Gautham Menon's latest outing, "Achcham Enbadhu Madamaiyada" which released in Telugu as "Sahasam Swaasaga Saagipo", is yet another episode from the life of a police officer, as the director is fond of putting it. And like all his movies about a man in uniform in which the heroine is killed or nearly dies, Leela (Manjima Mohan) almost pops off too.
In 2003, Gautham made "Kaakha Kaakha", his first cop film, which had Jyothika playing the female lead. Maya is kidnapped and then shot dead right before her policeman husband's (Suriya) eyes.
Even though Gautham gave Maya lines like "I want to make love to you", he cleverly sticks to Tamil Nadu's sense of morality. For instance, we're told early on that the villain, Pandiya (Jeevan), who is attracted to Maya, doesn't believe in raping women - he's of the view that women have to fall for him. A progressive villain if there ever was one, eh?
It's never quite okay for the heroine to be raped. She can be stabbed, shot, hit by a truck but getting raped is a tad too much because then, the hero's "property" becomes tainted.
After the romantic "Onra renda aasaigal" first night song, for instance, Maya is still chastely covered in a saree as the villains crash into their room to beat up Anbuchelvan and take her away. While Swathi (Devadarshini), the wife of another cop, is raped and then beheaded, we're given an explanation for why Maya was "preserved" by Pandiya.
Jyothika rose from the dead in "Vetaiyaadu Vilayaadu", but not before Gautham buried another heroine in her place. Kamilini Mukherjee is the adoring Kayalvizhi, police officer Raghavan's (Kamal Haasan) wife. She's allowed a cutesy romance with Raghavan before lo and behold! a gang murders her.
And then, Aradhana (Jyothika) comes into Raghavan's life...and that happens when he saves her from committing suicide. Remember the "varum aana varadhu" comedy? Jyothika, in this film is, "saaven aana saagamaaten". The two psychos in the film - who, by the way, are mutilating, raping and killing women for entertainment - bury her alive and Raghavan rescues her just in time. In a moment of black humour, we're told Aradhana's daughter's name is...wait for it...Maya.
"Varanam Aaiyiram" was Gautham's next film about a man in uniform, this time a military officer with a tragic past. Guess what that past is? His girlfriend, Meghna (Sameera Reddy) dies in a bomb attack. The second heroine in the film, Priya (Divya Spandana), is mercifully allowed to live, perhaps not to upstage the older Suriya who is dying of cancer. There's only so much death the average film-goer can take.
"Nadunisi Naaygal" wasn't strictly a cop movie. Like Robert Bloch's "Psycho", the film is an attempt to understand a psychopath, Veera (Veera Bahu). As in "Vetaiyaadu Vilayaadu", there's plenty of violence directed towards women and as is convention, it is a woman who's to blame for starting it all. Rape, murder, mutilation - the film's got it all.
"Yennai Arindhal" was Gautham's third cop movie, with Ajith and Trisha in the lead. As in "Vetaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu", the heroine, Hemanika (Trisha) is a single mother. But almost as if Gautham regretted letting Aradhana live in the earlier film, he finishes off Hemanika in this one. Thenmozhi (Anushka Shetty), is the new woman in the tough man's life and maybe in one of Gautham's later films, she'll die a nice, crude death too.
The heroine, in Gautham Menon's uniformed men stories, appears to function like a horcrux. For those who haven't read "Harry Potter", a horcrux is where you hide a fragment of your soul. The enemy can kill you by killing your horcruxes. The director seems to believe that unless the woman whom a man loves is made to suffer physical pain in some way, he cannot become a "real" man.
This might sound romantic but it's actually, quite a twisted and misogynistic idea.
His women must die or suffer sadism for the hero to understand bloodshed and violence. They might be single mothers, Math experts, or wannabe script writers, but the heroines ultimately function as the magnifying mirrors for the hero's masculinity. Their body is the battleground on which the hero and the villain flex muscles.
The graphic brutality against women that Gautham is so fond of showing in his films is disturbing to say the least - not that he doesn't have the creative license to do it but at least for the sake of originality, isn't it time the director did something new with the female characters in his cop films? Or can't a man come of age with a sensible woman by his side? Will his moustache not grow otherwise?