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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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Shows like Indian Matchmaking only further the argument that women must adhere to social norms without being allowed to follow their hearts.
When Netflix announced that Indian Matchmaking (2020-present) would be renewed for a second season, many of us hoped for the makers of the show to take all the criticism they faced seriously. That is definitely not the case because the show still continues to celebrate regressive patriarchal values.
Here are a few of the gendered notions that the show propagates.
A mediocre man can give himself a 9.5/10 and call himself ‘the world’s most eligible bachelor’, but an independent and successful woman must be happy with receiving just 60-70% of what she feels she deserves.
Darlings makes some excellent points about domestic violence . For such a movie to not follow through with a resolution that won't be problematic, is disappointing.
I watched Darlings last weekend, staying on top of its release on Netflix. It was a long-awaited respite from the recent flicks. I wanted badly to jump into its praise and will praise it, for something has to be said for the powerhouse performances it is packed with. But I will not be able to in a way that I really had wanted to.
I wanted to say that this is a must-watch on domestic violence that I stand behind and a needed and nuanced social portrayal. But unfortunately, I can’t. For I found Darlings to be deeply problematic when it comes to the portrayal of domestic violence and how that should be dealt with.
Before we rush to the ‘you must be having a problem because a man was hit’ or ‘much worse happens to women’ conclusions, that is not what my issue is. I have seen the praises and criticisms, and the criticisms of criticisms. I know, from having had close associations with non-profits and activists who fight domestic violence not just in India but globally, that much worse happens to women. I have written a book with case studies and statistics on that. Neither do I have any moral qualms around violence getting tackled with violence (that will be another post some day).