Saturday, March 21, 2009

Why I don’t like the movie Sethu, anymore?

The Tamil movie Sethu was released sometime in the year 1999 or 2000. With this movie, Vikram (the protagonist) shot to instant fame. The movie was appreciated for various reasons: brilliant direction, great acting, a script that was closer to real life, and sensitive portrayal of life. At that time, I couldn’t exactly point to why the movie left me numb with pain. Perhaps, I decided that reaction could be only for a good movie. And, I had joined the bandwagon of Vikram and Bala fans and maybe even contributed in some way to the astounding success of the movie.
Now, after several years, after even having gone on record to say that it’s a ‘socially conscious’ movie because of the several anti-brahmin jokes, I wonder what has made me think differently today. But, I am assured of one thing today: my reasons for disliking the movie are crystal clear. Of course, I record here my reasons wistfully; wonder how my life would have been had I had this clarity then.
Firstly, the movie had a male protagonist, though his ‘relationship’ with a woman forms the focal point of the movie. However, the screen space the female lead had must have been just a fraction of what the protagonist had. Is this the actual reality in the southern districts of Tamil Nadu? Not that I expect a female protagonist in a mainstream Tamil movie, but I do expect equal screen space for the female lead, especially when the script requires it.
Secondly, the characterization of Sethu, the lead guy. He is a local thug, who goes around roughing up people. He clearly is from a dominant caste group, which easily gives the right to ‘ridicule’ the eating habits of the docile Brahmin girl. What is particularly arresting is the girl’s demeanor. She wears a half saree that is pinned properly and has long hair that is well-oiled and plaited. She carries herself with such grace and poise that she’s quite aware of herself every second, even in the chemistry lab. This construct of a 21st century college-going girl is very dangerous. This grace-personified dame falls head over heels in love with this street-side thug, Romeo, and casteistic guy, which is another blow to the sensibilities of any college-going girl.
Thirdly, the way caste was dealt with was problematic; it’s either outright ridicule or immense respect for the Brahmin community. It would have been better if they hadn’t brought in the caste factor at all. There was no context to place it, actually. I believe this aspect was dealt with in the most flippant manner.
Finally, Sethu kidnapping the love of his life. This simple act showed how skewed the filmmaker’s understanding had been about intimate relationships between a man and a woman. The woman was shown to be nothing more than just a thing to possessed; a thing to be brought to its senses (which is understanding his love/lust for her, which comes as an irresistible deal along a good home and a chance to bear his babies); a thing to be showcased in one’s house. Besides the problematic sociological questions, I am tempted to doubt its relevance in real life. For example, will I fall in love with a roadside thug, who’s been stalking me, when he manages to kidnap me and presents this ‘irresistible’ offer at gun point? Wouldn’t I first go to the police station and file an FIR? At least, wouldn’t I find ways to completely erase my existence for the guy? Wouldn’t I run away from the locality? Then, the guy gets beaten up and he turns mad. In such a situation, in real life, the girl will be thanking her stars that the gods finally did some justice to the women! And, not commit suicide because she couldn’t bear the thought of marrying anyone other than the thug.


Anitha said...

Hmmm...nice observations. But, i think there are few conservative brahmin families who don't want their women to work etc.

Sethu turns very possessive bcos the girl is very timid and hides her true feelings. So, he wants to meet her in a separate place. Ofcourse, that need not be achieved by kidnap.

Happy heart said...

Thanks Anita! I don't give two hoots about what 'Conservative Brahmin families' believe about a woman's priorities...It's beyond my worldview!
What irked me was eulogizing of that timidity, which is problematic for women and hoodwinks us in believing in image of the timid, soft-natured brahmin!
And, a girl being quiet about her feelings gives no guy (even the object of her affection) the right to kidnap her! Tables turned, tell me Anita, would you or me dared kidnap the first guy we had a crush on, just because he didn't acknowledge the affection? It's the violence that is used even in love relationships, which is condemnable!

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