In 'Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo', Allu Arjun's character is shown as being obsessed with the heroine's legs.

Allu Arjun ogling at Pooja Hegde's legs in Ala VaikunthapurramulooYouTube/Aditya Music
Flix Tollywood Tuesday, November 10, 2020 - 18:14

In a recent interview, actor Pooja Hegde spoke about her experience of working in the Telugu film industry and the objectification of women in Telugu films. In the interview with Film Companion, Pooja spoke about her recent film Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo, co-starring Allu Arjun, and directed by Trivikram Srinivas. In the film, when Allu Arjun’s character meets Pooja Hedge’s (his boss), he continuously stares at her legs, seeming ‘transfixed’. These scenes have been criticised in the past for the way they objectify Pooja Hegde’s character. 

Speaking about the scene, Pooja said that when director Trivikram told her about the scene, she tried to suggest changes which could convey that her character does not simply put up with inappropriate behaviour from her employee. “I am someone who always fights about things like this. We actually added those scenes where I send him into the cold ... I send him somewhere really hot. We added those scenes to try and justify that she doesn’t take it (the inappropriate behaviour) lightly.” 

When asked if she has pushed back against problematic portrayal of women in Telugu films, Pooja said that she has spoken in the past about the south’s “obsession with navels and midriffs.” “I said I'd rather have a guy look at my legs than my midriff. I think legs are hot personally, but objectifying the legs may be not (ok). Which is why we added those scenes, but a lot of people may be didn't notice that,” Pooja said. 

Pooja’s statements have triggered outrage among several Telugu film viewers on social media, with many of them particularly irked with the comment on “obsession with navels.” Many users have called her "ungrateful" for making negative comments on an industry that has played a big role in her success, with others pointing out that the objectification of women is not exclusive to Telugu films. 

Pooja has now reportedly issued a statement saying her words from the interview are being taken out of context. A statement in Pooja’s name has been shared by well-known Telugu film industry PR consultant Vamsi Kaka. 

“My words from a recent interview are being taken out of context. You can twist my words but not my love (for Tollywood). The Telugu film industry is my life.  Although my fans and fans of my films know this, I am saying this again to avoid any misinterpretations. I will always be indebted to the Telugu film industry which has given me so much. Watch the full interview, thank you,” the statement said. 

In the past, actor Tapsee Pannu had also spoken about Telugu film director K Raghavendra Rao’s portrayal of women’s bodies, taking a dig at his obsession with throwing fruits and flowers at the lead women actors’ navels. Her statement had Tollywood fans fuming as well, and Tapsee later posted an apology saying she was only making fun of herself, and her comments were not directed at anyone else.

Director Trivikram Srinivas also has a massive fanbase among Telugu audiences, especially among male viewers. In a discussion between the director, lyricist Sirivennela Seetharama Sastry and music composer S Thaman, over the song ‘Samajavaragamana’ from Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo which starts off with Allu Arjun’s character ogling and singing about Pooja’s legs, the men talk about “purifying” the hero’s gaze. “It’s a thin line, it can cross over to vulgarity on the other side. We need to stay on this side,” Trivikram says. “If a beautiful woman sees praise for her beauty in our eyes, she will definitely feel happy, and go home with that high. If she sees desire in our eyes, she will go home running with fear … It’s a thin line,” he goes on to add. Pooja also defends the director and the film in the interview, saying the later parts in the film and the song ‘Samajavaragamana’ portray a more respectful gaze. 

Those familiar with the concept of the male gaze, however, would probably disagree with the interpretation, considering how the scenes in the film are constructed, with Allu Arjun's character remaining unapologetic about his behaviour.

Watch Pooja Hegde's introduction scene in the film here:

Pooja is currently one of the top-ranking female actors in the Telugu film industry. She has some major films coming up, including the Prabhas starrer Radhe Shyam, and Most Eligible Bachelor with Akhil Akkineni. She is also acting in the Hindi film Kabhi Eid Kabhi Diwali with Salman Khan. Speaking about her rising pay as she has seen a lot of success lately, Pooja said in the interview, “I am all for equal pay, and I think that if equal pay is not happening, whatever our market value is … you should know what you’re worth.”

(With inputs from Digital Native)

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