8 Reasons why this other song is a better Feminist empowerment anthem than Deepika’s video

Ok, I don’t have 8 reasons. That title was blatant clickbait.

But hear me out.

Two things have recently become fads. Being a feminist. Hating the “feminazis”. Both sides, more often than not, do not have a good understanding of the complex issues that feminism tries to combat. The supporting side usually talks with the privilege that allows them to voice out their opinions like “Don’t hate me for coming home at 4 AM” while completely ignoring the fact that the very ability to do this is not available for most women. The haters point out that “Feminazis” are just man-haters. Honestly, you’re either just lazy or bigoted and you are using your laziness to seek out only the vociferous radical feminists who say incendiary codswallop.

Ok, now to the point I was trying to make. Deepika recently made this video with quite a few other females about female empowerment. Great! More power to her. As much as I wish the message wasn’t such a poor mish-mash of first world feminism and framing feminism in the context of men, she tried to put her voice out there. Let her have it. I’ll leave the hypocrisy of Vogue and Bollywood, two institutions who are primarily responsible for some of the worst objectification and body shaming prevalent in Indian culture today, preaching about empowerment to a different unwritten blogpost.

Another song just released. It will probably not start as much discussion. The lyrics are as follows :

“Oore yaarunnu ketta, Um pera Mike-u settu pottu urumi kaattu”

If they want to know who you are, roar it from the rooftops (not a literal translation)

“Thangamunnu ooru unna mela thooki vekkum,

Dindigul-u poottu rendu maatti pootu vekkum,

Vittu vaadi Raasathi, unna neeye kaapathi”

 

You’ll be celebrated as a goddess, and locked up in a cage while on the pedestal. Break your shackles. SAVE YOURSELF.

“Pottapulla poga ulagam paathai pottu vekkum,

Muttusanthu paathu, anda road-u poi Nikkum,

Padangaattum yemaathi, kalangaathey raasathi”

The society will carefully construct a path for you, which will inevitably end up in a cul-de-sac. Don’t be fooled. Don’t falter.

Do you see why this works better? It does not frame the conversation about empowerment in the context of men, as most of Deepika’s video did. It asks a female to be an individual and make your own damn decisions, whatever they may be. In other words, Make it your choice, the song says.

It just works better.

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Frances Ha

Frances Halladay is 27, the same age as I am. She is a struggling dancer who is at a stage where she can’t pay her rent. I scoffed at how irresponsible she was. At one point in the movie, she decides to take a trip to Paris, on a credit card that she received in the mail. I was appalled at her stupidity and had no sympathy for someone who has no idea how to be an adult. 

Frances has a friend, Sophie. If you were to believe Frances, Sophie and Frances are the same people with different hair. I don’t think even she believes that. She often says things just to fit in. There is no doubting that Sophie and Frances go way back. Sophie is far more responsible, seemingly. To everyone watching the film, she seems to be in complete control of herself. She knows what she wants and has her life sorted out. This is until the final 30 minutes of the film. 

Without spoiling anything for anyone intending to watch the film, let me just say, watch the film through to the end. I looked at my own life. I am 27, I am financially settled and I do actually like my job. Why then, do I all of a sudden take classes on “constitutional struggles in the Muslim world”? Why then, do I suddenly decide to take drums classes for 2 weeks? Why then, do I suddenly go to concerts where they play only jazz standards which I can barely understand? 

Because we are all trying to figure out what kind of adults we want to be. At some point in your life, you have to make a decision to be a certain kind of person. Are you going to be a backwards-hat wearing, “Sup, Brah?” kind of person? Or a wine-swilling, Tux-wearing, Opera-watching, snooty-ass snob. The answer most likely lies somewhere in the middle. I’m probably still trying to figure out. 

Anyway, great movie. Watch it. 

Maryan – Poseidon approves

Maryan is a “man who never dies”. The initial posturing of the film makes it seem like this is another one of those irritating superhero in real life, punchline-laden macho-man mess of a movie. It almost falls prey to it. Parvathy, and Danush, save it from becoming a mess. But only just. 

Maryan is a love story. It’s epic in its conception, if not in execution. Bharatbala has the eye of a master. I haven’t watched many tamil films of late, but this is the most gorgeous tamil film I have seen in a while. Bharatbala has an established credibility as a  wonderful music video director, with his wonderful inspiring video for Vande Mataram. With Maryan, he has decided to go the Michel Gondry way. The inventiveness may be missing, but no mistaking the heart of the story. 

I don’t think anyone doubts that Danush is one of the most talented actor in the country right now. In the hands of a lesser talent, this movie would have suffered. The movie still does, but it’s no fault of Danush’s. I was pleasantly surprised by an extremely strong performance by the female lead, Parvathy. Far too often, love stories have been marred by poorly written female leads, or poorly acted. In this case, kudos to the team for bringing a strong character so wonderfully acted by Parvathy. The love comes through in all of their scenes together. 

Now, having created a perfect, endearing, dreamy, fierce couple, how do you create a powerful love story? You create a villain you desperately want to despise and destroy. As with all superhero film, a vile villain is as important as a superhero you can love (Man of Steel challenged this, but that’s for a different post). Maryan needed a villain we hated, and all we got were caricatures. Theekkurisi, as the typical local lecher, the African pirates, who do not do much more than wear a skull around their necks and shout and shoot. 

It could be argued that the elements of nature are the real villains here, and the African pirates are little more than diversions/plot elements/macguffins. The story is about Maryan finding his true love. The Sea. The sea is what gives him power. The sea is what makes him a superhero. The desert is his kryptonite. How does this man struggle through the desert and find his true love? This reading makes the movie seem that much more romantic. Danush’s acting really does seem to indicate this to be the case. He was invincible when he was near the sea. The gruff beard, the “empty ground” of a heart. He was completely in command. When he is in Africa, the beard is gone. He is at the beck and call of his employers away from his love. The Sea and Pani (Parvathy). (Never has Panimalar as a name for the lover been more appropriate). 

I started this post wanting to diss the movie, because it gave me a headache, and now I’ve seemingly ended up praising it. There are many parts of the film which irritated me, but there are many scenes which are absolutely poetic. I wish Tamil film directors didn’t fall prey to the trope of having a “comedian wiseguy sidekick”, and then you have to take the trouble to write them off, which is done very poorly in this film. Why have them in the first place? 

Maryan might be a film that might stay with me. Bharatbala knows how to use close-ups, and there are plenty of them. He has a K Balachander-esque ability to make actors speak with their eyes. The climax also happens to have some of the best acting from the female lead. 

 

You should watch it. 

 

 

The Wire

A TV show has a rare advantage over the film medium. You get a lot of time to tell your story. But the ‘season’ format has become so formulaic, that every episode needs a hook at the end, leading up to a really grand finale where something insane and drastic happens, to make sure the viewer returns for the next season. Would you tell a story differently if you didn’t care much about hooking the viewer in? Would you tell a story differently, if your story, by itself, has the intensity to sustain? 

The Wire ran from 2002-2008 on HBO. The hero of the story is Baltimore. Everyone else just plays the part. No one else matters in the story. What matters are the corners of Baltimore streets, the citizens of Baltimore city. The show takes a look at different issues plaguing the city and places them in the larger context of drugs and their effect on the community (I feel some reporter somewhere is judging me for using the word community, again). 

The Wire was the conception of David Simon and Ed Burns. It’s self-referential, and might even seem dated to a superficial viewer. But I’m here to ask you to give it a chance beyond the first episode. If it seems a little rough around the edge at the first, or “boring”, remember all the magnificient things always seem mundane. But, my dear Reader, they sometimes hit you with an intensity that only the simple things can. The Wire is one such show. It attempts to show you the way of life, as it is, warts and all. Watch it. 

Searching for a hero

Truth is stranger than fiction, they say. Consider this story, for instance. A latin guitarist-singer in the dangerous, foggy streets and bars of Detroit wins a record deal and creates pure magic. His records don’t sell. But they do, in South Africa. In fact, he becomes so revered in South Africa that he becomes bigger than Elvis. His aura becomes larger than life because no one in South Africa knows anything about him. They find their voice in his words. It spins off an underground music revolution in South Africa. In South Africa, it is assumed that he is dead. 

Years later, a nosy journalist picks up this story to find out how this remarkably mysterious artist died. He realizes he has been asking the wrong questions and when he starts asking the right questions, the answers begin to startle him. 

Chronicling a remarkable, sometimes frankly unbelievable, story of Sixto (Jesus) Rodriguez, Malik Bendjelloul attempts an impossible tale. It’s impossible to tell because its true. Without the liberty of creating your own world, you are confined to finding facts, filling loopholes, trying to obtain rhyme and reason when there might be none. In real life, not everything has a reason. How do you translate this to celluloid? This is why documentaries, when told well, are sometimes far more enriching than a film. Malik Bendjelloul tells this remarkable tale, stitching together facts and footages to create a rich tapestry. 

‘Searching for Sugar Man’ is a beautiful film and one that I highly recommend. 

Once again, I’m sorry

My previous post in this blog was about my outrage about some of the blatantly misogynistic material in the media. I titled it “I’m sorry, Ladies”. Think of this as a continuation post.

I’m sorry that when I saw a guy obviously trying to grope a lady in a bus or train, and let’s be honest guys, we have all even seen that, I never said a word against it.

I’m sorry that when my uncle asked a cousin to not wear jeans or tee shirt because of “what they will think”, I never told him, that “they” included him.

I’m sorry that when my granny shushed another cousin for “laughing too loudly, because its un-woman-like”, I didn’t remind her that a full-throated, happy laugh is sometimes more fulfilling than a full meal.

I’m sorry that when a video like this came on TV, I didn’t change the channel or curse the actors.

I’m sorry that I thought it was necessary for a woman to “protect” herself when going out.

I’m sorry that a poor girl is being turned into a “fearless braveheart” so that we can assuage our moral turpitude.

To the women I know, once again, I’m sorry.

I’m sorry Ladies

I grew up in a highly patriarchal society. Men made most of the decisions, women were “allowed” to work, as long as they didn’t earn more than the man. A woman was given the “choice” to marry whoever she wanted, as long as she chose someone “appropriate” and approved by the established standards of Teacher-Parents association. A girl is “allowed” to stay out late, for purposes of studies, at a pre-approved friend’s place and a pre-approved study plan. 

The media played a huge part in perpetrating the patriarchy. The heroes were authoritative, but kind to the womenfolk. A woman who has too much attitude “needed to be put in her place”. The number of taming the shrew plots were alarmingly high, and the ones which worshipped the womenfolk as the kudumbathin kuthuvilakku were equally high. An uneasy peace existed. 

In recent days, this bloated patriarchy has become a full-blown misogyny. It has been a gradual transition from mere assertion of the “I-have-a-penis-you-don’t” to a “Women-shouldn’t-do-XYZ”. I started noticing it with the Perarasu movies. Any women wearing “modern western clothes” was most likely a slut. But most of the films had item numbers and dance moves which were essentially excited fucking. The hypocrisy is mind-boggling, but the message seemed clear. 

Then Simbhu came along. He made Mannmathan, which was about woman who cheat. Holy shit! Woman cheat! What’s next! You’re going to tell me they drink and smoke also! and THEN you’ll tell me some of them are actually individuals. This can’t be happening. What happens to our culture! The great kalachaaram is being spoiled! This can’t be happening. We can no longer be subtle. Cue to a song – “Evan di unna pethaan”. Others chipped in with  “Adi da avala” and the entire fucking movie of “Devathayai Kandein”. 

It has come to a stage where the men are playing victims. Really? You guys are victims? For “falling in love” at the age of 19 and a break up later, you hate girls? That makes you about 15 years old. Grow. The. Fuck. Up. And now there is this video from a “Hip-hop Thamizhan”. It has close to a million views on YouTube and it’s essentially about how girls these days are drinking and smoking and destroying our culture. It requests all guys to go over to his side so that they can be saved. I can’t even begin to comprehend the atrocity of that video. 

I guess this makes me a feminist. It makes me not-a-misogynist. I am cool with that. Also, sorry Ladies.