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Kalyanam TO Kadhal follows a couple from friendship to marriage, highlighting issues that are rarely represented in Tamil pop culture.
Let me first say that the last episode dropped this weekend, and if you’ve not yet watched it, you could before you read ahead.
Released by the Tamil YouTube channel Just for Women, Kalyanam TO Kadhal is the sort of irreverent series that has its protagonists joke about uploading YouTube videos about the horrifying men the heroine has to meet, while going through the arranged marriage process of searching for a groom. You immediately know what you’re signing up for, and it is clearly going to be a lot of fun!
Saru (as someone who has insecurities about her appearance, I was really glad that she did not fit some ‘perfect’ beauty ideal) and Rishi are co-workers and best friends. They realise their mutual attraction when Saru casually points out that Rishi is far better than all the toxic men she’s been meeting as part of the matchmaking process.
It is refreshing to see that both their families agree to the match quickly. Having made the families comparatively progressive, the show can focus on the couple’s (and other characters’) internal problems, rather than conflicts external to the actual relationship taking up too much space.
From the start, this web series shows a knack for highlighting issues that are not taken seriously enough. Take the matchmaking process that Saru has to go through, for example.
Yes, there is the obviously sexist man who wants Saru to greet him at the door with a smiling face and a head full of jasmine flowers when he comes home from work. It would be an easy choice to show him the door.
But there is also the ‘liberal’ guy who bashes the concept of marriage and treats her very patronisingly – why did he even come to see her if he thinks he is too cool for marriage? This is exactly the sort of man we meet in real life and end up putting up with because he uses a veneer of ‘progressiveness’ for his mansplaination.
Another important subject that is addressed is that of dark humour. Shows like The Big Bang Theory have normalised this type of humour, and it is not always okay. In real life too, we meet people who randomly make a sexist joke and definitely do not mean it literally. However, not meaning it does not make it any easier on the oppressed.
Rishi attempts dark humour once, and that does not go over well with Saru. Although I do think the show comes dangerously close to stereotyping her as the ‘unreasonable woman who is too impatient understand her boyfriend’, I feel like we do get to understand her side as well. Our hardships cannot be joked about except, perhaps in a setting in which everyone has already agreed to that type of humour.
It is amazing to finally have a show that addresses these supposedly small issues, because ‘small issues’ are actually a part of the larger issue that is the patriarchy, and they still leave a big impact.
Kalyanam TO Kadhal has main characters who are obviously in love, but that does not mean that they do not have their disagreements. What makes this series interesting is that the conflicts between them are not like the usual conflicts that are represented in Tamil pop culture.
When Saru finds out that Rishi’s ex-girlfriend has been communicating with him in the days leading up to their wedding, she gets angry. But the reason is not what you would expect – she is not suspicious that he is cheating on her. She is angry because he used to complain to her about said ex-girlfriend, when they were just friends. And now that the issue with the ex-girlfriend has been resolved, she feels that Rishi should have told her about it.
As Saru puts it, “After the marriage, if I fight with him, he might go and talk about me … But he should also talk about how the issue was resolved.” She is worried that he will let others have a continued negative image of her, in the future. I was pleasantly surprised to see such an insightful comment on conflict resolution skills, instead of the usual ‘pitting women against women’ narrative.
And the series explores the issue even further by showing us Rishi’s side of the story – he did not want to put her through the emotional labour of listening to something that he thought was insignificant.
Both the main characters are right in their own way, and it takes a mature narrative to portray this complicated nature of relationships (and even morality).
There is a lot of honesty in Kalyanam TO Kadhal. For instance, acknowledgement of how draining emotional labour can be, is quite rare. I really liked the part when Rishi talks about this, because the burden of emotional labour is usually put on women and left unacknowledged.
It is also lovely that Rishi is allowed to be emotionally vulnerable and talk about how comments that he would end up alone, affected him. I have not seen this particular kind of emotional vulnerability in any other fictional Tamil man.
There is also a brilliant scene in which Saru’s mother tells her she wishes she were born in Saru’s generation so that she wouldn’t have had such an early marriage with a man she barely knew. And this is despite the fact that we have been shown earlier that her marriage is a very happy one filled with romance.
The truth is that oppressive systems are at work, even when you are happy. Happiness does not always equal fairness. It is this sort of nuanced portrayal that makes the miniseries worth every bit of the time spent watching it!
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