggression over common sense by threatening a lawyer, the film, with its music, celebrates this as a gesture of machismo. When Darling cons his friends, or worse, maims them, the film advertises this as comedy. It’s impossible to shake off the notion that the film likes him, even if it wants us eventually to buy that it stands against him. To buy into it, you must be as naïve as Subbu—who develops feelings because Darling, her roommate, helps her when sick, and later, makes her a thengaai barfi. During this early sequence, I gave the film the benefit of doubt, telling myself that it could be commentary on how women like Subbu are surrounded by so many unkind men that even the slightest, most polite gesture feels so grand. However, there’s only so many times that you can make arguments on behalf of a film that doesn’t seem to care as much as you do.
Director: Sathish Selvakumar
Cast: GV Prakash, Divyabharathi, Bagavathi Perumal
For a while, I wasn’t even sure if this film was going anywhere. We get long, indulgent shots of Darling dipping biscuits in tea, eating biryani, refrigerating mango juice… He’s chattering away with friends, publicly admitting to vigorous masturbation, showing great proclivity towards alcohol… For how long this film is, it’s neither a deep exploration of Darling—which perhaps is its purpose—nor a deep account of his relationship with Subbu. Perhaps most problematically, I didn’t care a lot for Subbu either, as she is not at the centre of this film. This means that when you feel catharsis at the end, it’s not because she makes a gesture; it’s because the film has come to an end.
After three hours of Bachelor, all we really know about Subbu is that she isn’t the greatest judge of character, and that she has backward notions about abortion. Strangely, despite all the focus on Darling, we don’t know much about him either, except that he’s a sociopath who likes alcohol and sex. Perhaps that’s the film’s scathing view of the average chauvinist, but such generic descriptions hardly make for engaging interpersonal dynamics. There are barely any likeable men in this film, except, I suppose, Darling’s friend who stands up to him towards the end. Just as I was beginning to like him, he makes a statement—equalising Subbu’s interest in children, with her interest in Darling—putting paid to it.
Perhaps the only really interesting portion in this film is when matters of a court come into focus, and a ‘domestic abuse’ case gets debated. There’s some comic commentary on how lawyers often exaggerate their client’s positions to win judgments in their favour. Even before you can make your peace with this flawed romance turning into a courtroom drama, the film moves on to milk castration for comedy. The very notion that castration could be punishment for a toxic man feels like it justifies the exaggerated pride men seem to take in their sexual potency in the first place. For a film that attempts to be a takedown of masculine ego, this is a strange solution to make peace with. By the time Mysskin, in a cameo, was performing varma kalai on Darling for reasons I don’t even want to get into, it had become clear that good intentions or otherwise, Bachelor had long lost its way—and worse, had done so willingly.