Quite some time back I read a write-up on Facebook about the then Alleppey District Collector, T.V.Anupama. It was written by a resident of Alleppey. Anupama was well known already for her commitment towards fighting corruption and serving common man, and despite facing the wrath of politicians time and again, has continued to be the same. It is no wonder she has a huge fan base like some other IAS officers from the State. What caught my eye in the write-up though was a line that said how the writer didn’t have any idea what a District Collector should be like until he watched the 1995 Malayalam movie, ‘The King’, starring one of the biggest superstars of India, Mammootty. He went on to describe how that movie and Mammootty’s portrayal of the character set an image of the ideal leader in the minds of all Malayalis.
Those who have watched this ‘noble’ movie about a ‘noble’ District Collector who fights bad men, helps the poor and the needy and keeps abusing his female subordinate on every possible occasion should know that this is the last movie that must be used to paint the perfect picture of a perfect leader in people’s minds. Because along with the over-the-top portrayal of goodness, there was also an overdose of sexism and misogyny. And while trying to imbibe the perfect qualities of a perfect leader and a perfect man, people like the author of the write-up were happily imbibing the ‘okay to have’ or even ‘must have’ sexist and misogynistic traits too, especially since the man playing the character was the much-worshipped superstar of Malayalis. He was not the only one to drill these traits into the minds of even the least impressionable viewers.
That, my friends, was the point Parvathy Thiruvoth, one of the most talented actresses Malayalam and South India, in general has seen, was trying to drive home. (This is the actress who would have been the rightful recipient of last year’s National Award for Best Actress if Shekhar Kapur did not choose to play the emotion card using late actress Sridevi. Parvathy, in turn, had to settle for a special mention.) I am not a huge fan of hers, as in, I don’t have any personal affection for her. And a number of her interviews have left me quite bored because I didn’t feel she sounded genuine or herself, more a portrayal of someone she wanted to be, a philosopher I personally didn’t enjoy listening to. Having said that, there is no question of how extremely talented and dedicated she is when it comes to acting, her true passion. Except for very few movies at the start of her career where she played minor supporting roles, she has managed to stand out and be the best in any movie that she has been part of. The best thing here is that no part of her success was in any way linked to any godfather in the industry or achieved by playing eye-candy roles in any superstar’s movies, in any industry she has done movies in. And that is what has given her the freedom to put her foot down and stand by her beliefs, unafraid of the wrath of the titans. When even ‘lady superstars’ who were founding members of WCC, a body to ensure safety of women in movies (formed post the actress abduction and molestation case) backed out and bowed down to the superstars, Parvathy was one of the very few who stood her ground, at the peak of her career, knowing only too well that it could be the end of her career.
That – her complete lack of fear, the zero desperation to be in the good books of the Gods and their minions – should be the highlight of the dreadful cyberbullying she has been facing for months now. And it is nowhere near its end. And all for one genuine statement she made at a film festival. About the very same superstar we started this blog with. 21 years after the gem of a movie we talked about already, a movie where he played a badass police officer was released – ‘Kasaba’. The movie was tastelessly made and was one hell of a ride for die-hard fans to applaud their hero’s machismo, putting down women being the sure-shot trick for success under most ‘brilliant’ filmmakers’ sleeve. The director was none other than the son of the most sought-after scriptwriter who had coincidentally penned ‘The King’ and many such sexist hit movies of the time. Talk about passing down gems of wisdom to your kids! Parvathy’s only remark was that she found it sad to see a great actor spitting out misogynistic dialogues in this movie she had the bad luck to watch.
The kind of flak she received for it, death and rape threats included, from fanboys of the star, makers of the movie, others from the film fraternity and generally anyone who had a problem with a woman, a young and independent one at that, voicing out her opinion, was unbelievable. And that is the perfect example of how these people worship their heroes and take in all that they display on screen as life lessons – the very point Parvathy put forward. Even in a movie like ‘Kasaba’ where he portrays a badass cop as opposed to the righteous (smug) in ‘The King’, he is not the villain, but a sexist hero with his heart in the right place. That makes his sexism appealing to his fans too. That must be why they thought it appropriate to abuse and threaten a woman who in their minds was an arrogant bitch for speaking up and had to be put down. Even directors who were one-movie-wonders at the time took digs at her, calling her “a monkey in the circus” who no longer respects the “circus owners” who gave her a platform to grow. These nitwits couldn’t fathom the success of this woman, much superior to them with respect to her skills, winning accolades even at international levels – success that was not achieved with the help of any of these “circus owners” they were so happily patronizing and bootlicking for.
These sycophants keep their online attack on her and any movie that she is part of going even now, almost one and a half years after the incident that started it all. Her stand against the body of Malayalam actors for its compassion towards the accused and charge-sheeted actor in the actress abduction case has only made their attack stronger, thus proving her right more emphatically. All the superstars and seniors have maintained a shameless silence throughout the frightful attack their fans launched on her, never asking them to stop except for issuing a weak statement that came more than two weeks after the attack started. But this lady does not give a damn, as is evident from her humorous comebacks and the confidence with which she holds her head high.
This blog has been in my notes for a long time now. But I am happy I did not post it earlier. Because there is no time better than now, when despite all that has happened, Parvathy, the wonder woman, flies high with her latest movie, ‘Uyare’ in which she plays an acid attack survivor fighting all odds. The success of the movie, which the audience has rightly called “Parvathy’s movie” for the way she has outshined everyone else yet again, is a strong message to the trolls and minions who have relentlessly struggled to pull her down – you just can’t pull down a person who has made up her mind to fly high. So stop wasting your energy on it and get a life!