Friday, August 6, 2010



After they made Boys, I fully expected a movie called Girls. You know, something that shows the rest of the world what girls are really like and how scandalous we actually are. That we like looking at boys (in the plural, not the one Rama that every woman is allowed) and sometimes at girls, have friendships with other women that are not based on shopping, have whole spheres in our brains where men are highly inconsequential, and are also blessed with enough personality to colour several white peacocks. But Girls never came.

Every year, we see more movies with bubbly heroines who seem to be in various stages of retardation. Innocent and jumpy, full of cute quirks and oh so chawming, ladies and gentlemen. And every year, my BP rises just a little bit more.
I can't stand Genelia in Santosh Subramaniam. Every time I hear that ha-ha Hasini and the whole let's-bang-our-foreheads, I want to bang her head on a nice big boulder in Mahabalipuram. And yet, so many men and even women find her to be 'adorable'. What's with this innocent-infant heroine obsession?
I was pissed with Arvind Swamy in Roja because he made a big deal about the whole pattikaadu thing and how he didn't want some urban woman who knew everything he knew because then, how would chemistry develop in the plot?

And when they do this whole Jessie kind of movies also, I get pissed. Okay, Gautam Menon, you tried very hard to show Jessie to be this speshul woman but just because everyone's whispering in Inglis in your movie, it doesn't mean you've created a 'different' heroine that all of womankind needs to be grateful for. Every time Simbu said 'Jussi' and did that whole soulful face, I was wondering why Jussi wasn't getting phenomenally bored. And just because one soulful boy creepily follows you around, you don't fall in love with him. Especially when you've had half a line conversation with him. Same for Madam Sameera Reddy. Though there, Surya was phenomenally hot. So at least, that makes sense to me.

Why don't we ever see films that give their female characters some depth in characterization? And I don't mean make them into Phoolan Devi. I don't even mean make woman-centred cinema. I just mean...give the woman some life! I'm sick of fluffy-heads and their 'va di polam' bimbette groups. Female friendships exist in our films only in relation to what the hero needs at that point. Does he want the friend to convince the heroine about his lurrve? Does he want the friend to carry his message to the locked up heroine? Or does he want an evil double-cross villi to make the plot more interesting? I know popular cinema is just for popcorn, but still...they always have some amount of boy bonding going on. Heck, even Rajini has boy bonding with Vadivelu. On the other hand, women are always hating other women. Wicked second heroine hates innocent first heroine, MIL hates DIL, women bitching about other women all the time. Or if at all they show women bonding, it will be the first wife magnanimously letting the second wife into her large heart.

Cinema, for the most part, is unreal. And I don't expect it or even want it to have gut-wrenching verisimilitude. I enjoy the masala-padam genre. I revel in nonsense. But I just want to see women on screen with the 20% spunkiness of women I know in real life. I'd like to see women liking each other, for a change (and I don't mean to indulge your hostel-lesbianism fantasy).

I switch on the TV and women are everywhere- scratching one half of their face to test for dry skin, buying anti-aging creams to look impossibly young, trying to prevent armpit sweat, measuring their fairness, colouring their hair because they are worth it, eating one grain of rice and what not. I see it everywhere all the time to a point when I start feeling that I'm unreal for being the way I am and thinking the thoughts that I think. Then I look around me and I see women. With enough spunk to give me goosebumps and an odd feeling of love in the pit of my stomach. And then I switch off the TV and come and rant on my blog.


vishesh said...

ROFL! The last para is awesome!

Wait wasn't there a movie called friends or five stars or something like that with college girls and a police inspector(a lady)?

Anyway, we men don't understand how can you expect us to be real? Imagine if we try making them real and they turn out all wrong? You won't forgive us will you?

So I say you write a movie and make it, we will watch and learn :D

vishesh said...

woot! I'm first...yay!

Uncle Srini said...

"Then I look around me and I see women. With enough spunk to give me goosebumps and an odd feeling of love in the pits of my stomach." - isn't that what counts at the end of the day, GB? And oh yes the word 'spunk' reminds me of a certain friend from the yesteryear and made me smile. Films are jazz anyway! :D

I was laughing through your description of Jussie - it sounded like Simbu! :D - in Vinnai Thaandi Varuvaayaa. And I do not like Genelia anyway, and no doubt Santhosh Subrahmanyam was irritating beyond comprehension. Thankfully, I never got to watch the whole film.

As Vishesh said in an earlier post, you really seem to be on a spree. :D Quite refreshing that! :)

@Vishesh so you finally beat me here. I told you it evens out, no? Bit like LBW and Daryl Harper in cricket :D

Spaz Kumari said...

@vishesh - That would be Snehithiye! In the feminist fervour of my youth I watched it two times.

Also, that thing about men not understanding women is rubbish. As much as I'd like to believe we're all attractively inscrutable and mysterious, i have to admit we're as obviously selfish/moody/soppy as your Average Anbarasan.

@GB - I have pontificated endlessly to my friends about so many indian men lovingly embracing the madonna/whore complex. It never fails to creep me out. In Indhi movies I thought jaane tu ya jaane na, otherwise annoying (because of selfsame genelia), had promise because of that rocker chick character, but i waited the whole movie and they gave her nothing to do!


Now I will go watch singam. ;)

artnavy said...

i just caught up on all your recent posts- brilliant, funny, thought provoking ....i feel inspired 'to write' and give it a shot once again wholeheartedly and will send u my draft since i do not have an N in my life

Jil Jil Ramamani said...

There is/was this one serial at 9 o clock on SunTV...super smart chick, full formal wear only, in boardroom and all that jazz .Intrigued I sat and watched. Of course, she turned out to be the peter villi. Waste.

Quick Q. If Simbu had acted in Vaaranam aayiram instead of Surya, what would it have been called?
A. Vaanaram aayiram.

Shreyas said...

@vishesh: Five star was supposed to be about 5 friends- 2 girls, 3 guys. After introducing characters and showing off how close they were (by making the girls run up the boys hostel to wake the guys up for interviews), the movie went on about ONE of the boys' lives.

@GB: Oh yes. Genelia D'Souza is now a word I use as an insult to describe someone who's being shrieky, hyperactive and jumpy- all in a very Hahahasini way.

I was also supremely upset with Maniratnam's sidelining of the women in Aydha Ezhuthu- Surya and siddharth become MPs, what happens to trisha and esha in that plot?

This whole woman wrt to man perspective is pissing off.

Word verification: Psiders. Dyslexic spiders.

Heathcliffs Girl said...

recently i saw this mallu movie with mamta in the lead made by s.anthikad. actually despite slight stereo typing he did a good job with her,did you see it? its called: kadha thudarum..

Anonymous said...

" Then I look around and see women with enough spunk to give goosebumps"---these are the most beautiful words I have heard from you." And an odd feeling of love in the pit of my stomach"---Those words are the icing to be sure!
Thank you for growing up and let the looking around be more broadened to include men, children and animals too! keep it up!

UmaS said...

Came here through Vishesh sharing this blog post. :)

God, now there is one more person who thinks the women in movies and serials are portrayed without any depth and characterization !!! For the directors, character roles mean only villains (ok, villis) !!!

Loved the last para...

Good post. :) Like it. :)

RK said...

Eii, don't damage VTV. Trisha saying "Karthik, Karthik, please Karthik, I love you Karthik.." was awesome :)

But yeah the rest of the movie was rubbish. Lightfoot it seems. Avan moonjila lighta yen foot ah vekannum.

Also, Vaaranam Ayiram wasn't that bad. Sameera was some first class class first chick, who thuppified Surya to go study on a scholarship at UC Berkeley. She even died trying to present some paper in Tennessee or something. But yeah, she was still all see-uh-ree-us till Surya came and showed her avaloda nenjukul peidhidum maamazhai and what not. But still, at least she wasn't a dumbass.

And I stopped watching Santhosh because of Genelia. She is just... shrill. After Janaki songs (Nenjinille Nenjinille.. AAARGHHH), she is probably the next most annoying thing in the world.

@spaz - Singam = \m/ \m/. Some quality mokkais in that movie.

CW said...

I agree esp. wrt. Genelia doing a Charlotte Church through the whole bloody movie.

Btw, also agree about K being woolly-headed (and over-hyped). So when you make a movie, please cast me in it. I'll be glad to act as your mother or sister or friend of boyfriend's SIL. Just give me the satisfaction of being in a movie with you.

GB said...

@Vishesh- Too many people have responded to you already, so I'm going to be chup raho :D And I'm thrilled to know you are thrilled to comment here first. Hehe.

@Ungil- Who is this yesteryear friend? I already feel ancient and now even kewl words like spunky make me old-ah? Mudila.

@Spaz- Yup, I don't get this whole inscrutable deal either. Soofer bore. I haven't seen the Indhi padam you've mentioned because of Genelia ki presence.

There's this good gender book I read that deals with this Madonna/whore thing- Goddesses, wives, whores, slaves- women in classical antiquity. Sarah Pomeroy. If you like mythology and are feeling fiery feministy, this is the book.

@Artnavy- Of course, Art. Just because I left NilaUngil magazine, I'm not resigning as your editor :P

@Jil Jil- Hahaha. Jussi. Pah. What a moron.

@Shreyas- Yeah, Mani Ratnam seriously pisses me off because he ought to know better. And it's worse because he believes he's actually creating some great female shakti types women on screen.

@Heathcliff's Girl- I was mostly referring to Tamil movies here. There are lots of Mallu movies that have excellent characterization- I'm talking about the golden Lal-Mammooty period...not now. Haven't seen the Anthikad movie. Will try to pick it up.

@Anon Amma- Helloji, stop obsessing with my blog and read some kavidha and prosper :P

@Uma- Thanks! Keep visiting!

@RK- Boy following girl he met on train and her keeping him in house when she should be dialing 911 doesn't sound very first class brain to me. However, I did excuse Sameera Reddy because Surya is hot.

And about VTV- Jussi sheddup mistah.

And Singam is an awesomeness. Again, because of Surya, one and only.

@CW- Who do you think the K we're talking about is? :D But in any case, aaf gourse you can be acting. We can be sistahs. Of the Sisterhood.

Karthik Sivaramakrishnan said...

lol@vaanaram aayiram

Saya said...

You know what.. i know a couple of genelia types in real life.. and whats more.. they have a lot of boys swooning.

oh the lost kitten.. oh the paavam - i cant make my way and cross the road ones.
i personally found surya very irritating with sameera reddy and dont even get me started abt our dear chimpu.

frissko said...

The last paragraph was brilliant...

For 'Girlz' to ring true, i guess it'll need a woman director...And women directors are busy writing regressive stories for their big director husbands :)...Maybe you and your illustrator friend should start a kannitheevu type thodar strip on the theme, 3 boxes a week...

LOL @ Jil's 'Vaanaram aayiram' :) (although i think Simbhu would be a potent actor under a good director and a borrowed voice)...

I thought Muthalagu from 'Paruthiveeran' was something...But that's one for a gazillion hahahasinis...

If you're the 'hindi maaloom' types, you might want to get your hands at a hindi serial of yesteryears called 'Udaan'...They don't make such stuff anymore...

And at the risk of making my brain seem like something made of atta maavu, i found VTV pretty alright and i liked 'Vaaranam aayiram' a lot (and Surya's 'hotness' is not relevant for me)...

Zarine Mohideen said...

Simbu in VTV was plain creepy. He desperately tried to act like he was the "oh I'm so decent" type but failed miserably. His local accent was just edging on his dialogues waiting to burst out.

And what is this fascination of having the hero characters be mechanical engineers? I also study in an Engineering college and I'm yet to find one guy who studies Mechanical Engineering and has half the hotness of Surya.

And as for the Genelia types, its sad that guys actually fall for girls like that!
I know quite a few girls who would give even Genelia a run for her money!

Anonymous said...

"And then I switch off the TV and come and rant on my blog."

you could spin a yarn or two i say..and then we'll think of the movie rights etc!


Karthik Sivaramakrishnan said...

'Namukku Parkkan Munthiri Thoppukal' has a portrayal of women that is realistic, and given their circumstances, even bold. A very impressive movie on the whole too.

N said...

Also,isn't it frigging unnerving that all these women whether they belong to doe-eyed,melody-hai-chocolatey Genelia category or the elegant cotton sari-clad, hair blowing in the wind oh-so-neatly Trisha category have to act like they're so effing unaware of their sexuality, so their heroes are turned on by it??? Thoo.Goiya.

hamsini said...

Have you seen "Kuch Kuch Hota hai"? I hate the way they characterised both Kajol and Rani, and the way he wouldn't like Kajol until she turned "feminine" was super pissing off :X

Uncle Srini said...

ayyoooo... two things. Why do you have to say 'kewl' and not cool? :D And GB, yesteryear friend does not mean you're old; nor is the friend: it just means a friend in my life's yesteryear :D.

And yes 'spunky' is a nice powerful word but yeah it reminded me of a friend who I regularly requested and commanded and advised and to be "spunkier"!

Finally, oh yes, feeling ancient is not all that bad I suppose. I sometimes feel I am 50 already and it isn't too bad you know. I can psychologically switch off in ten years because I will turn 60 :D

soin said...

yov even i dont get this cant understand women part.i cant understand the women men potray. and dint you watch chithiiiii??
btw i find bengali and mallu lit quite good on the ladies front..
also me agress with most things all fellow beings said here. btw how come there is no spam in your blog? hopefully these help you..

Anonymous said...

Most KB movies have a female as the central character, Arangetram, Aval oru thodarkadhai, Thanneer Thanneer, Achamillai achamillai, Sindhu Bairavi (of course you don't like Ha ha hasini - who happens to be a talented actor).

Again Balumahendra is another director who based a lot of his movies on women.

I don't know what to say about this post of yours. Too generalised a view without attempting to see if there were exceptions. Seems to be cinema-director bashing exercise, just for the heck of it.

N said...

@Anonymous - The point is, all those movies you mentioned were made at more than a decade and a half ago. Has an Aval Appadi Thaan or an Unaal Mudiyum Thambi been made in the last ten years? Not that these are without their inconsistencies or issues (Sindhu Bhairavi, IMHO, has several!) but, they were definitely debating class and gender far more actively.

Anonymous said...

@ N -
Films are for mass entertainment, dictated by the audience taste, which in turn is a reflection of societal values at some level. That does not mean that the "chocolatey" or "damsel in distress" stereotype of a leading lady (heroine) or the villi stereotype of a woman is what one sees in real life, it is far from that. Perhaps that image is what the average moviegoer expects of a woman character. They expect a fairy tale, and a lot of fairy tales are based on these stereotypes, eg. Cinderella, Beauty and the beast.

Coming back to film-making, let us be practical, first and foremost it is a business, and profit making is the prime motive. If a particular kind of film does not appeal to the audience, then that kind of film will stop being made.

PS: VTV is not a bad movie, because it has appealed to a significant proportion of the population.
And Singam which has totally unbelievable kind of heroism and where the female lead is hardly visible is also a huge success.

GB said...

@SK- :)

@Saya- I admit I found Vaaranam annoying. But I find Surya hot. Hot > Annoying in the end.

@Saya- Yeah, yeah...those varieties never cease to amaze me.

@Frissko- I like Muthalagu too...especially the way she eats :D About only women can write female characters well- I don't think so. If male novelists can create convincing female characters, there's no reason why it shouldn't happen in films. And there are many Mallu movies (I haven't seen much in other regional languages) that have good female characterization. This post was about Tamil films, though I haven't said so explicitly.

Vaaranam- I found it very boring and could sit though it only because of Surya. I think that 'Daddy- daddy' thing right at the beginning fully turned me off :D

@Zarine- I guess Mechanical makes the guys seem more macho :D

@Anonfan- You be the producer? Please? Also consider giving money for my publishing house!

@SK- This post, like I've said above, is mainly about Tamil movies. Though the new Mallu ones also have this giggly bore kinda heroines.

@N- Yup. They are either giggly three-fourths or mature maragatha cotton sarees. It's just painful that none of them can ever have fun without being a ha-ha Hasini.

GB said...

@Hams- YEAH. Tell me about it. This sort of idea creeps into many of our films....ponnu comes in saree and hero who has been insulting her when she was wearing maadern clothes suddenly sees the 'woman' in her.

@Ungil- Have I said 'kewl' 2 u b4? :P

@Soin- I'm not sure what you are implying with the spam comment- if it is that you see me hankering for comments, you are right. I am. Feel free to spam.

@Anon- If you are looking for an overview and analysis of female characterization in Indian Cinema, this is not the post. This is, like I've said, a rant. I'm simply tired of seeing these endless portrayals of women in half-baked roles and I wanted to get it out of my system.

Sindhu Bhairavi- really?! That's one classic example of first wife bonding with the other woman and acting grateful for her blessings in life. Suhasini segues from other woman to mother to singledom with such rapidity and ease that I really wonder which planet she's from. Deliver a kid, deliver it to the wife (whose only interest in life is a baby) of the man who had the best of both worlds, walk out and act confident- not my idea of what a real woman would do. I don't get what you meant by Ha-ha Hasini being a talented actor- I was referring to Genelia who plays Hasini in Santosh Subramaniam (if I'm not wrong, you are referring to Suhasini?).

As for the other films you've mentioned, I'm not saying there are absolutely no films that are any good.
"Too generalised a view without attempting to see if there were exceptions."- I am talking about seeing decent female characterization in the general, not in the exceptions.
The vast majority by any measure have fluffy-heads as their heroines. Also, like I've said in the post, I'm not talking about woman-centered cinema here. I'm talking about the popular genre. I don't want to see decent female characterization in the exceptions, I want to see them in the general. And by decent female characterization, I don't mean make the film about the woman. I mean make the woman a little believable.

As for your second comment, I think enough women (and men too) have commented on this post (I'm not sure if you are male or female but I'd hazard a guess that you are male)to express their frustration with this sort of depiction. The last paragraph on my post and your comment seem to be in agreement- real women are not this way. Then why show them this way? By the average viewer, don't you just mean the average male viewer? And though women in real life are far more sensible than these cotton candy depictions, the more such images are thrust upon them, the more the compulsion grows to compete with them (like some people have pointed out, there are wannabe Genelias everywhere).

Everybody knows producers need to make money and nobody's denying them that. Like I've said in the post, this is not about art cinema and I'm astonished that you think showing women the way they are will not make for fun cinema. You must have quite a grey opinion about one half of the world then :)

Despite getting irritated with depictions like this, a lot of us do watch these movies because they are fun on the whole. I think it'll be more fun for us if we could see female characters we identify with. That's all.

As for VTV- you are free to like it, the same way I like Singam. Not because I think Anushka was a great heroine, but because Surya is hot. But I think I'd have enjoyed it more if Anushka had more sense. Period.

vas_dha said...

if u havn't already, u shud watch sarah haskin's videos on gender stereotyping in ads(even tho the ads she satires are american, gender stereotyping is sadly universal!)

vishesh said...

@Spaz: yes that's the movie.

"selfish/moody/soppy as your Average Anbarasan"

actually we don't understand the average Anbarasan or anyone for that matter...we are just monkeys with better brains, who are trained to do some special things.

@Shreyas: Spaz has said it..see her comment.

@Gb: I finally beat the Uncle.. :D

Anonymous said...

And though women in real life are far more sensible than these cotton candy depictions, the more such images are thrust upon them, the more the compulsion grows to compete with them (like some people have pointed out, there are wannabe Genelias everywhere)

@GB- For that matter, neither is the male character depiction in line with real life. They are these macho, insensible guys who go around jumping into impossible situations and come out winners. Brute strength is shown as a desirable attribute of the hero, which is as likely to spawn wanna-be Suryas.

The men (movie-goer) probably go to see the women and have a vicarious experience of being the hero, and vice-versa with the women. My assumption is that the movie makers cater to the respective tastes of the men and women.

GB said...

@Vas- Haven't seen it, thanks for the recommendation...will Youtube it.

@Vishesh- Men and women can choose to be inscrutable if they want to be, but 'mystery' and 'inscrutability' is usually seen as a feminine trait...and used as a convenient excuse to get away with just plain bad behaviour :) Google for the 'Feminine Mystique' and read up :)

@Anonymous- "I know popular cinema is just for popcorn, but still...they always have some amount of boy bonding going on. Heck, even Rajini has boy bonding with Vadivelu. On the other hand, women are always hating other women. Wicked second heroine hates innocent first heroine, MIL hates DIL, women bitching about other women all the time. Or if at all they show women bonding, it will be the first wife magnanimously letting the second wife into her large heart.

Cinema, for the most part, is unreal. And I don't expect it or even want it to have gut-wrenching verisimilitude. I enjoy the masala-padam genre. I revel in nonsense. But I just want to see women on screen with the 20% spunkiness of women I know in real life."

I agree that men aren't depicted in the exact same way that they are in real life either. But men aren't shown to be brainless or hating each other all the time. There is some amount of likability to their characters that is based on something real. But for women, they are hardly likable in their own right. Their likability comes from this weird imposed cuteness that's just daft.

Anonymous said...

Looking at '32 comments', I thought the Stella sisstaas are on a roll... You girlz.. Why dont you get together and make this movie?!

What do you think of 'Arasi' or 'Chittii'?

Reminds me.. There was also this Indhi serial... 'Shanti' with Mandira Bedi with lotta spunk.. I was going to propose to her... but thankfully before that, I saw her in her innumerable string cholis at one of the cricket world cups...


N said...

@Anon - Besides, who said arthouse productions don't have their own cliches?!I don't dig parallel cinema, where meaningful glances are exchanged for a hundred minutes. Or where drops of rain fall slowly on mud endlessly, and these unfathomable pauses are to be revered for their own sake. Again, this isn't all parallel c. And maybe, it's just my peeve.

Eye candy is eye candy. Item numbers are item numbers. But aren't you tired of the booty antithetical to brain shebang?
I think women and men want to see heroines with some sense in mainstream cinema. Bottom line.

Spaz Kumari said...

@GB - i suddenly remembered Paa.

Did you watch Paa? what did you think of vidya balan's character?

SarangN said...

Love your blog! Cheers! :D

GB said...

@Bhaskar- M had a lot to say about your Mandira Bedi proposal :D I haven't watched Arasi/Chitti much- this one-woman running the world like a super human being plot doesn't usually work for me!

@Spaz- I've watched Paa and I quite liked it. I liked Vidya Balan in it too. She makes her own choices (though I'm not a big fan of letting the guy yescape like that, retains her dignity while doing so and yet appears human in her pain and dilemmas. What did you think?

@Sarang- Thanks :)

frissko said...

:D, yeah the scene where Muthalugu stuffs herself with food to thaangufy her dad's adi is priceless (and so totally unexpected)...

And i guess some of the things in 'Vaaranam' rang a little close home, so it was hard for me to dislike it. Although i did find Surya's pursuit of Sameera in the train et al slightly mental :)...

Indian Home Maker said...

Congratulations :) This post in one of the winners of 'Tejaswee Rao Blogging Awards - 2011' (TRBA 2011). We would like to create an ebook with all the winning entries in 47 categories on Feminism and Gender Issues in India (and one category on Animals Rights). Please do let us know if you are fine with your winning post/s being included in this ebook. ( Please click here to let us know).

Anonymous said...

Hi GB,
Do you watch Malayalam movies? There is a recent movie 'Beautiful', worth watching.