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Whose Responsibility? Short Film Asks Questions About Teen Sexuality & Pregnancy In Middle Class India

Posted: June 8, 2020

We need to include talking about sex as part of dinner table conversations, as responsible parents. Tamil short film MAA puts a spotlight on this.

In life sometimes we take certain things for granted, until sudden unexpected events turn our world topsy-turvy.

I recently saw a Tamil short film, named ‘MAA’ (2018), directed by Sarjun KM, which has the above mentioned theme running through the movie. The leading cast are Kani Kusruti and Anikha Surendran, in the roles of mother and daughter respectively.

The film made me wonder whether we are way behind in addressing some root causes of various issues.

*spoilers alert

A complex mother-daughter film

The poster of the film, showed a mother on a two wheeler, looking straight into our eyes, and the face of the daughter riding pillion. After I watched the film, I understood that the poster said it all. The mother is really in the driving seat of the kid’s life, but not controlling or overpowering her, just doing her bit as a mother to her daughter. As any other mother she had to meander through several pot holes to empower her daughter as a person.

There is a spoiler alert here – the film is about teenage pregnancy and the mother’s reaction and later….response to the same.

The striking aspect of the film is the middle class family setting chosen for this storyline and the mother who is any other typical next door mother. This type of family seems to have been specifically chosen to showcase the fact that there is a much lesser chance of any discussion that would have happened between the mother and the daughter about teenage issues and more specifically, about pregnancy.

So when the Pandora’s box is out in the open to the mother, she does react typically like any other mother. I could empathize both with the kid (yes, she is still a kid and an adolescent) and the mother. That scene projects reality, wherein it can make anyone feel helpless and vulnerable, during such situations.

The subsequent scenes shows how the mother is placed in a situation wherein she is unable to enlist, or should I say endanger (as a better choice of word), the cooperation of her husband and how she handles the entire responsibility, with so much grit and sans drama, that by the end of it, it leaves most of us, to learn definite tips in problem solving and be the beacon of hope and strength to our kids.

There are some unanswered questions that need an answer that the film leaves you grappling with.

When the film ends, you are left with some unanswered questions, to which our society is answerable whether you have kids or not, and if you have, it can be of any gender. But we need to channelize our energies in finding out the answers to the following questions.

Skewed expectations of sanskaar

If hormonal changes same for everyone, why are only girls told to ‘manage’ and ‘control’ theirs?

If the hormonal surges that happen in the adolescent (which follows through even during the later years) are the same for all the genders, then why are the girls told to ‘manage’ or ‘control’ it, and the boys can be expected to ‘enjoy’ or accept it as something more natural for their age? Yes, it is the girl who becomes pregnant. But should we punish her for nature’s design…..or should I say prejudice?

• Aren’t the boys equally responsible in causing this?
• Are the boys’ parents even worried about it?
• Even if he becomes the reason for such incidents, what is the
sense of responsibility that the boy and his parents will be taking to sort it out?
• Why are we not talking about this?

Whose responsibility is it?

Why don’t the boys take any responsibility for what happens between two people? Why penalise only the girls?

The film, acutely made us aware of this fact, when the mother tells the daughter, referring to the boy with whom, the girl became pregnant, ‘He is playing there without any worries or hurdles, it is we both who had to sort out the issues’.

Yes agreed that he shed some tears of guilt and fear, when he was questioned. But why was he not made to take the responsibility of taking care of the girl, when she had to undergo abortion? Even if he did, does the problem end there?

The toll of an abortion

Is an abortion so simple? What about the physical and emotional toll?

It left me wondering, whether aborting is like cleaning the washbasin? What about the physical and emotional toll it takes on the girl’s or a woman’s body?

Why is it taken for granted that she SHOULD undergo the pain alone, as she is the one who has a womb? The pleasure is for both, at least in this case, but the pain is for only one person.

What use a father?

What is the role of a father in the children’s life? Can he be let off with just asking questions and expecting answers?

Kindly do not think that I am stereotyping. But let us learn to stop denying and protecting the ‘father figures’ by saying, he is taking so much stress outside and that he needs to chill out in the house. We do not use the same yardstick for the mother, who is working either in the house or outside, and sometimes both areas.

He is not the boss of the house, to just yell at others for anything that goes wrong. Instead of a problem solving approach, in most of houses fathers play the role of a patriarch who resorts to blaming, physical violence, and in some cases, sexual violence too. But remember, no one questions him!

The father’s role in this movie, is more of a person who asks questions his wife and kid about what they were doing or going to do, and emphasizing the need for the daughter to study, for her to ace all her tests. Even the common time spent at the dining table, is not for quality time. What about life skills education to the kids? Why aren’t we talking about it to them, which goes a long way than most of the academic achievements.

The essential things to talk of are ignored

It is disheartening to come to terms with the fact that we are yet to recognise marital rapes and talk about the need for consent between partners.

It is high time, parents stop asking kids and teens just about their academic achievements, and speak more about how they feel about school, friends, their routine and their other activities. Even the simple everyday conversation can be less critical and more open to topics considered taboo.

I have heard parents say – ‘By talking about sexuality and related aspects, aren’t we making them aware of these, a little prematurely?’ Absolutely not, would be the answer, as we are making them more aware about issues, which if not introduced by parents or educators at the right time, can reach them in a distorted manner through a wrong source. Are we waiting for it to happen? Some teens turn to pornographic material, which is definitely not a right source for helping  them in sex education.

Before I wind up, let me place a humble request to one and all. Kindly introduce topics on sex, as you would, about the need for proper physical and emotional health. When we are bringing up our kids, let us make all the genders, equally responsible for their action, and stop shaming the one who was prejudiced by nature, by having been bestowed with a womb.
I would like to throw open this platform to generate a healthy discussion about how an adolescent male can be made responsible in such situations.

I have attached the link of the film below for reference:

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