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12 Famous Tamil Movies & Their Problematic Messages On Women, Consent and Mental Health

The Tamil film industry has often been extremely regressive in how it treats women, focusing on "macho" men who think stalking and harassment are okay.

Trigger Warning: Mentions of rape, sexual harassment, and sexual abuse.

We know the impact media plays on our lives. It has the power to influence the way people act. Cinema is an impactful social mirror, and a cultural agent of change.

But, it’s sad to see how this power is misused. I know there are beautiful films out there trying to create change in society. Unfortunately, like two sides of a coin, we are also stuck with the flawed ones. I am using this opportunity to call out twelve famous Tamil films, and their wrong messages to viewers– 

Sivakasi (2005)

The mass hero tells the heroine that she was asking to be touched inappropriately because of what she was wearing. Hence, she should be held accountable rather than the man who dared to touch her that way.

The victim of a crime, or other wrongdoing, is held fully or partially responsible for the pain she experiences- this is known as victim blaming. Many women who have come out to describe the harassment they experienced from male co-workers, or superiors, are being held accountable on numerous fronts. 

Something Something (2006)

The hero tries to kiss his beloved, and when she resists and accidentally slaps him, he gets angry. In the next few minutes, we see the heroine guilty and apologizing, saying it is his right, and that she should not have said no. 

“Since he is brought up abroad, he wouldn’t know what’s right and wrong.” 

The hero ends up apologizing, but why is the woman the one saying sorry?Ever heard about consent?

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Everybody deserves to have their boundaries respected, irrespective of where the person grows up, and what he learns.

Maatran (2012)

A set of conjoined twins who are the main characters. The heroine loves one of them. When that one dies, she immediately starts loving the other – since the twins’ father asks her to take care of him, while he grieves and marries him finally. 

Why is the heroine portrayed as fickle-minded? And the one who always has a role in saving the hero from despair?

Oru Kal Oru Kannadi (2012)

The hero ogles random women on the road, and spits when he finds a sappa figure (super ugly woman). It is this way he encounters the heroine. He repeatedly stalks her (even after she rejects him), and even creates a lot of trouble at her workplace. He threatens and grabs her hand without her consent. Furthermore, he gets away with all this because he is the male protagonist.

I hope the censor board bans the mention of women as figures- if you aren’t aware of what it means, it is used to objectify and rate women based on their appearance, mainly in a fun or joking way. The term figure is disgusting and dehumanizing. In real life, this is not a light-hearted situation.

Doesn’t it reaffirm a false sense of unearned privilege, leading men to believe such behaviour is acceptable?

Sakalakala Vallavan Appatakkar (2015)

The hero is persuaded by a friend to discipline his wife. A threatening mention of rape is also intended to be humorous. 

Clearly, no elaboration is required to convey how awful and disgusting this is. 

Rajini Murugan (2015)

The hero stalks, and stares at his love interest’s home through the windows for a long time. Since there is trouble from the police, he sets up a tea stall opposite her home to stalk her

This film is just one instance of how stalking has been glamorized in Tamil films. How they show the heroine falling in love with the hero later is beyond me.

Remo (2016)

The hero (dressed up as a woman) stalks the heroine since she is engaged, and he does not have a fair chance. He even stalks her, and whistles at her day and night. She doesn’t oblige. Eventually, since he is the ‘hero’, despite his cheating on her by acting like a woman, she falls for him. 

This is a typical plot line in a Tamil film, which the Tamil community enthusiastically embraces. The actors take on a heroic persona that is larger than life. As a result of glorifying such behaviour, in Chennai, several females have been killed only for turning down their stalker’s approaches. 

Kavan (2017)

The protagonist justifies kissing another girl to his lover by saying, “How the bee’s nature is to sting similarly, a man’s nature is lust. It is a biological urge.” 

I don’t understand how an action of this extent can be easily justified by casually saying, “I am a man, and we are designed like this.”

Adithya Verma (Remake of Kabir Singh) (2019)

Love at first sight, violence, and vulgar words. 

I don’t think I need to mention anything more. Was a remake necessary?

Airaa (2019)

In this film, the desired dusky character is played by an actress who requires layers of dark make-up to appear the part. 

A century of Tamil cinema, and no difference in the expectations of the colour of the lead woman’s skin.

Kaathuvaakula Rendu Kaadhal (2022)

The hero tries to woo two women, using sympathy with his fake dissociative disorder as an excuse.

Like the Boy Who Cried Wolf, while this scene is depicted in a fun manner, it obstructs those suffering from mental health illnesses. The negativity that still accompanies mental illness is the source of the notion that discussing mental illness equals attention-seeking. The fear of being accused of attention-seeking still exists.

Feeling powerless to ask for help or discuss mental health issues hurts. For instance, before attempting suicide, a person may frequently try to talk to someone else about their thoughts. A scene about lying and cheating others about a mental health disorder makes us doubt those calling for genuine help.

Beast (2022)

The hero, a former RAW agent, sees a therapist due to his trauma. Instead of helping the hero, he attends a wedding to scout women (figures) because he believes the hero needs a distraction. 

A real therapist wouldn’t be acting so ridiculous! The body and psyche can be deeply affected by traumatic events. Cognitive processing treatment and prolonged exposure therapy are two different kinds of therapy for PTSD and trauma. The healing process starts by comprehending traumatic event(s) with therapy. 

Hey Sinamika! (2022)

In this film, a marriage counsellor breaks up couples. She follows the man, collects incriminating evidence about him cheating, and sends it to the wife. She gets extreme happiness after doing this. And in her backstory, she admits to taking up the profession only after being tormented by men, and wanting to demonstrate to the public that men are unfaithful in their marriages.

There are already several myths regarding mental health professionals (MHPs), which people in the field are working hard to bust. This depiction jeopardizes and overturns years of hard work to normalize therapy. People are suffering from mental health conditions and struggling to ask for help.

When MHPs are shown in such a bad light, patients falsely believe that the information they disclose is misused. For those reading, note that most MHPs must maintain client confidentiality.

To conclude, over the years, storylines might have changed a bit, but the backward mindset hasn’t.

Why am I analyzing films? Why not let them be fictional stories?

Sexual objectification reinforces detrimental gender norms that normalize violence against women and girls. And the macho man image is internalized. The media sends the message that girls should be beautiful rather than powerful.

Noticed rather than respected.

It promotes the notion that women should be primarily concerned with attracting and sexually satisfying men. And this is toxic, not only to a girl, but also to our society. The greatest method to spread the news about how unfairly women are portrayed in Tamil cinema is to speak up about it and stop watching or promoting them. 

Top image is a still from the movie promos of Kaadhuvakkula Rendu Kaadhal

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Mirali Borde

Mirali Borde is a budding writer trying to make it in this world. read more...

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