Opinion
The song from Selvaraghavan’s 2011 movie ‘Mayakkam Enna’ was written by his brother, Dhanush, who also stars in the film.

It was a ‘soup song’ that came before the other, more famous soup song. A drunk young man played by Dhanush singing about how to deal with rejection – “Adida avala // udhaida avala // Vidra avala // thevaiye illa.” Hit her bro, kick her. Just chuck her, you don’t need her.

Sweet, no? Well, nine full years after this song from Selvaraghavan’s film Mayakkam Enna created its first controversy, the director has apologised for the lyrics. In an interview with Cinema Express journalist Ashameera Aiyappan, Selvaraghavan was asked about the song, and whether he felt it was important for directors to be socially aware. “The Director has to be socially responsible,” Selvaraghavan replied, and refreshingly added, “I apologise. Something like that should not have been written. It was a mistake.”

“I did not write it in fact,” he quickly clarified – the lyrics rightly belongs to his brother, and the star on whom the song was picturised, Dhanush. “But as a director, when people look up to what we show on screen, we will also have to be socially responsible. I accept it,” he said.

While Selvaraghavan’s apology is late in the day, it is welcome – considering the influence he wields upon filmmakers and fans alike, for his succinct filmmaking style and unique story lines. However, one hopes Selvaraghavan’s apology is translated into more than just words. We hope the trend of ‘soup songs’ – popularised in recent times by his brother, and the lyricist of the 'Adida Avala' song, Dhanush – dies a well deserved death.

‘Adida Avala’ was a tipping point for all the misogyny and woman-bashing that has been normalised on the big screen – but it was neither the first nor the last such song, where gender based violence, or the imagery of the same, is used as a response to romantic rejection. 

Selvaraghavan has given Tamil cinema its flawed heroes and bold women who are often the reason behind the hero’s transformations. His Kaadhal Kondein, where the heroine played by Sonia Aggarwal nurtures Dhanush’ character, a misfit, won him Filmfare for Best Director in 2004. His Pudupettai with two very interesting women characters played by Sneha and Sonia Aggarwal, is regarded as a cult classic even today.

However, almost all of Selvaraghavan’s films, starting from Kaadhal Kondein, have endorsed the pushy male lover, bordering on the violent, with one mandatory ‘soup song’ in the course of the film.

His brother and long-time collaborator Dhanush is the poster boy for ‘soup song’ – along with music director Anirudh Ravichandran. In fact, in 2011 – after the release of what is perhaps the most famous ‘soup song’, ‘Why this Kolaveri Di?’ – Dhanush himself had given a definition for the ‘soup song’ on Twitter.

‘Soup song’ means love failure song, he said. And ‘soup boys’ are those who’ve lost in love. 

‘Why this kolaveri di’ from the film 3 topped international charts even before the film’s album could release, and was probably the first time the term was used and would eventually go on to start a tradition of the ‘soup song’ in Tamil cinema.

Not that we haven’t heard such songs before. While heroes have always mourned over the one that got away in sad songs for all of eternity in Kollywood, the ‘soup song’ made ranting by a rebuffed man a ‘trend’ that many youngsters related to, and picked up on quite effortlessly.

‘Adida Avala’ and ‘Why this Kolaveri Di?’ normalised a man’s inability to cope with rejection, and told young people it was ok to curse a woman if she rejects their advances.

Since then, we’ve heard Sivakarthikeyan’s angst in ‘Sathiyama nee enaku thevaye illa’ (I swear I don’t need you) in Ethir Neechal (once again penned and performed by Dhanush with Anirudh composing it); Vijay’s lament in ‘Vaanganna Vanakkanganna’ in Thalaivaa; and in 2015, the outrageous ‘Beep Song’, penned and performed by Simbu. Though it was not officially released (the actor claimed that it was leaked), it lead to widespread criticism, uncorking the lid on such problematic songs written mainly to abuse women who for exercising their agency.

In real life, meanwhile, we’ve seen far too many instances of daylight hacking, stabbing, and acid attacks by jilted male ‘lovers’ – plain stalkers. We’ve woken up too many times to gruesome accounts of young men resorting to violence just because a woman has rebuffed their unwelcome advances. Is cinema the sole reason for these instances? No. But can one deny the influence it has on the lives of people? No, again.

Although Selvaraghavan's apology needs to be appreciated, it doesn’t fix everything that has happened – and is happening – because our filmmakers and stars believe they have the luxury of time to learn and unlearn and relearn what they call ‘political correctness’.

I would call it ‘doing the right thing’ though, and sincerely hope we don’t have to witness more ‘soup songs’ in Kollywood. Nor wait another decade for some real action on the reel.