A movie that I wish was never made...

Thevar Magan (1992)
Starring: Sivagi Ganesan, Kamal Hassan, Nassar, Gauthami, Revathi
Story: Kamal Hassan
Direction: Bharatan

I had the misfortune of watching this rather ‘old’ movie, which couldn’t have come from a more ‘original’ pen like Kamal Hassan’s!

For those of you who have forgotten this movie, here’s a short refresher. The story is set in a pristine village in the interiors of Tamil Nadu, where the local, ‘kind-hearted’ landlord lords over the lesser mortals, the dalits and landless laborers. The landlord is from a community called the thevars, (Today, these people top the list of castes that thrive on committing atrocities against the dalit people in Tamil Nadu). The movies centers around the rivalry between this kind-hearted thevar and a nasty thevar, who’s actually his cousin! The seething rivalry’s fuse is blown with a younger thevar breaking the lock of a temple to enjoy some private time with his scantily clothed muse. Then, several things happen, and finally peace is restored by this younger thevar chopping the head of the nasty thevar and going off to prison! Now, I don’t know what kind of great minds would have selected this movie to represent the country at the academy awards! In any case, my faith in the academy awards remains intact, thanks to the way they sent this movie packing.

What is problematic about this movie?

Firstly, the movie is casteistic, eulogizing caste-based, ad hoc monarchies that run in the villages, which are nothing but cauldrons of dalit atrocities. This only shows the crying need for land reforms! How the hell can one family (damn it!) own an entire village? No wonder, the differences are stark; Kamal (the son of the kind-hearted thevar) and Gauthami (his muse) all the time speak in flawless, accented English and smooch around when the sons of the dalits become nothing but landless laborers and foot soldiers who get their hands cut off, defending the thevar honor! The movie was outrageously anti-dalit; Vadivelu (the side kick and also the humble, devoted slave with zero esteem) is named after a dalit god!

Secondly, the movie is sexist, showing women as either clingy, cry babies (Gauthami) or silly yappers (Revathi), singing to their husbands! Which Indian woman (even the ones educated abroad) would strut around half naked in the presence country brutes who ogle at any inch of visible skin? Does the average Indian woman lack even that basic sense? And, the same old story; two women quibbling over one silly man, who couldn’t even stand up to his own father!

Finally, the entire movie lacked any fine imagination and acting! Yes! Acting! Kamal Hassan and Shivagi, both were terrible. Yet another patriarchal bullshit, served to us by a bunch of upper caste, patriarchal men!

Am sure in the West, this movie would have invited at least 10 law suits from several groups! But, no, not here. Yes, it’s with dejection that I sign off this post, but with hope that someday we will have sensitive mainstream movies that portray reality, question discrimination, and reinstate hope for a better tomorrow.

Comments

Ta'fxkz said…
Why dont you write me 10 story lines that celebrate men / women & humanity the way you think they deserve to be treated in a movie.

Seriously, start with one!
sumire said…
Hi,
Understand the irritation and despair such a movie can create. I haven't watched the movie. Ur writing is smooth and simple, keeps the tempo till the end. I am sure like most of the so called 'realist' movies, this would have also shown the Dalit character as the site of all kinds of violence. But I wonder whether there is any black and white, politically correct way of making one since human lives are a bundle of contradictions. Film being a medium of popular culture, may be the analysis requires a larger canvas which may also strengthen ur point. Keep writing!
Best
diimaan said…
hmmm... nice review...

but instead of lashing out on the creators of the movie, you should give some stick to the public/us.

if 6 crore ppl acknowledges the movie as a hit why not some gentlemen in hollywood. thats what wou;d've bee been the thought of selection committee for oscars.

and it is about time we need a proper modelled moral education.
which teaches the importance of a life. not only human. :)

ciao... keep blogging...
If u ask a tamilian living in those times living there.... he would have enjoyed da movie.... Its either he related to it at tat point of time or was influenced as a sheep without a sherpherd. Still after nearly 15 years the ppl there remain with the same mindset.
If u did a realistic movie then, should have a been a flop... However change is beginning to happen with the masses getting exposure to realistic movies and seeking a change. Producers are rethinking with many flops... and are beginning to invest in sensible filmakers.

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