The trailer for Oviya's upcoming film 90ML was released on Friday. The film, directed by Alagiya Asura, is certified 'A' and appears to be about a group of women and their escapades.
As is the tradition in adult films in Tamil cinema, there's plenty of drinking and double entendre dialogues, with references to oral sex and breasts. However, considering that these lines are mouthed by women expressing their sexual desires openly, the "culture" brigade on social media has slammed the film as "crude" and "unsuitable".
Moreover, several have claimed that since Oviya of Bigg Boss fame is a "role model" to many young women, she shouldn't be doing such films. Curiously, many of these social media influencers and industry insiders are the same people who defend the glorification of crimes against women, like stalking and sexual harassment on screen. Even though such acts are performed by male stars with huge fan-bases, we're asked to look at "cinema as cinema" and not "over-analyse".
When it comes to women actors crossing moral boundaries on screen, however, they are burdened with the responsibility of "saving culture". We saw this happening in Bollywood with Veere Di Wedding (certified 'A', by the way) and the furore over Swara Bhaskar's masturbation scene, and it's no different in other industries.
It's true that 90ML, from what we've seen of the promo, looks like a tacky film. It's also possible that the women on screen will be subjected to the male gaze, as is the case with nearly every other film which comes out. However, the question remains why sex comedies like Trisha Illana Nayanthara, Hara Hara Mahadevaki, Iruttu Arayail Murattu Kuthu and so on, which have male protagonists mouthing similar crude dialogues, don't evoke similar outrage.
Forget sex comedies, the average mainstream Tamil film is riddled with misogynistic dialogues, sexist scenes and songs, as well as derogatory language towards women. Male stars, however, are not required to take responsibility for what they promote on screen. On the other hand, Oviya, who is a fledgling actor in comparison, is supposed to be conscious of her audience.
It's the same double standards we saw in operation when Jyothika mouthed a swear word in the trailer of Naachiyar last year. Suddenly, the "culture" brigade online was interested in feminism, pointing out that such acts were not "true" women's empowerment. This despite the fact that the trailer did not claim anywhere that it was a feminist film.
90ML, too, is being subjected to the 'Is this feminism' question though the makers have not made such assertions in the promo. A film does not become feminist just because it has women characters in lead roles - something the "culture" brigade would know if it was really interested in understanding feminist politics.
By all indications, 90ML may very well turn out to be a disappointing film. It might be vulgar, offensive, and even sexist. But if you have not opposed similar films in the past and are getting hot under the collar only because it's Oviya's name in the lead role and not a male star, you need to confront your hypocrisy. Please give up the pretence that this is about "women's empowerment" for you.