Earlier this year, the news that actor Amala Paul and director AL Vijay had decided to call off their two-year-old marriage came as a shock. The couple had been dating for three years before tying the knot.
Following the announcement, AL Vijay's father, producer Alagappan told the media that it was Amala's decision to continue acting in films which was the reason behind the split. Perhaps ten years ago, such a statement would have been received with bland indifference - it has, after all, been a time-honoured tradition for heroines to give up their career once they entered holy matrimony.
However, things have changed (ever so slowly but still) and the backlash that the family received for the sexist and misogynistic statement from fans and the media alike compelled AL Vijay to issue a clarification stating that the problem was not Amala's interest in her career but a "breach of trust". Amala chose not to respond to this accusation, even as reports circulated about the actor facing an unofficial ban in the industry, thanks to Alagappan's clout.
While she lay low for some time, Amala has since moved past the break-up and has been signing films across industries, including the highly-anticipated sequel for Dhanush's "Velaiyilla Pattadhari". She recently gave a refreshingly honest interview to The New Indian Express in which she spoke about her estranged spouse and marriage without a trace of bitterness. More importantly, Amala also spoke about self-discovery and personal growth.
However, even as Amala lives it up without holding back, there are plenty of trolls on social media who target her for continuing to dress in "sexy" clothes and "partying" when her marriage is over. The vulgar and graphic memes calling the actor "cheap" and hinting at an "affair" with a co-star have been doing the rounds, though her fans are thrilled that she has come back to claim lost ground.
The situation has an uncanny resemblance to what happened when Malayalam actor Manju Warrier separated from her husband Dileep. While Dileep dropped subtle and not-so-subtle hints about Manju's "selfishness" in wanting a career, Manju chose to remain tight-lipped about the reasons for their marriage falling apart.
She, too, was mercilessly trolled for being active on social media and posting pictures of herself where she had taken the trouble to dress well and apply make-up. And just as in Amala's case, there were also rumours that Dileep, who is a big star in the industry, was making it difficult for Manju to find work again.
With Dileep marrying Kavya Madhavan recently, however, social media once again turned in Manju's favour, applauding the actor for maintaining her dignity all through and sticking to her stance.
But what if the reason had indeed "just" been Manju wanting to resume her career? Would society have forgiven her for the "sin" of breaking a marriage that required her to give up her ambitions and individuality if the relationship were to survive?
Amala Paul is among the few South Indian heroines who dub in their own voice and can actually act, too. She can carry a film on her own shoulders, as she did in "Mili" and "Amma Kanakku". And among the Amy Jacksons, Tamannahs and Kajal Aggarwals of the Tamil film industry, Amala with her dusky complexion and expressive face looks like a real person and not a mannequin.
We may never know why Amala and Vijay decided to call it quits but Amala is here to stay and there are plenty of reasons why cinephiles should celebrate that.
Expecting her to dress "modestly" or walk around wearing a sack because a relationship didn't work out smacks of an ancient, patriarchal mindset. It may perhaps not be a bad idea for all the velaiyilla pattadharis who're busy creating these memes to find themselves jobs.
Note: Views expressed are personal opinions of the author.