CS Amudhan's Tamizh Padam 2, much like the first film, takes a dig at Kollywood trends and spares no mainstream film. This time around though, the director has also addressed how female characters are represented in Tamil cinema, especially the heroine, who has been reduced to a "loosu ponnu."
Agila Ulaga Superstar Shiva's first wife, Priya (Disha Pandey), is killed off unceremoniously because this is a sequel and obviously, a sequel can never have the same heroine. Besides, Tamizh Padam 2 is a cop film and as guruji Gautham Menon has taught us over and over again, a police officer's sincerity to the job is inversely proportional to his wife's longevity.
So, Priya dies and is replaced by Ramya (Iswarya Menon). How? Shiva's friend advises him to simply close his eyes and fall in love with the first woman he sees. Shiva has only two conditions –
a. The girl must be the colour of maida
b. She must be a 'loosu ponnu'.
This may seem satirical to people who are not familiar with mainstream Tamil films, but it's actually an accurate description of the heroine in most of them. Amudhan goes one step ahead and breaks down the conditions that establish a "loosu ponnu" – she must chase a puppy, she must help blind people cross the road, and she must eat ice-cream in the rain.
While film critics have been lamenting this annoying trope for eons now, it's refreshing to see someone from the industry spelling it out in neon. Ramya also wears a T-shirt that says "Mental manadhil" and gets into a bus for patients with mental health issues (one supposes that mental healthcare professionals won't be delighted by this) to seal the deal for Shiva. He's in love!
Among the films that Amudhan takes a dig at is the horrendous Remo which romanticised stalking on a whole other level. When his friends advise him to torture the heroine into falling in love with him, Shiva asks if that would not be wrong. They, however, tell him that he's the hero and that he can go to any extent to make the woman fall for him. Santhana Bharathi, who appears as one of Shiva's friends, also dresses up as a female nurse – to make sure we don't miss the reference. Ramya is hilariously oblivious to the fact that the heavily bearded person in the nurse uniform is not a woman – well, she's a loosu ponnu after all.
'Adida avala' from Mayakkam Enna and 'Evandi unna petha' from Vaanam (by Dhanush and Simbu respectively, the kings of the soup song genre) get a rehaul with Ramya singing the woman's version of it when she's dumped by Shiva for a stupid reason. Although the song is meant to be funny, it has some poignant lines that hit home, especially given the spate of stalker related murders in Tamil Nadu. "Love failurenu solli acid adikkara neenga/ engakita enda kolaveri pathi maanamkettu pesureenga" (Those of you who say love failure and throw acid, why do you speak to us about murderous rage without any shame?) are lyrics that Kollywood will do well to remember next time directors are tempted to make the same-old "suffering" hero nonsense.
There's plenty of good-natured humour about a plethora of films – Vivegam, Vikram-Vedha, Thupparivalan, Thuppaki, Pisasu, Kaththi, VIP, 24, 7aam Arrivu, Thevar Magan, 2.0, Kabali, MS Dhoni, Baahubali, Irudhi Suttru, Villain, Veeram, Saamy – the list is super long. However, what's appreciable is how Amudhan has also gone after the misogyny present in the films of directors who are considered to be "classy", particularly Gautham Menon.
Although Gautham Menon is usually credited with giving "sensible" women characters who are not the "loosu ponnu", they tend to die brutal deaths, especially in his cop films. The misogyny is not as glaring as it is in the average mainstream film, but it's all the more disturbing. In Tamizh Padam 2, Shiva stalks Ramya (his tenant - Vinnaithaandi Varuvaya) to the US (Vaaranam Aayiram) and the heroine eventually dies. But then, she hilariously comes back as Gayathri (the proposal scene is straight out of Vettaiyadu Vilaiyaadu).
The self-obsessed hero voice-overs that are present in every Gautham Menon cop film – Khaaka Khaaka, Yennai Arindhal, Achcham Yenbadhu Madamayada – are also unmistakable. By the end of the movie, Shiva, the sincere cop, has a wall full of pictures of dead wives – so much so that his long-suffering paati decides to kill him and put an end to it. And oh, Kasthuri does an "item" number in the middle of an investigation because that's how the "classy" directors show off their "massy" side to the audience.
Tamizh Padam 2 is not without its issues. It is essentially a string of scenes from popular films and if you don't get the references, chances are that it will not make any sense to you. But Amudhan has dared to show Kollywood an aspect that is seldom discussed by people from within the industry seriously – why can't we have better female characters? Why can't our love stories treat women with more respect? And when will our heroines grow up and behave like adults?