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Chennai techie murder: Tamil cinema needs to stop glamourising stalking

Actors like Dhanush and Udhayanidhi Stalin have turned stalking into a fine art.

 |  5-minute read |   19-11-2017
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The Nirbhaya incident that took place in Delhi some years ago brought violence against women to the country's conscience. Similarly, the killing of 24-year-old Swathi, an information technology employee, on the crowded platform of a railway station in Chennai on June 24, 2016, shook us to the core. A youth named Ram Kumar slashed her with a sickle and fled, but was soon nabbed by the cops, who found out that he had been stalking the girl for a while and had been distressed by her refusal to reciprocate his love.

A former jailor in the prison where Ram Kumar was incarcerated told me that the boy had been deeply influenced by his favourite screen heroes stalking their love interests and ultimately winning over them. Despite public criticism and outrage over such "heroism" in movies, Tamil cinema has been freely letting its heroes stalk the heroines. Even the latest Karthi film, Theeran Oru Adhigaram, has this, though mercifully, the scene is brief.

Incidentally, Karthi's work came just about the same time another young women techie, Induja, was burnt alive by a young man, who refused to take “no” for an answer from her. He kept stalking her and pleading her to marry him, and when he felt a sense of utter hopelessness, he walked into her flat, doused her with inflammable liquid and set her on fire. She died even before she could reach a hospital. The guy, Akash, is now in jail, and Induja's mother and sister are in hospital having suffered burns as they were trying to save the girl.

In a state like Tamil Nadu – where cinema and politics have been almost like Siamese twins – films have a huge influence on the youth. A common quip among some of my friends is that even an auto-rickshaw driver imagines himself to be a cinema hero – his style of talking and behaving being close to one star or the other. And when the man on the screen can stalk his love, hoping against hope that she would come around and fall into his arms, why cannot a fan follow that! Almost all Tamil actors have stalked women on the screen. Some have succeeded. Some have not.

kajal_111917061251.jpgVishal and Kajal in a still from Paayum Puli (Photo: Indiatoday.in)

For example, what Dhanush's Kundan did in Ambhikapathy (originally shot in Hindi and titled Raanjhaana), where he essays the role of the son of a Brahmin priest in Varanasi, falling in love with a Muslim girl, Zoya (Sonam Kapoor). In spite of her repeated refusals – based on the fact that the two belong to different religions and are also divided by wide economic disparity – Kundan (Dhanush) persists, follows her and even embarrasses her. The end is disastrous as it seemed to have placed its firm stamp of approval on a highly irresponsible and demeaning male attitude, which accepts a woman's “no” with bruised ego!

I can give a number of other examples. In Paayum Puli, Vishal is a cop who stalks and threatens a woman (played by Kajal Aggarwal), forcing her to love him. And the audience is made to believe that this is cutely romantic! In Nanbenda, Udhayanidhi Stalin plays a lover, who stalks. In Sethu, Vikram kidnaps a girl when she refuses him, and threatens to smash her head with a rock. In Ambikapathy, Kundan mucks up Zoya's marriage with Jasjeet Singh Shergill (Abhay Deol).

One writer once commented, “Actors like Dhanush and others have turned stalking into a fine art – the loser boy who has nothing in life going for him, but can still aspire for the fair-skinned girl...Who wouldn’t want to be like him, eh?" But if you thought the problem was only with these “low-class” characters in their films, you are wrong. In Vaaranam Aayiram, Surya follows his love, Sameera Reddy, all the way to the US, after she has said "no"!

But I would not blame cinema alone, though movies offer some kind of tacit approval for such stupidity, which at times leads to murder or maiming. Even in a city like Chennai, which takes pride in calling itself a modern metro, the society frowns upon free mingling of sexes, which eventually makes men incapable of handling relationships, involving women.

While some leading co-educational colleges in Chennai and other parts of Tamil Nadu discourage girls and boys from talking to each other (yes, at this age) and where the community in general keeps harping that good girls and boys should not spend time with each other, cinema seems to mess up this notion with the hero breaking all kind of social barriers and taboos to win his girl. And when she spurns his “love”, it turns into something unimaginably destructive. If Kundan can spoil Zoya's true love for Shergill, if a policeman can frighten a girl into submission and if a man can go to the extent of kidnapping a girl and forcing her to “love” him, young men like Akash and Ram Kumar will tend to get encouraged by such daredevilry. Also because, they are led to think that stalking is perfectly acceptable.

And in a country like India and in times like these, when the young have no role models to speak of (with parents too busy making money), cinema stars assume a larger-than-life heroic stature. And these men can do no wrong. Yes, even when they are pushing a poor girl into a frenzied state; a third-degree torture to force a confession like “okay, I love you”. What the heck!  

Also read: Indian nuclear scientist's excuse for stalking student is, sadly, all too familiar

Writer

Gautaman Bhaskaran Gautaman Bhaskaran @gautamanb

The author is a writer, commentator and movie critic.

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