Kollywood’s love affair with its ‘soup boys’ who have their hearts broken by ‘uncaring’ women may be nowhere close to ending. But it seems that the media glare on the subject of stalking in Kollywood films, following the murder of Chennai techie Swathi in broad daylight at the Nungambakkam station last year, is starting to turn things around.
From an absolute silence in which few actors deigned to speak on the subject, the chorus of voices against normalising stalking in films is gaining numbers, albeit very slowly. The latest to show a change of heart is the “Kolaveri” man himself, actor Dhanush.
Speaking to Baradwaj Rangan for Film Companion, Dhanush admitted that he has grown more conscious of his responsibilities as a star with a huge fan base, when it comes to what he says and does on screen.
In response to Baradwaj’s question about whether an actor should take responsibility for behaviour that happens off screen, Dhanush responded that he would ideally like audiences and fans to simply be entertained by what they see on-screen, but leave what they see there in the theatre itself.
However, he added, with age and experience have come maturity and a growing recognition of the responsibility of having a huge fan base. “Now I am being very careful about what I say, especially on screen, and even the songs I write and the characters I do... I’m trying to keep it in the right space... where it’s positive and it’s healthy.”
Dhanush’s response comes at a time when the chorus of industry voices against romanticising stalking on-screen remains small. Besides a few conscientious voices like actor Siddharth and director Lakshmy Ramakrishnan, there is still a studied silence in the industry on the subject.
Indeed, months after a powerful public debate on the subject in the media, following Swathi’s murder, one of Kollywood’s 2016 hits, the Sivakarthikeyan starrer Remo once again turned to stalking as the “best way” for men in the “loser” category to make a woman fall in love with them.
More recently, director CS Amudhan sought to do away with the debate on stalking by calling it an imported debate from America. "Stalking", he argued, was the only way young men could catch the attention of young women and express their affection, since men and women are not allowed to mix freely in our society.
Watch Dhanush’s full interview here. For his response to the question on stalking, see from 23.50 minutes onwards.