Let’s play a game. Guess the movie(s).

You turn on the television and there is a Tamil movie airing. In it, the hero woos the girl by tailing her back to her house, entering her college classroom and professing his love for her, standing in the pouring rain, looking forlornly at her room window or maybe even sending her anonymous love notes with a few strands of her hair and finger nail clippings.

Make your guess.

If you guessed any of the following movies, you would be right: Sivaji, Rajini Murugan, Minnale, Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya, Santhosh Subramaniam, Vaaranam Aayiram and Moonu.

From time immemorial, Tamil cinema has hosted warped ideas about actions which can be considered acceptable forms of wooing. For as long as I can remember, it has glorified, endorsed and encouraged some very questionable methods of male leads wooing female characters.

The Stalker

The stalker hero can come from all walks of life. He could be a suave good-looking chap or a dingy looking fellow who could be educated, non-educated, rich or poor. He would have probably spotted the heroine at a random bus stop, getting drenched in the rain or helping poor blind kids cross the road. He would then proceed to find out all her personal details, such as where she lives, whom she lives with, her mobile phone number, the name of her beloved puppy and even her astrological signs amongst other things (this could be done by pleading with his friends or threatening the girl’s  best friend, who would be usually made fun of for some stupid reason).

He would then proceed to turn up at various locations that she is at, often pretending that it was a coincidence. When the dumb girl finally realizes that she is being stalked, she would either instantly feel flattered or she would shun the hero (if she was slightly more intelligent). However, if she rejects the hero, one of her friends or his friends would remind her that she should be adulated simply because the hero chose HER to stalk. It is considered to be the greatest form of flattery. What happens next, while the general audience is accustomed to it, is also ludicrous. 99% of the time, the heroine will fall in love with the hero accompanied by a catchy love number.

Point to note: if a woman was abrasive and pursued or stalked the hero, she would be immediately slut shamed and psycho-zoned. Remember Padayappa and Thimiru?  Nope. Stalking is a man’s prerogative and only his.

The “Social Activist”/ “Moral Police” Hero

This particular hero channels all the demands of the society which the heroine lives in. He is usually someone who believes that a good Tamil girl (ironically always played by a fair-skinned North Indian girl or in recent days, a white girl) should embody certain values. He usually goes on to see the drop dead, white washed gorgeous heroine and then proceeds to instantly fall in love with her (faster than the time it takes cook Maggi).

However, he also realizes that his woman is not ‘acceptable’ by the standards of society and proceeds to reform her. He will advise her on the ills of wearing modern clothes, the terrible repercussions of not covering her chest area with a shawl as well as the potential evils of staying out late at night. He might even get pissed drunk and chide her for consuming alcohol.

Interestingly, the self-respecting, independent and stubborn heroine would automatically realize the errors of her ways and following an exotic dream song sequence, (in which she would be ‘scantily’ clad) she would appear in the more ‘modest’ traditional attire. She will also express immense gratitude towards the hero for showing her the errors of her ways and the road to redemption. In other words, the conversion is complete.

Rajini-Murugan-Still1

The Abusive Hero

Violence against women has always been a prominent feature in Tamil movies. There are two major categories of such violence. There is sexual violence and then there is non-sexual violence. Both these violence types are carried out by the hero to, reign the heroine in, to save his honour or more likely than not, to assert his masculinity.

The hero could slap the heroine for a vast number of ‘crimes’; this could include but is not limited to, talking when not supposed to, talking back to the hero, purportedly indecently dressing and being rude to his family members or friends. Almost always, the woman accepts this punishment quietly and goes into a corner to repent and make plans for appropriate repentance measures. Sometimes, the heroine twistedly views this slaps as ‘love pats’ and breaks into a song (right after the slap is replayed about three times).

The other type of violence, sexual violence, is often used a means of wooing too. The hero forcibly kisses, hugs and gropes the heroine to evoke the feelings of love in her. He touches her inappropriately, tugs at her shawl (regarded as a symbol of virtuousness in some movies) and utters indecent words at her, all in the name of a love proposal. His friends or sidekicks would shamelessly encourage him and even contribute the most ridiculous of ideas to ensure that the hero gets his physical intimacy (consent is optional).

Most normal girls in the real world would hear the panic (psycho) alarm go off in their head but for some strange reason, the characters portrayed by the leading ladies of Tamil cinema feel Cupid’s arrow piercing into their empty heads. Sometimes, the stupidity escalates to a whole new level, and the hero threatens to rape the heroine ‘to teach her a lesson’. While the hero rarely ever carries out his threat (he has to maintain his image), he would still stimulate the lead up to this ‘punishment’ in order to elicit complicity from the heroine and to remind her of her place in this toxic relationship. Astonishingly enough, the heroine would fall even more deeply in love with the hero after that incident.

I have always wondered whether movies influence real life or real life influences movies. But I suppose that it is an intricate game between these two. Regardless of which way it is, it is undeniable that Tamil movies have a great influence on many people’s lives. People take societal and moral cues from movies. Young and impressionable minds model their behaviours after their favorite movie stars.

As such, perhaps, in a climate of fear and distrust where there appears to be a rise in the number of sexual assaults and harassment cases, moviemakers should be more cautious about the messages that they sent out. The first step would be to stop glorifying worrying and terrifying behaviours such as stalking and sexual harassment (regardless of which gender does it).

You should NOT put up with any forms of violence in your relationship (male or female). You do not ever deserve to be beaten or abused. I would also like to point out that you should call the police if someone is stalking you, even if he looks like Rajinikanth, Ajith, Vijay, Dhanush, Siddharth, or even the chocolate boy Madhavan. 

Written by Hemma

Hemma is a travel enthusiast who is greatly fascinated by language and culture. Linguistics and cultural anthropology deeply interest her. She constantly seeks to comprehend and make sense of the world through these two mechanisms. An eternal optimist, she sometimes lives in imaginary little bubbles, each one a different shade of purple. On good days, she wants to change the world, on better days, she dreams of living in an igloo, curled up next to a golden retriever with a Roald Dahl novel.

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