outside the recently painted garish walls of the Nungambakkam police station is
reminiscent of a new breed of “realistic” Tamil cinema. Traffic crawls and auto
drivers and motorists swear at the colony of photojournalists climbing over
each other to try and catch a glimpse of the cell where Ramkumar, the alleged
killer in the Swathi murder case, is presumably housed. Police vans go in and
out of the station, looking as important as the paunchy constables and
sub-inspectors breathing into walkie-talkies. Everyone looks important—the new
recruits adjusting their stiff caps, the older policemen lounging grumpily
against the vans, the sweating reporters and cameramen, even the tea-seller
with his can and plastic cups perched on a cycle.
If it were a film like, say, Veyyil, Visaaranai, Iraivi, Soodhu Kavvum, Subramaniapuram, and so on, the dialogue would write itself from conversations between journalists and tea-seller, policemen and tea-seller, policemen and journalists, auto drivers and tea-seller.
The reel would probably end with a “soup song” at one of the three TASMAC shops in the vicinity, where the journalists, tea-sellers, and auto drivers would all dance, to be driven away at the end by a posse of tired policemen, who would grumble and get back into their vans after dismissing the dancers. Before we entered the flashback, we would travel to Ramkumar’s holding cell, and focus on his expressionless face.
The new wave of Tamil cinema became a hit with masses and critics alike because it was relatable. It showed the things we do, the things we observe, the things we hear, and gave them a quirky twist with capable actors who excelled at dark comedy. But such is its permeability that from art imitating life, I wonder whether our lives have begun to imitate art.
As details of Swathi’s murder and the circumstances in which it occurred trickled into the newspapers, a debate began whether Tamil cinema is to blame. Several anonymous sources helpfully told the media that Ramkumar, like many of cinema’s most popular stalkers, kept to himself and hardly spoke to anyone. A few days into his custody, an anonymous police source told the media Ramkumar’s interactions with his interrogators had indicated he was influenced by cinema.
The question is not perhaps whether cinema is to “blame”. To pin a murder on fiction and then dictate the course that film storylines must follow is ridiculous. To even debate whether cinema is insidiously sanctioning crime raises uncomfortable questions about censorship.
But growing up in a culture to which cinema is inextricably intertwined, I do wonder how much people of my generation have imbibed from the movies with which we grew up. In the Eighties, when our idea of home entertainment was Doordarshan, and trips to the movies were a rare treat, we were exposed to cinema nearly from its inception, through television.
We saw the era of mythological movies transition to the propagandist cinema that propelled a series of actors and writers into chief ministership which in turn gave way to the bold themes of K. Balachander, the rustic settings of Bharathiraja, and the nuanced finesse of Mani Ratnam’s work at one end of the spectrum, to unintentionally hilarious love stories (starring the likes of Ramarajan, Mohan, and Bhagyaraj) and horror potboilers on the other end. The cinema of the Nineties is hard to classify, with Shankar’s blockbusters, Mani Ratnam’s newly pan-Indian themes, Rajnikanth’s rise to superstardom, Kamal Haasan’s rapid-fire switches between comedy and cult films, the emergence of Vijay and Ajith, and abysmally written B-grade movies competing for space.
Since the turn of the millennium, our relationship with cinema has become more complex. Gautham Vasudev Menon became a populist successor to Mani Ratnam. Vijay and Ajith became ‘Ilaya Thalapathi’ and ‘Thala’, STR—formerly-known-as-Simbu—formerly-known-as-Little-Superstar—found a fan following against all odds, and Dhanush became a hero against all odds.
Alongside this, a quiet revolution had begun that would take cinema by storm a few years later—the cinema of the anti-hero, noir from southern Tamil Nadu. This was paralleled in popular cinema by the trend of the hero swapping places with the villain. The new hero was the underdog, and looked it. He did not have the stage presence of Rajnikanth or the aura of stardom that emanated from MGR, heroes who have successfully played Everyman.
He was not just playing Everyman. He was Everyman. He did not do extraordinary things. He did things to which the audience could relate—he drank, he swore, he hung out with his friends, he checked women out. He fell for the sort of girls who have always attracted men in movies—girls from a social milieu that was ostensibly beyond his reach. But unlike his predecessors he was not waiting for her to rescue him from a life of drink and debauchery. He was waiting to rescue her from her well-dressed suitors who spoke English and earned seven-figure salaries, self-centred boys who would never love her with the intensity he did, usually evidenced by soulful stares into bottles of cheap rum.
he ascendance of realist cinema over escapist is usually a good sign. It could mean the cerebral is no longer niche, that noir is no longer cult. But this new wave has also spawned tropes that are disturbing, particularly in the context within which they are framed and consumed. Vernacular cinema, especially when it is as rich an industry as Tamil, encompassing the blockbuster culture of Telugu cinema and the festival-film reputation of Malayalam cinema, can often circumscribe one’s life. It shapes our ideas of people, mores, rebellion, honour, dignity, and cause-and-effect.
Because of the familiarity of language and settings they become more than “movies”, a term that grounds films in territory outside of us, outside of reality. Contemporary cinema in other languages is “movies”; those in our language could be our stories, stories of people we know. We see we are not the only ones letting those around us down. We realise we are not the only ones with instincts that have been branded as wrong. We turn to them for validation. And when they rationalise the unjustifiable, we wonder whether they are making a good point.
This realist cinema errs on one front—the dynamics of male-female interaction. In a society where love is considered dangerous, and virginity is an aphrodisiac, women are conditioned to be wary of any man who shows excessive interest in them. Since most directors—and writers—are male, they don’t quite grasp how instinctive the defensive response is. Most of us are on guard when we notice a man looking at us. It is rarely a turn-on when a man derides our clothes and our choices. When we turn and glance in the direction of a man following us, it is more likely that we are discreetly trying to gauge whether he is on our trail or just walking the same way than that we are reciprocating his interest. If the female lead is an exception to most-women, she should not be cast as a type. As it happens, most female leads are a type. It is the anti-hero who moulds her ideas to fit his own and eventually makes her a crusader for his principles.
The conversation about these tropes is one we must start. Perhaps it would help to commission a study on how many criminals claim to have been influenced by cinema, and to which heroes or films they related best. Tamil cinema is at a crossroad now, and whether it evolves to leave these tropes behind or unravels to build itself around them depends on how much introspection the debate nudges.
She doesn’t know what she wants; stalk her (and maybe sexually harass her) into submission—this has been one of the most popular boy-meets-girl tropes, growing from surreptitious flirting in the Fifties and Sixties, into a much darker, more brazen obsession that the hero is not ashamed to admit. Every woman wants to be loved. As long as you love her enough to abase yourself, she will eventually allow you to debase her. You can boast of your obsession, and persist even after she slaps you. One day, she will see why she should be with you; this usually happens when you channel your violence against her. According to this trope, love cannot be unrequited. If it is thwarted, it will be by circumstances beyond your control and hers. Even so, you will remain best friends, often choosing each other over your respective partners.
In the early days of Tamil cinema, romance was rarely the subject of the film. It was a precursor to the family drama that would unfold shortly before the interval. The dashing hero would woo the coy heroine and she would purse her lips and glare at him, their acolytes mimicking their reactions. Eventually, she would giggle or drop her handkerchief or start singing and dancing in tune with him, and then the real story could begin.
Class lines were usually crossed—very handy when the hero intended to woo fishermen’s and rickshaw-pullers’ votes in the run-up to his candidacy for chief ministership. He wanted to show them they were not undeserving of the love of the convent-educated daughter of the man who owned half the city, or the gold-and-silk clad daughter of the king who had conquered half the earth. But, conveniently for the lovers, the fisherman or rickshaw-puller in question would have a Jon Snow back-story, and he and his reformed wife would be benevolent socialists who pumped their combined energies (and wealth) into turning fishermen and rickshaw-pullers into prosperous entrepreneurs.
So fishermen and rickshaw-pullers could watch and feel good, while their distant dreams of marrying the skirt-and-blouse-wearing, car-driving heroine into a demure domestic goddess who filleted fish in cotton sarees and massaged balm into her widowed mother-in-law’s forehead remained unattainable, because they were not MGR.
he next generation of stalkers who wouldn’t take ‘No’ for an answer didn’t have quite such happy endings, thanks to directors like K. Balachander, who figured that the way to a woman’s heart was not by drowning her boyfriend. In Moondru Mudichu (1976), which marked Sridevi’s debut, the tormentor becomes the tormented when the object of his obsession becomes his doting stepmother.
But in the early years of the millennium, the stalker became successful. Dhanush’s entire career has been built on harassing his heroines into acquiescence, even carrying over to Bollywood with Raanjhanaa. He started off with Kaadhal Kondein (2003), where the heroine remains oblivious to his psychopathic tendencies. Though she is not in love with him, when she has to choose between saving him and saving her boyfriend, she chooses him. In Aadukalam (2011), he follows the heroine around town until he can coax her into a relationship with him by being a friend in need.
In Thanga Magan (2015), he stalks a girl he spies at the temple, and asks her name because, hey, he’s been investing a few hours in tracking her movements, and he deserves to know whom he’s been shadowing. He is unfazed when she threatens to call the police. When she snaps at him, he says it is wrong for a girl as pretty as she is to have as much thimiru as she does. The word literally translates into something between “daring” and “haughtiness”, but is loaded with sexism when used in this context.
However, her heart is won, either because he called her pretty, or because he is unimpressed by her lippy comebacks. When he follows her to a club, she grumbles that he won’t take his eyes off her. A male friend decides to play knight in shining armour and confronts him, only to have her intervene and claim the stalker is, in fact, a “friend” (because, one presumes, her friends skulk in corners staring at her). Though she marries someone else after they go on holiday and break up, she is on her “friend’s” side when he gets into a tussle with her husband.
One of the worst cases of successful stalking in Tamil cinema is perhaps 7G, Rainbow Colony, directed by Selvaraghavan. A regular good-for-nothing hero relentlessly tails his new neighbour, even sexually harassing her on a bus, and tells her the reason for her victimisation is that she gave him the time of day, perhaps from pity, when everyone else shunned him. The film doesn’t have the happiest ending, but he is rewarded with pity sex for his trouble. The film released in 2004, and I was stunned by how many of my male colleagues could relate to the man in the movie. One of them even announced that he had nearly given up on a girl with whom he had fallen in love when he was 14; but, 11 years on, he had decided to pursue her.
Sethu (1999), the Bala film that pulled Vikram out of the wilderness and made him a star, is portrayed as the story of the redemption of a college rowdy turned gallant lover. The problem is, Sethu wins his girl by kidnapping and threatening her with death. The same ploy worked for Vikram’s character in Raavanan (2010), directed by Mani Ratnam, though it could be argued that the heroine is drawn to him without active effort on his part (well, other than the kidnapping, of course). Stockholm Syndrome is not new to Tamil cinema. It was the subject of Kamal Haasan’s Guna (1991). A popular refrain is that a woman who is all alone in the world is happy to be loved intensely, even if the intensity doesn’t come from a healthy place. Minnale (2001), Gautham Vasudev Menon’s debut film starring Madhavan, involved impersonation and deception to win over the heroine.
The fact is, in most movies, stalking is rewarded, as long as the stalker is in love. The heroine loves him too, but simply does not know it. At some point, she will crack. It could happen when he threatens her at knife point, it could happen when he kills himself, it could happen when he kidnaps her, it could happen when her boyfriend lets her down.
If Tamil cinema can have an influence on impressionable men, we can’t discount its impact on women. Do women believe men who claim to love them cannot harm them? That they can convert stalkers into friends, who will be happy for them when they get married to someone else? That staying connected to them on Facebook or other social networks will be interpreted as an olive branch and not as encouragement?
The taming of the shrew—this is an extension of the she-doesn’t-know-what-she-wants stalker trope. There is perhaps more violence in this approach. The heroine is not a goddess whom the hero has enshrined in his heart. She is a loud, arrogant free spirit who must be tamed and turned into a version of the hero’s sacrificing mother.
This was par for the course in early Indian cinema. Raj Kapoor did it. MGR did it. Sivaji Ganesan did it. Jayalalithaa and Vyjayanthimala spent most of their careers playing rich girls who discarded their trousers in favour of sarees and fell at their husbands’ feet to apologise for having too much dignity to swallow domestic abuse. K. Balachander, for all his progressive themes, rarely let his leading ladies take control of their own lives. In Apoorva Raagangal (1975), the heroine, who has been abandoned by a lover who only ever caused her misery, is not able to marry the man whom she loves and who loves her, because her conscience won’t allow it.
The saree enables women to stay stoic through their husbands’ tantrums, and endure abuse from the very men who courted them. The saree symbolises a transition from rich bitch to battered wife.
The man who
abandoned her returns and gives her permission to marry his successor. But,
after the prodigal lover dies, she wipes the kumkumam of her forehead and says
she considers herself a widow (and widows can’t remarry). In Sindhu Bhairavi
(1985), the women make huge sacrifices to ensure the happiness of a man whose
weak will has broken both their hearts (because he’s a genius, and geniuses
must stay happy).
Rajnikanth’s movies often starred two heroines, one of whom was rich and cocksure and the other poor and demure. He would either marry the latter and humiliate the former, as in Padayappa (1999), or marry the former and turn her into the latter, as in Mannan (1992). In K S Ravikumar’s Padayappa, Rajnikanth’s eponymous character tells his foreign-educated cousin Neelambari (Ramya Krishnan), repeatedly, “Adhigama aasa padara aamblaiyum, adhigama kova padara pombalaiyum nallaa vaazhndhadha charitrame kadayadhu” (There is no record of a man who has too many desires or a woman who is too quick to anger having ever lived happily).
In P. Vasu’s Mannan, Rajnikanth’s character Krishnan marries his boss Shantidevi (Vijaya Shanthi), who at the beginning of the film is honoured as India’s leading industrialist, and converts her into a housewife, handing over charge of her company to her secretary, with whom he was once in love. In Veera (1994), he hits the jackpot and marries both women.
he Kamal Haasan starrer Singaravelan (1992) is a comedy with brilliant timing all round, no small thanks to Manorama. But Kamal Haasan, who plays the titular character, seduces the woman his mother has ordered him to marry, Sumathi (Khushboo), by harassing her through innuendo-ridden songs whose lyrics centre on her clothes and her lack of femininity. One of these goes, ‘Pombalaikku venum acham madam naanam; illaiyendru poanaale vambizhukka thoanum’ (A woman must be fearful, cute-silly, and coy; if she isn’t, it’s natural to be tempted to tease and annoy her). He goes on to blame kaliyugam for women not behaving like women, and men not being men.
The transition of shrew to subservient usually occurs after a display of violence by the aspiring suitor—a slap is most effective—and is marked by her trading “Western clothes” for the saree. The trend that began in the black-and-white era has persisted until at least Selvaraghavan’s Mayakkam Enna (2011), and will likely continue for the next few decades.
From analysing these films, it would appear that the saree somehow enables women to stay stoic through their husbands’ tantrums, and endure abuse from the very men who courted them. The saree symbolises a transition from rich bitch to battered wife.
Somewhere between the sighting of the shrew and the taming of the shrew is the hero’s contribution to society through sartorial and moral policing (are they even distinct from each other?).
I don’t think I have ever seen a Vijay movie in which he hasn’t held forth on the vulgarity of his leading lady’s dress sense. There was a strange reversal in Thuppakki (2012), where he rejects a prospective bride because he finds her too “old-fashioned”, but begins to hound her with his proposals when he runs into her in a boxing competition.
Silambarasan, who now styles himself ‘STR’, sets out on a mission to kill any woman who strikes him as libertarian (synonymous, of course, with lascivious) in Manmadhan (2004). Her sexual promiscuity is proven by her smoking, drinking, or wearing clothes of which he doesn’t approve. He did in this film what Kamal Haasan had done rather more subtly in Bharathiraja’s Sigappu Rojakkal (1978). The hero is hurt by one woman, and so decides to avenge himself against womankind.
The Nineties were not short of songs that taught women how to behave like good Tamil girls who upheld the all-important culture. If the heroes had gone to school and understood Tamil literature, they would perhaps have been familiar with the sensuality of Andal’s poetry, with the independent women of the Sangam era, with the recognition of seduction as one of the ancient Tamil arts. Instead, ill-informed and uneducated, they take it upon themselves to become the custodians of culture, and harass women who don’t conform to their perceptions of femininity.
One of the most shocking songs from this time is the catchy Senthamizh Naattu Thamizhachiye from the film Vandicholai Chinnaraasu (1994). The gist of the song is: ‘Why do you, a woman from Tamil Nadu, hesitate to wear a saree, and run around in a swimming costume in a land of weavers? Why do you put on display parts of your body that should only be seen by your husband? You were born in these parts, so why do you walk like a model from London? Your chastity is your armour. You ought to know to plait the hair that flies like a nest of black flutes in the air, and cover it in flowers. You need to understand that tradition is not antiquated, and know what you must uphold and what you must rebel against.’ No prizes for guessing the trajectory of this courtship.
Does it never occur to these women to demand why these men fell for them, if they were so keen to marry women who conformed to their twisted norms? And if they had fallen for these culturally bankrupt women, why did they want to change them?
Kattradhu Thamizh (2007) had a scene that was roundly criticised in reviews—the hero, Prabhakar (Jiiva), a Tamil teacher, is infuriated when he finds out that a woman working in his friend’s office makes ₹3,00,000 a month (he makes ₹2,000 himself and his friend ₹2,00,000); he reads out the message on her T-shirt, which is a subversive “Touch me here if you dare”; he shouts, “I dare!” and presses his hands to her bosom. The director claimed it was reflective of the instincts of a small-town boy, not advocative. When I watched the film, the audience broke into cheers at the scene. The intentions of the director don’t matter. The interpretations of the audience do. It is worrying that, of all the scenes in the film, this one got the most applause. I was at a matinee and the audience largely comprised male college students who had bunked their afternoon class.
ow, not every woman who believes she is safe in her workplace, not every woman who is successful, not every woman who has her own opinions, has access to a T-shirt daring people to touch her “there”. What does the hero do when the heroine wears a saree without having to be goaded into it?
He is forced to resort to Corrective Rape or Romantic Abuse. Let’s say the heroine gathers the gumption to challenge the authority of the hero. In the case of Chinna Gounder (1992), Vijayakanth’s character decides to get a group of kids to hold down the heroine, while he spins a top around her navel. It was arguably the scene that made the film a big enough hit to merit remakes in Telugu and Kannada.
In Varalaaru: The Godfather (2006), which stars multiple Ajiths, one of these avatars plays a Bharatanatyam dancer. His mother and her friend decide to get their offspring married to each other. The prospective bride likes his photograph, but is put off by his effeminate demeanour when she meets him for the first time (on the day of their wedding). She insults him in public. His mother promptly dies. He avenges the death (and proves his masculinity) by raping his former future wife. He announces this to her mother, whom he meets on his way out. Her mother smiles, pleased that the relationship has been consummated (and probably pleased that her proud daughter has been finally tamed).
He also proves his virility, impregnating her during the rape. Yet he and his two doppelganger sons are the heroes of the film.
This was barely acceptable in the Eighties, when the film Marumagale Vaazhga (1982) had the gutsy heroine, played by Suhasini, raped by the villain on the night of her engagement. She decides to marry him, though her fiancé begs her to put the rape behind her and move on. Why file a police complaint when you can marry your rapist and make him learn to respect you?
Men cannot help ruining their own lives, and the lives of those dearest to them, because rage is coded into their sex chromosomes; women cannot help being self-effacing, and trusting most unreliable husbands.
In the film
Idhu Namma Bhoomi (1992), the hero (Karthik) fights with the woman he
intends to marry (Khushboo); he places a bet with her, telling her she must
strip for him if he wins; he does win, and she is about to strip, when he stops
her and gives her a contemptuous speech; he tells her the only reason he wants
to marry her is to settle a family feud, and not because he finds her beautiful
or pleasant. Voila! She’s in love.
There is no dearth of movies where women are slapped, and even whipped—case in point, Pistha (1995)—when the heroes want to teach them a lesson. There is a popular saying in Tamil that goes “adikkara kai dhaan anaikkum” (The hand that slaps you is attached to the arm that will hold you). So abuse is a demonstration of love. How very romantic.
When the shoe is on the other foot, and a woman slaps her stalker, she is doing so from frustration at not being free to express her love for him; she is doing so to protect him from her evil family, which may kill him; she is doing so because she does not want to admit she is in love with him. If we were to extrapolate the situation to our own lives, it isn’t hard to interpret a gesture, even one filled with fear and animosity and hatred, to suit our hopes. The hot-headed young man in cinema today fights for what he wants. He disposes of the obstacles in his path, even to his own detriment.
Because Men cannot help being men. Iraivi (2016) was branded a feminist film. My takeaway was this: “Men cannot help ruining their own lives, and the lives of those who are dearest to them, because rage is coded into their sex chromosomes; women cannot help being long-suffering, self-effacing, and trusting of the most unreliable husbands.” In the climax, one of the main characters asks maniacally, ‘Poruthukrathukkum sagichukradhukkum naama enna pombalayaa? Aambala!’ (Are we women to grin and bear it? We are men!) And so, men are robbed of agency by genetics, in the world of Tamil movies.
Sadly, though, the converse is not true, except conditionally. Women cannot help being women, and therefore women who are not long-suffering, self-effacing, trusting, and dependent must be an aberration.
One of Iraivi’s claims to uniqueness is a female character who refuses to marry the man with whom she regularly has sex. She is a widow, and the only man she will ever love is her late husband. When her partner asks her why she sees him if she doesn’t love him, she says it’s because of a “three-letter word” that women cannot articulate. A few seconds later, she suggests that they “just fuck”. But using the word “sex” is taboo. In case we thought she had found her freedom in those few seconds, we are later shown that she is in love with the man she “just fucks” after all. Why did she ask him to marry a good girl and be happy, then? Because, didn’t I mention, She doesn’t know what she wants? He ought to have stalked her and convinced her to marry him if he cared.
n a world where women refuse to acknowledge that they are in love, and reject the advances of men in whom they are interested, god forbid that they should actually ask a man out. In the Rajnikanth starrer Kodi Parakkuthu (1988), directed by Bharathiraja, the heroine, played by Amala, asks the hero whether he is going to declare his love for her, or ought she to...she trails off coyly. The hero smiles, and then slaps her right across the face. Two decades later, Paruthiveeran (2007) had a similar scene. Because if women can’t be women, how can men be men?
The frustration of having to deal with a woman who just doesn’t get it can only be understood by fellow-men. Cue the “Soup” song. No one knows why it is called a “soup song”. Maybe “soup” is a reference to alcohol. But the soup song is basically a lament by a group of drunk boys about the ways in which women ruined their lives. The soup boys bond over their “love failure”. In most cases, it is lust failure; at best, it is crush failure. But in elevating it to “love”, the boys are allowed to feel victimised.
Cinema should be allowed to reflect reality... play with imagination. But it should also be conscious of what it is trying to say.
“I gave her
so much unsolicited time and so much unsolicited praise, and all I got was this
insult.” Fuck her and her kind. Drink. I can never get over her and her kind.
Drink. She fucked me over. Drink. All women suck. Drink. The world would be
better off without women. Drink. But why are women so messed up? Drink. Why are
men so innocent? Drink. Bro, we have each other, women can go to hell. Drink.
It isn’t hard to imagine how easily a group of boys sitting in their crowded rooms in dingy “mansions” can relate to the likes of “Why this kolaveri di” and the Beep song and “Vennanu Sonnaada” and “Kaadhal En Kaadhal”. That last song, just in case it sounds more romantic than the rest, has a refrain that goes “Adidaa avale, udhaida avale, vidraa avale, thevaiye ille” (Hit her, kick her, let go of her, you don’t need her), and calls women a curse.
In a ruling on preventing pirated downloads of Kabali, a bench of the Madras High Court touched upon the duty cinema had towards the public, in the context of its portrayals of romance. Justice Kirubakaran said, without getting into specifics, that “many social evils and recent crimes” could be attributed to the effect of movies. News reports quoted him saying, “Youths are made to believe that they can win over an urban girl by constant stalking, and when they fail in their attempt, they are unable to withstand the frustration and they resort to committing crimes.”
We cannot hold cinema responsible for the commission of crimes, even if they are portrayed on screen. Cinema should be allowed to reflect reality. It should be allowed to play with imagination. But it should also be conscious of what it is trying to say. Anyone who wants to defend cinema against the charge that it influences the impressionable can ask why no one imbibes the “good things”. The problem is, the lines between hero and villain are not as clear as they were 60 years ago. There are no “good things” and “bad things”. Every film presents a palette of characters and tendencies, and each of us relates to certain aspects.
We need to, if not re-examine, at least acknowledge the storylines that have become patterns, the interactions that have become tropes. If cinema claims to be representative, it should be realistic, surely? While the (anti-)hero’s actions may seem realistic enough, are the heroine’s responses believable? If we complained about a man threatening to throw acid at us to a police officer, would we fall in love with him if he asked us to approach the man and promised to take care, instead of registering a case and investigating him?
There have been realistic portrayals of reactions to violence and stalking in popular cinema. In A Streetcar Named Desire, the rape is a violation—the deranged assault of a man with an inferiority complex against a woman who makes him feel powerless; it is not the culmination of sexual tension. It is the moment when we lose all sympathy for Stanley and Stella, and begin to feel sorry for Blanche. Yes, there is something disturbing about the idea of rape redeeming a character in the eyes of the audience; but it is nowhere near as disturbing as the idea of rape as redemption in the eyes of the hero. Closer home, Darr is a more likely end for a relationship built on stalking than 7G, Rainbow Colony.
Is there a solution? Would it help if more women entered the fields of screenwriting and direction? Would it help if stars who are idolised by their fans weighed the messages their characters were sending before signing on to a project? I’m inclined to think so. But whether a solution is within sight or not, we must acknowledge that there is a problem.