Put Chutney has released a timely video on workplace harassment innocuously titled 'Office Romance?' The issue comes to limelight every time there is a high-profile case but attitudes towards women in the professional space continue to remain unchanged.
One of the prime reasons for this is the fact that the image of a sexual harasser, in our minds, is someone who is crude and brutal and is typically from a lower social class. Many men do not consider their advances towards their female colleagues to be sexual harassment because with their wealth and sophistication, they do not fit the average description of such a person.
The Put Chutney video has one such man, who not only showers unwanted attention on his visibly disgusted female colleague, he also indulges in some good old victim blaming. In fact, it is Venky (Venkatesh Harinathan) who complains to the HR (Vinodhini Vaidyanathan) that Anjali (Lakshmi Priya) is distracting him from doing his work through her "seductive" actions - like erm..drinking water.
The video takes a dig at Tamil cinema which frequently eroticizes perfectly ordinary things that women do, with an annoying description of what a massive impact all this had on the man. Be it "classy" filmmakers like a Gautam Menon or "massy" ones like a Bakkiyaraj Kannan, the slow-mo shots of a heroine being "cute" are a staple in Tamil cinema. The mandatory hero's friend who is a party to the harassment makes an appearance, too.
Put Chutney's take on workplace harassment makes a link with the representation of love and romance in Tamil films and also places it within the context of a society where intermingling of the genders is strictly controlled.
However, the video stops short of exploring the power equation at the workplace which is what makes it so difficult for so many victims to make a complaint. The same characters could have been placed in a college campus or elsewhere and it wouldn't have made a difference.
The ever practical Vinodini's vettu onnu thundu rendu dialogues are funny (I'm a fan ever since I watched Aandavan Kattalai) although not quite how sexual harassment committees at the workplace would function. If they had one.
The video ends on a note that suggests Venky is far from mending his ways (the Cupid reference is obviously to Sivakarthikeyan's horrendous Remo) and indeed, he just moves on from one "love" to another even as the HR is telling him that what he's doing is stalking and harassment.
Despite all the discussions and conversations about the glorification of violence against women in Tamil cinema, the industry continues to propagate regressive ideas about love and romance and considering this, more voices asking for a rethink can only be welcome.