Calling it ‘adult comedy’ is simply a way to justify the blatant homophobia and biphobia of the clip – and this isn’t an isolated instance of insensitivity from Vijay Varadharaj.

Vijay Varadharajs Pallu Padama Paathuka sneak-peek is homophobic are we even surprisedScreenshot: YouTube
Flix LGBTQI+ Wednesday, March 04, 2020 - 13:30

A three minutes and 11 seconds sneak peek video from the film Pallu Padama Paathuka was released on Monday. The clip shows VJ Jagan confronting his boyfriend – played by director of the film Vijay Varadharaj himself – before the latter’s wedding. The entire video – right from portraying Jagan as an effeminate man, to the dialogues in the name of comedy – is highly homophobic and biphobic. Coming from Vijay Varadharaj – the creative director of the YouTube channel Temple Monkeys – this is not surprising however.

When I first heard the title of the film, Pallu Padama Paathuka (watch out for the teeth) a few weeks ago, my instant thought was – what has Vijay Varadharaj come up with this time? To start off, the title is a fellatio innuendo in Tamil used as a slur against sycophant men. But that itself doesn’t mean much – The opposition to the video is not on moralistic grounds. We are a community that fought the sodomy law and got it amended for heterosexual people to have consensual anal and oral sex without being criminalised. The problem is that Vijay Varadharaj is known for his misogynistic and queerphobic content which he calls ‘adult comedy’.

In 2016, a video by him produced for the YouTube channel Put Chutney used the term “Orlando Boys” as a slur when one of the characters places two men in a compromising position. It was instantly called out by the queer community in Tamil Nadu for using the tragic incident of the Orlando nightclub shooting as a slur to mean gay. Vijay Varadharaj, however, never apologised nor engaged with the community to learn why the usage of the term is insensitive and homophobic.

This isn’t an isolated incident. Many of the videos made by Temple Monkeys are casteist, misogynist, and queerphobic – and Vijay Varadharaj defends his content repeatedly as ‘adult comedy’, and anyone who criticises him is hounded by his uninformed minions.

Today we live in a society where being LGBTQIA+ identified is not easy. Even though Section 377 was amended on September 6, 2018, the societal and cultural attitudes towards queer persons are still hostile. As a community, we are fighting multiple fights right from our homes, educational spaces, workplaces, to government policies. At such a time, this video directly affects how LGBTQIA+ people are seen in society – and how these attitudes harm us.

Firstly, while the video has a wedding as its backdrop, it doesn’t address the forced marriages of queer persons. (Since the video from Pallu Padama Paathuka involves men, I will focus my opinion on gay men.) There have been many instances where gay men have taken their lives due to this – and it never gets reported by the media. Forced marriage of gay men does not just affect the gay individual or the community, but also the unsuspecting woman who enters the relationship. However, without touching on any of this nuance, the clip simply veers off into a homophobic ‘sequence’ that is supposed to be funny.

The video also shows Vijay Varadharaj’s character see his same-sex relationship as a ‘phase’. Again, this reiterates the already existing misconceptions that being gay or bisexual is a phase. This is a common way of harassment where our identities are erased or brushed off by families. The joke in the video is on the gay person, the same-sex relationship and the sexual act. It’s neither sex-positive nor queer friendly, and makes fun of our lived trauma.

As queer men, we are diverse; some of us are effeminate and some are not. But actor Jagan, who otherwise adheres to mascluine expression on-screen, choosing to express himself as an effeminate man for this character is further reinforcing existing stereotypes.

A few arguments are along the lines that Vijay Varadharaj’s character is bisexual, and like a breakup in a heterosexual relationship, he moves on to get married to another person – in this case it happens to be a woman. Like I mentioned above, the dialogues clearly state that Vijay Varadharj’s characters sees his time with the other man as a ‘phase’. Also, even if we take the argument of bisexuality – this falls into the stereotype of “bisexual men are unfaithful and settle for heterosexual marriage.” This is nothing but biphobia.

Positive representation of gay or bisexual men in Tamil cinema literally does not exist. We have always been used as the ‘comedy track’ in films – and every time, this involves two men with sexual innuendo. Silambarasan’s Tamil film Saravana directed by KS Ravikumar has a comedy track literally lifted from the Hindi film Kal Ho Na Ho where the awkward position between Silambaran and Five Star Krishna is seen as them having anal sex (in Hindi it’s between Shah Rukh Khan and Saif Ali Khan). The joke only works because it involves two men. The sneak peek of Pallu Padama Paathuka follows the same trope.

The argument that the film has not been released yet does not stand good because the released video was carefully edited to convey what is in it, and the makers of the film have to be held responsible for it.

Earlier this year, in the YouTube channel Nakkalites Pongal Vizha gathering, Vijay Varadharaj was asked why his content is not family friendly, to which he replied that his content is for men because there are channels for everyone and he is the only person who has a channel for boys. This clearly displays that Vijay Varadharaj creates content for cis-heterosexual-men.

But my question to all the cis-heterosexual-men – specifically, those who consider themselves as allies to the LGBTQIA+ community and to women – is this: do you really look forward to the misogynistic and queerphobic content created by this bigot? Do you guys secretly cheer on content that encourages sexual abuse and physical violence on marginalised communities?

Moulee is the co-founder of Queer Chennai Chronicles. He is a workplace Diversity, Equity and Inclusion professional and is based in Chennai.

Views expressed are the author’s own.

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