Does Cinema mirror society? Or is society influenced by Cinema? Or is it just a manifestation of the popular sentiments? Iam bound to think so. Something that comes to the top of my mind is the hero-heroine selection in the Tamil movie industry. The heroes are mostly dark-complexioned (and that is perfectly alright. Iam not trying to be any –ist here. Just making an observation) And the heroines mostly have this peach n plum complexion. This is largely because an average middle class Tamil boy is dark complexioned (again, just an observation) and he fantasizes being with a fair girl. But their fantasies are rarely turned into reality. And dark-skinned boy often ends up with the dark -skinned girl. But in the movies, the hero always ends up with a fair heroine. So this is a manifestation of popular sentiments. People love it when their favourite hero gets what they always wanted. The hero fights the corrupt politicians, stands up against the beaurocracy and marries the beautiful girl. Manifestation of the popular sentiments.
This is pretty much the same when it comes to the dowry scenario vastly seen in the Malayalam movie industry. People give and take dowry, sometimes demand it. Women are ill-treated in the in laws’ houses in the name of dowry. But that is the usual scenario in usual households and usual movies. But director Sathyan Anthikad is one of my favorites who makes realistic movies, yet send out strong and idealistic messages. That is why his movie “Bhagyadevatha” irked me. Personally, I don’t endorse dowry. Not just because it is against the law, but I somehow feel it is very cheap. And not because Iam a girl and it is convenient for me. But when I think deeper, maybe there is an underlying logic behind it. Money is a bitch, and we are yet to invent something that would take the place of money. Love cannot replace money, just like money cannot replace love. And in some households, the girls choose not to work or earn lesser than their husbands. In such cases, dowry just guarantees somewhat equal contribution in monetary terms. Iam all for equality. But I still don’t endorse dowry. Coming back to the movie “Bhagyadevatha”, the hero (played by actor Jayaram) marries the heroine (Kaniha) in the hope of getting dowry. I understand that sentiment. And when the girl’s parents fail to give the offered money, he chucks her out of the house. I understand that too. Later when the girl wins a huge sum of money, the guy tries to win her back. Though I was outraged, I still tried to understand it, because along with the perverts and the lechers, the world has lot of cheapskates too. I understand when the girl helps his family in an hour of crisis, because his family is really fond of him. But what I refuse to accept is that the girl goes back to the guy for a happily ever-after. Iam all for family values and marital bliss and all that, but Iam sure I would never go back to a guy who leaves me in the name of money. So I expected the idealistic director Sathyan Anthikad to bring out a different ending. I don’t know how. He is the one with imagination, not me. Maybe he wanted to convey that love triumphs over everything. But we know that this is clearly not about love. Somehow, the movie subtly endorses the practice of dowry. It gives out the message that it is perfectly alright for a man to chuck his wife out in the name of dowry, and what he did is indeed ‘forgivable’.
Another movie that enraged me is the one titled “Adhipan”. No malayali can forget that funny scene beautifully played by Mohanlal where he calls up Doordharshan and swears at the guy at the other end. One of characters in the movie gets raped and to erase the ‘shame’ and all that, Mohanlal thinks it is best if the rapist marries her. And I fear that is the popular sentiment. How ridiculous is that? Rape is a Crime!! Rapist is a Criminal!! You cannot fix a crime by marrying a criminal. Nobody asks a woman to marry a man who attempts to murder her. Why? Because murder is a crime. Just like rape is a crime. So how can a woman marry a man who rapes her, when she is not asked to marry a man who tries to kill her. It’s not possible to correct a wrong by another wrong. A common trend in most movies is that the rape victim somehow dies at the end of the movie. The message send out is strong and clear. If a woman cannot remain chaste, then she deserves to die. Death seems to be a better option than living as a rape victim. Being married, getting into a relationship or leading a life with dignity are totally out of question. One movie which broke this trend is Padmarajan’s “Nammukku paarkaan munthirithoppukal”. The heroine is raped by her step-father, but the hero (played by Mohanlal) accepts her. Here, love triumphs!
Largely, there is a lot of hypocrisy regarding what is right for each gender. It is because of this hypocrisy that we have a culture of shaming the rape victim and not the rapist who is guilty. I cannot really say which is right or wrong. But IF a woman’s virginity or sexual purity is important, so is a man’s. I cannot see why it shouldn’t be that way. We have a double standard everywhere. It is alright for a man to smoke. It is unhealthy, but it is still okay. But when a woman takes a puff, it is both unhealthy and immoral. It is acceptable and normal for a man to drink, but a woman cannot always drink without eyebrows being raised. When a man sleeps around, he becomes a player. When a woman sleeps around, she becomes a slut. And of course, when a woman is raped, it can be fixed by marrying the rapist!!!