Cinema as an influential factor in crimes against women is a hotly debated subject. Ever since the murder of Infosys employee Swathi by her alleged stalker in 2016, cinema has time and again been criticised for glorifying misogyny and violence towards women.
However, such portrayals have had their fair share of defenders too, those either claiming that these narratives were just for "entertainment" or that it was mere conjecture to draw a connection.
Three women IPS officers stationed in Tamil Nadu have now come forward in a video put together by Covai Post, appealing to filmmakers to stop promoting such violence in their films through dialogues and lyrics.
Taking on actors like Simbu, Dhanush, GV Prakash and Sivakarthikeyan whose films typically have such explicit depictions (not that other actors don't promote misogyny), the video plays sample lyrics from their films and goes on to feature the three officers sharing their views on the subject.
DCP S Lakshmi (Law and order, Coimbatore city), SP Ramya Bharathi (Coimbatore District), and DCP Disha Mittal (Law and order, Tiruppur city) point out that such disrespectful representations of women are increasing and that they have an undeniable influence on the youth.
DCP Lakshmi said, "We call our nation Bharath Mata, we have named our rivers after women - this is a country that takes pride in its women. Lots of people have toiled for women's liberation. But even now, as Periyar said, women are still seen as a drug or as a stand to drape jewellery. This is why we continue to see women being degraded in society."
DCP Lakshmi observed that current films have a lot of objectionable content when it comes to women: "If you watch today's films, you'll see that most of them have lyrics that degrade women in every which way. Cinema is a very powerful medium. Cinema creates a great impact on people, especially on the youth. When the medium is so powerful, it should be used well. From lyrics degrading women, the songs today promote violence against them. The people writing these lyrics, acting in these films, and those directing these, should have some social responsibility. They should remember that they too have women in their homes. They too have sisters, wives, mothers - they should think a bit. It's very wrong to do this without thinking. They should be convinced that these depictions are capable of changing how the youth thinks."
Agreeing with her colleague, SP Ramya Bharathi said, "I fully endorse what my counterpart officer DCP Coimbatore has said. This topic is particularly relevant in today's context because film lyrics and dialogues have the greatest devastating impact on the minds of the young today. Movies are the greatest influence in today's context and sadly, it has become the major factor in the rise in crimes against women. Movie dialogues and lyrics, be it positive or negative, they mould the thoughts, perceptions and attitudes of young people particularly."
SP Ramya Bharathi further talked about how these portrayals play out on ground: "On an average, we get at least a dozen complaints every 24 hours on any misbehaviour, assault, stalking etc., against women. There [are] many more that [go] unreported. Sadly, in today's context, there's glorification of these demeaning dialogues and derogatory lyrics from these movies which also become runaway hits and blockbusters.
DCP Disha Mittal said, "Being in a domain that deals with human behaviour, I full endorse the views expressed by my counterparts, SP of Coimbatore District and DCP of Coimbatore City, Law and Order, that the entertainment industry has a very major role to play in our lives. It is an undisputed fact that the films, music, TV programmes, advertisements, lyrics, dialogues have a very major, profound impact on our mind, on our spirit, on our behaviour, which can both be positive as well as negative. The recent increase in crime against women and girls as well as the recent increase in indecent behaviour, can to a very large extent be attributed to the exposure that these young minds have to these objectionable movies, the double meaning songs, the dialogues."
Contrary to what naysayers might claim, DCP Disha Mittal strongly believes that cinema is influential enough to motivate crimes against women: "Without taking any particular names, I've personally come across incidents where delinquents have been almost instigated, inspired by certain movie plots, certain programmes or dialogues, lewd songs which has brought them to the wrong side of law."
DCP Lakshmi went on to add that crimes against women who refuse a man's expression of "love" have gone up, manifesting in brutal violence like assault and acid attacks.
The three IPS officers ended the video by making a strong appeal to the film industry and the audience to not celebrate such portrayals which are derogatory to women.