Friday, January 04, 2013

A spate of hate!

     I love being a columnist but unfortunately, I have a horrible tendency to procrastinate. And then when an email turns up from by my BW editor saying it is my turn to submit a column, it becomes a mad rush to make the deadline. Behindwoods is an entertainment website and columns are on movies so while I was wracking my brains trying to come up with a column idea inspiration hit me! The papers were full of the Guwahati molestation case. A video on YouTube showing a girl being publicly molested by a mob outside a bar had gone viral and I thought a column on the same would be just the thing. And I incorporated some disturbing elements of Tamil cinema into the piece as this was to be published by Behindwoods.
     You will find the fruit of my labors below...
     News nowadays is the equivalent of a horror show as people seem to be forever trying to outdo each other when it comes to acts of sheer evil. Even so the nation finds itself reeling as one of the most gruesome incidents in the history of our country unfolded on the streets of Guwahati when a young girl was molested by a 50 – strong mob. As if this were not disgusting enough, nobody helped this girl – not the police and not the respectable citizens who happened to be passing through. Some in the crowd recorded this abysmal scene for posterity and though questions have been asked about their intentions the fact is they managed to secure evidence. But despite said evidence, the police seem to be having the hardest time bringing the miscreants to justice and only a handful of arrests have been made thus far.
People are still trying to come to terms with how such things can possibly happen in a supposedly civilized nation. But it is not at all surprising given that India is a very unsafe country for women and has proven itself to be so on far too many occasions. Even after a crime of such daunting proportions, as a nation we are not unanimous in condemning that mob from hell and bringing them to justice immediately. The moral police, those self – appointed guardians of spiteful convention have been quick to point out that girls who frequent nightclubs and get into physical altercations with members of the opposite sex deserve what they have coming from mobs gone nuts. Words fail me when it comes to responding to people who spout more crap from their mouths than their behinds. Sure, it is not the height of good behavior to fight in public with your guy friend but surely even the most hardened moralists will have to admit that the punishment was far too harsh for a tiny lapse in judgment? Besides peeing on the road is worse in terms of acceptable behavior but men do it anyways and so far nobody has had their privates chopped off by a mob of disgusted women have they?
It is precisely this kind of thinking that is the root cause for crimes against women and why sympathetic cops who belong to the good old boys network won’t knock themselves out trying to put offenders behind bars. Girls are taught to behave or else… and boys are taught to be nice to nice girls. So women are forever being subjected to snap judgments as to whether they are ladies or tramps and are treated accordingly mostly by those whose judgment is severely impaired. The girl who was molested by the mob was dressed decently enough before she had her clothes forcibly ripped off but many would argue the point saying that skirts and tops are the heights of indecency. And as for the thousands of women who get raped despite being covered from top to toe, the crime is justified with morons arguing that the ethnic outfit (western clothes are deemed vulgar by default even it if it is a baggy pair of jeans and a tee) in question was provocatively worn or at a come – hitherish angle.
Movies have played a powerful role in shaping this kind of prehistoric thinking. A particularly memorable scene comes to mind from the movie, Sivakasi. Asin’s character gets manhandled by a creepy individual and instead of bashing him up and giving him his just desserts, the hero (Vijay) gives her a tongue lashing on the inappropriateness of her shorts and cropped top as apparently they are the equivalent of lingerie and incite lust in men. This writer was amazed not just by this scene but the fact that she was the only one (seemingly) in the entire theatre who wanted to hurl a brick at the screen. The rest were on their feet screaming their approbation of the hero’s anachronistic lecture. Even the women were shaking their heads in agreement. It is totally possible to envision their sons growing up to become rapists or molesters or wife – beaters. 
Yet another famous scene is from Shankar’s Gentleman. The heroine (Madhubala) is a nice, sari – clad homely girl but the same cannot be said about her city – bred cousin, Suganthi who favors skimpy clothes and is into touching games (Ye Gads!). Needless to say a bunch of thugs try to rape her and she is rescued by the gentlemanly hero (Arjun) who points out to the deeply upset girl that such a thing would have never happened to her modest cousin and she should stop her ‘nonsense’. Nobody points out to the hero that Suganthi is just a naïve kid with a vibrant personality and a fashion sense to go with it. She certainly did not deserve to be almost raped. But again most people in this part of the world would agree with the hero’s misguided notions of right and wrong. And the worst part is that even so – called nice guys in the real world would feel the same way. And while they will give their lives to protect their mothers, sisters, wives, friends et al, they will choose to look away when a skinny girl is molested by a mob outside a night club.
It has to be accepted that movies never directly endorse violence against women but when violence against women is shown it is almost always justified. In Dhool, Vikram takes his belt to Swarna akka because when he tells her that he won’t hit her on account of her being a woman she scornfully says that she is the equivalent of ten men. And then our hero delivers his punch diapogue, “Appo unna adikurathula thappae illa!” Perhaps Swarna ka pushed him too far. But Richa’s Yamini in Mayakkam Enna certainly did not push Karthik (Dhanush) but wound up getting beaten up anyways by her “genius” husband who tends to fly into psychotic fits of rage when things don’t go his way. Yamini puts up with this treatment and is the patient, suffering wife to the fag end. Let us not forget the implied message – this is how a dutiful wife ought to behave even when her husband almost kills her and succeeds in killing her unborn child. After all, the rewards are great for those who suffer in silence (and it is too bad if an early grave is the happiest ending women can hope for under these circumstances)
Many such examples of this covert propaganda against women may be cited. But the simple fact is that we need to change our collective attitude as a nation and stop being sexist. The double standards that arise from the skewered notion that men can get away with murder because they are men and women have to cower in their homes in their chastity belts in order to be treated with the respect they deserve has to be done away with once and for all. Otherwise, India will go on being populated by pigs that don’t have the sagacity to be decent human beings but can revel in a puffed up sense of masculinity by converging on a defenseless girl and brazenly attacking her.
     This piece was duly published. A couple of days later I was nearly engulfed by a tidal wave of hate. A lot of the readers thought I was taking potshots at Vijay and Vikram though I had only mentioned a couple of scenes I had found offensive in their movies. Here are some of the more charming comments...
     Either stop watching movies or stop writing!
     gentleman 1993, dhool 2003, sivakasi 2005. gosh just because you are given an opportunity it doesn't mean you can write up anything. and mayakkam enna hero was mentally unstable. ok I give that to you. but please when you are starting your column with "nowadays" it means 2011 and onwards. please step into this decade.
     Vikram , Vijay movie promotes Prehistoric thinking? Nonsence with some baseless examples!
     Anuja.. please don't think you are too smart and don't think you are writing a great patriotic article.. first of all there is no connection b/w guwahati incident and tamil cinema scenes. The title given by you is ridiculous.. how can you compare a group of rapist with the great talents of tamil cinema ( Shankar, Vikram, Vijay ) Cant you take the good thoughts provided by Shankar in the films Gentleman, Indian, Anniyan.. ore oru Dialogue sollitaangalam,, athe pathi pesae vanthutaange. Vikram is a great legend who came from scratch and inspiration of many youths, Vijay is a great entertainer of tamil cinema, shankar ofcourse is the best thinker of kollywood who takes it to next level.. your article is biased and no strong relations to the issues wat u mentioned in it.. Ask sorry to Vikram and Vijay fans and better don continue writing anymore. (This comment got 28 likes!)

       Initially, the comments freaked me out a little bit though I said that such comments were beneath me and would not dignify them with a response. Some sweet friends put up comments in my defense though. But now I am strangely fond of this piece and even the comments. Because as a writer I want my readers to respond with passion to my pieces. And may be when I have honed my craft further my readers will continue to respond strongly but love me to pieces as well :) But love or hate as long as I have readers I am happy. 
     The original version appeared here

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