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Netrikann is a slap in the face of victim blamers, and the message is even sweeter to listen to, because the words come directly from the mouth of a woman.
Tamil cinema has come a really long way from the days of Manmadhan (my disgust at the existence of this movie has lasted for years). Ah, the ‘glory days’ back when the hero was a serial killer who murdered ‘immoral’ women! What a shame that that kind of bullshit doesn’t fly anymore. Poor, old misogynistic victim blamers.
Nerkonda Paarvai (the Tamil remake of Pink) had a famous male star (Ajith) deliver lines about how nobody can use the ‘character’ of a woman as justification for denying them consent. And there was supposed to be a scene (why was it deleted?) in Vijay’s Master, commenting on the ridiculousness of victim blaming.
But none of these come close to being as satisfying as Lady Superstar (as she is called) Nayanthara lashing out at a man for attempting to suggest that he had only been targeting ‘bad’ women.
Ex-CBI officer Durga is constantly being underestimated due to her visual impairment; however, she is constantly proving these ableist people wrong. She is bold, independent, and has better observation skills than a lot of people who have good vision.
Thankfully, Durga, despite her name, is no goddess. She is dealing with sadness and guilt from the mistakes of her past, that led to her visual impairment, as well as her losing her job in the CBI. Even though she is extremely intelligent, and her intentions are good, the impact of her actions is not always good.
Her humanness is what makes her words so powerful when she stands up to the male antagonist. We do not have to earn the right to stand up to men by being ‘pure’. No matter how well-intentioned, a man standing up for me (as a woman) does not make me feel powerful in the same way that a woman standing up for me does.
I understand that Tamil movies usually have the male stars deliver messages instead of the actresses because it is sadly the case that they tend to have more clout than their female co-stars. However, it makes me so happy that at least Nayanthara does seem to have enough clout, because I cannot express in words how amazing it is to finally have a woman blast the culture of victim blaming!
Netrikann makes it very clear that victim blaming is mere excuses given by perpetrators, and people who enable perpetrators.
The antagonist literally admits to enjoying his victims’ pain. That is what makes him act the way he does. And yet, he later turns around and tries to defend himself saying that the women he targeted were ‘not good’ women.
Durga does not take it for a second. As she says, “If the girl wants an abortion or if she wears revealing clothes, or even strolls around naked … let her be a good girl … or a bad girl … Why the hell does that bother you? It’s her life. She can do as she wants. Just because you think what she does is bad … you’d do whatever you want?” It is also immensely satisfying to hear her swear at him when he tries to intimidate her.
It is plain truth that nobody has the right to commit sexual crimes against somebody, no matter what that person is like. And it is also plain truth that these crimes have far more to do with the perpetrator than they do with the victim’s behaviour, as shown by the antagonist of this film.
So, with the arrival of Netrikann (now available to stream on Disney + Hotstar), I sincerely hope that the days of victim blaming women in Tamil cinema, are firmly in the past.
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