Features Saturday, January 10, 2015 - 05:30
By Sowmya Rajendran So, I enjoyed watching Lingaa. Yes, really. Go ahead and judge me. It may not be the Superstar’s best film but it was pretty entertaining. I even enjoyed the climax that everyone’s outraging over. I was outraged, too, but not for the tacky graphics. I was outraged much earlier when Raja Lingeshwaran’s secretary, Saami Pulla (Ilavarasu), marries a British woman only to slap her around and abuse her to prove a point to the white man that the brown man can give it back, too.  This portion of the film is set in pre-independent India and we’re supposed to think this is not just comic but also patriotic. The British woman commits no crime; she isn’t rude to the ‘natives’; indeed, she barely says anything! And yet, when this heavily pregnant woman is forced to do hard labour and build Raja Lingeshwaran’s dream dam, we’re meant to feel a surge of nationalism in our veins. Wah. Domestic violence is routinely used in Indian films as part of comedy sequences. It reflects our attitude as a society towards the issue in real life: people (men and women) think there is nothing wrong with a man beating up his wife. After all, a wife is the husband’s property and he can do as he pleases with what belongs to him. What makes it worse in Lingaa is the fact that the script, in parallel, boasts of speaking about ‘women’s rights’ – a nod to the legendary poet Bharathiyar’s ‘pudhumai penn’, after whom Sonakshi Sinha’s character (Bharathi) is modeled. Even Bharathi, for all her ‘modernity’ and flair for engineering, doesn’t do much other than cooking and cleaning at the camp where she’s hired. What do we know about this pudhumai penn’s capabilities in the end? Nobody makes rice puttu like her! There is no critique at all of Saami Pulla’s behaviour in the film. Nobody questions him, not the righteous Raja, not the people of his village. In fact, Saami Pulla only goes on to shine in the story as Raja Lingeshwaran’s most faithful follower who does not desert him even when everybody suspects his motives. This is yet another example of how domestic violence is legitimized on celluloid.  When a villainous character whom nobody likes performs an act of violence, we instinctively distance ourselves from it and are quick to condemn the act. However, when someone we are meant to like, be it the hero or the hero’s followers, do something violent, the act appears justified to our eyes.  Isn’t it too much to analyze all this in a Thalaivar fim? Aren’t we simply meant to clap and whistle at all the style and swagger on display? Well, I would have been happy to do just that if the film hadn’t made any reference to Bharathiyar and had left women’s rights alone. I know it’s in fashion to talk about women’s rights but don’t talk about it if you don’t want to think about it first. Not everything can be done just by graphics. Tweet Read KS Ravikumar and Rajinikanth fans launch counter offensive on distributors, critics
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