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Balu’s “Never Home” Is An Interrogation of Tamil Masculinity

"Never Home" is a music video that strives to demystify the Tamil masculinity that is fundamentally ingrained in our community. Musical Artist Balu, aims to galvanize a discourse surrounding alcoholism, domestic violence, and the convenient overlooking of toxic masculinity inherent in Tamil culture.

Balu casts "Never Home" against the streets of Eglinton Avenue West in Toronto. The video provides a glimpse of how domestic violence is pervasive in modern-day relationships within the Tamil diaspora. This story paints a picture defining love as the ownership of another person.  Balu strongly believes that these notions are merely exacerbated by the Tamil film industry. There are so many Bollywood scenes that romanticize stalking, ownership of another person, and in many cases, validate these approaches to love. Through his music, Balu wants us to critically analyze these portrayals.

For the most part, women tend to be held accountable for their partner’s actions in heteronormative relationships, even if they themselves have no autonomy in the relationship. In "Never Home", Balu’s character clearly has a drinking problem. This was deliberate because the creators are quite concerned with the prevalence of Alcoholism in the Tamil community. The constant reminder that alcohol is a factor in the misbehavior of Balu’s character sends a powerful message regarding the negative implications of addiction in the relationship. I’m unsure of the cause of this pervasive issue—PTSD from the genocide, unhappiness in the diaspora, discontent, or all of the above.

Balu clearly has created this video for a Tamil audience, and it gives me hope to know that some Tamil men are cognizant of the power dynamics within heteronormative relationships. Balu also attempts to bring Tamil culture to the forefront in this video.  He can be seen grating a coconut, which is a staple food in our culture. Hindu gods also hang in the metallic gold frame; something that is reminiscent of many Tamil homes. Seeing a visibly Tamil woman and Tamil man in the diaspora caress and display intimacy is something I consider to be revolutionary. That is something he made sure to bring to this video because he made this story about Tamil people.

The purple lighting of the home emphasizes the dystopia of it all, but flashbacks to the past do not host the same lighting. The purple lighting is a reflection of how time forced Balu’s character to reveal his true toxic masculinity. It is important that Balu attempts to translate his work so that he really does speak to the greater audience of Tamil people. He integrates his natural talents within his music in this body of work. An example is the trumpet sound that he makes at the beginning, which is a sound that he learned to make with his mouth, as a decade-long beatboxer). The melody of the song, which refers to how he’ll never be home, brings about many questions. Is he speaking to how he won’t be home for his partner? Or is he speaking on how being a refugee means that he will never have a home?

Balu’s co-star, Anoshinee, and cinematographer, Piratheep, place themselves in positions of vulnerability in this video. They chose to engage in a piece of work that confronts values that tend to go uncontested within the Tamil community. Their roles are fundamental to this production.

Ultimately, I left this Interview with these final thoughts. Balu’s intentions of bringing toxic masculinity to the forefront of the Tamil diaspora should be applauded. I hope that the topics that he highlights in his music will bring about more productive conversations that will help to better our community. Since this Interview, Balu has moved to Hollywood to continue the pursuit of a professional career in music.

 

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