I used to love watching Tamil movies. There was a time when these films seemed to have compelling storylines, and I enjoyed watching the lead actor ooze forced alpha male heroism out of every pore in his body. Meanwhile, the lead actress would wander around as if her sole purpose in life was to be the main actor’s trophy partner. The main actor is called the “hero” because predictably he ends up saving someone, usually the damsel in distress or “heroine”.
I was a child when this appealed to me. Now the same movies that once left me in awe leave me frustrated. Yes, the one man vs. multiple assailants irritates me. The simple village guy trying to save his family suddenly knows parkour and karate. Did I doze off or do these movies explain how the hero acquired his ninja skills?
The fairy tale-esque nature of most Tamil movies also irritates me. Hero meets heroine. Hero plays a stupid practical joke on the heroine. Heroine debates whether she should “love” the hero. [Making a decision about whether to love someone is not love.] Heroine plays hard to get but hero finally wins her over. Then the hero and heroine “propose” their love for each other after a mere two days of knowing each other. [Yes, the word “propose” is used. It’s quite confusing seeing as “propose” is usually used in conjunction with marriage. Am I the only one who notices how much this seems like a business proposition?]
Of course, the other scenario involves the heroine apparently not knowing that the hero is in love with her - even when he asks to speak to her alone and his body language reflects a desire to be with her. For his part, he plays the role of a stalker quite aptly with his constant presence wherever she is, gawking at her as if she were an object rather than a person. [Have they not seen a woman before? Almost as if they were monks in their past life.]. When he does eventually talk to her, he stutters and struggles to say what’s on his mind as if he has a speech impediment. [Or perhaps he has a "vadai" stuck in his throat. Vadai pochay...]
Sometimes he starts describing what seems to be his idea of "love" symptoms. This includes how he can't sleep at night and how he’s having weird dreams about her and he wakes up sweating etc. I’m not a doctor or a drug user, but either the hero has been taking some form of hallucinogen each night or he definitely has cancer or some other ailment. The heroine - being a prodigy and all - asks him whether he’s OK, asks him whether he needs water, and asks him a million other questions that have nothing to do with what he’s so obviously trying to say.
Hero and heroine now need to get their “love” approved by their families. But plot twist: the heroine’s father is a gangster who shuttles saraku throughout the city. Predictably, the hero must defeat this villain. He prepares punch dialogues before the big showdown. [Little does he know that the villain has prepared his own little zingers too... OMG no way, so unpredictable! Half the movie is about the war of punch dialogues!] Of course, along the way the hero’s friends are telling him to not fight the villain. And that’s the moment when he evolves like a Pokémon into Aristotle and starts giving superfluous philosophical wisdom about life and death.
What’s really odd is how the villain and hero seem to have each other’s cell numbers. [Are they secret friends? Oh snap, they’re secretly cuddle buddies and they swapped numbers at Roja’s tea party!] Throughout the movie, they call each other to inform one other about the crimes they’re about to commit against the other party. [OK, seems like taking out the element of surprise is counterintuitive to defeating one another. But I’m not well versed in art of warfare. What do I know?]
I use the word crime because it’s not only the villain who commits crimes, but the hero as well. In every fight scene, the hero destroys public property, someone’s car or someone’s livelihood... awkward. Of course while all of this is happening, the hero struts around town with his friends who almost never leave him alone. Oddly enough these friends of his walk two feet behind him or surround him in a circle such that he is in the exact center - all ploys by the movie directors to enhance the main actor’s hero status. [Half the time they chill on a rock at some random beach. Umm OK...]
Now the moment we’ve all been waiting for: The hero faces the villain and his violent gang. Everyone sustains an impossible amount of injuries – that is until the hero falls to the ground, seemingly gone for good. The villain then turns his attention towards the hero’s loved ones. And just when he’s about kill them, a miracle happens. The hero somehow recovers from his injuries and promptly stops the villain from slaughtering his loved ones in the nick of time. He beats the villain to a pulp and then walks off with the heroine. THE END.
I will admit that I can be a sucker for these formulaic plots. However, there is one particular issue with most Tamil movies that I’ve grown to hate. I loathe the way women are portrayed. Almost every Tamil movie centers on the main actor acting all heroic by saving the day. And almost every Tamil movie portrays the main actress in the stereotypical “Hi, I’m pretty and emotional. I do pretty things like catching butterflies and moving in slow motion while water cascades down my silky, black hair. I’m so lost without a man, he needs to come help me!” role.
The introduction scene always has the heroine acting in a way that is perceived as extremely feminine, or a song where she dances around children or moves in a supposed “feminine” way. When the main actor sees the main actress in the movie, background music starts to play and a random breeze will blow through her hair. [This happens even when she’s indoors and not near a fan. I think I’m just going to lol right now. LOL.] Moreover, she is always portrayed as a somewhat silly but physically perfect person.
Tips to be a main actress in the average Tamil film:
- Stay beautiful with lots of makeup. Giggle and be silly.
- Be as helpless as possible so the main actor can truly advance his hero status by saving you. Also because you’re beautiful, the main actor will look that much cooler.
- Play hard to get, be dramatic, illogical and most of all PLAY MIND GAMES.
- I recommend catching butterflies but if insects make you cringe, stand under a tree and wait for a blossom to fall on you. Ensure that the hero is watching you and make sure your movements are in slow motion. Remember, you are a robot.
- Make sure the hero chases you in a field, temple or around a tree so that you’re literally making yourself hard to get.
- Wear a sari as often as possible so that you may appear to be a beautiful cultured girl. Please be fully aware of the candle rule. You must light candles if dressed in a sari, it is the only way. Lighting a "vilaku" alters your destiny so that you may be the CHOSEN ONE.
I’m sure some people will read this and wonder what’s wrong with everything I’ve listed above. Let me enlighten my readers. I want to see independent, strong women who have a real purpose in a movie other than to enhance the aura of the main actor. There is no need for a man to swoop in and save a “damsel in distress”. A damsel she may be, but regardless of whether or not she’s in distress she can take care of herself.
Tamil movies are generally about elevating the hero onto a pedestal comprised entirely of his ego, punch dialogues, and the stereotypical Tamil heroine. There should be no pedestal because this pedestal deprives these movies of any realism. Women and men are equal and women can do as much as men. Women don’t necessarily need “saving” and it’s time directors reflect this reality in Tamil movies.
Not all Tamil movies deserve my scathing remarks. But most do. I admit I am guilty of watching some Tamil movies and I may even continue to do so. However, I will continue to be frustrated and bored by them as long as directors stick to these archaic ideologies when making a movie. There are very few Tamil movies I thoroughly enjoy these days because they lack in realism. I’m sure not everyone will agree with what I have written and that’s fine. But I reserve the right to have an opinion. [And if there are any trolls... stay under the bridge.]
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect TamilCulture's editorial policy.
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