I have been receiving some questions and views on my last post which was an extension of the forever-ongoing “Kabir Singh”/”Arjun Reddy” controversy which I was staying away from till now. I thought of replying to my friends in their comment threads or in chat and ended up writing out a reply longer than a normal blog. (Brevity isn’t my strength!) Then I thought I would post it here, in the ‘unlikely event’ of anyone having interest in this controversy anymore. 😛 But seriously, I think I am posting it here because it is no longer about this particular movie or movies in general, but the general mindset we have about abuse and that is what I have tried to address here.
? Why do we always have to make “good” movies and not show anything negative?
See, the point everyone is making against “Kabir Singh”/”Arjun Reddy” or any movie for that matter of this kind, is not that only ideal movies with a good message for the society should be made and nothing negative should be shown in movies. Absolutely not! What people questioning the criticism seem to be missing out is the simple and the real point in the criticism – glorification and normalization of misogyny and abuse. Like the first movie Parvathy talked against – “Kasaba”. Think of the impact the scenes and the ideally cringeworthy dialogues from a superstar were creating in the theatres among fans who could only see those dialogues and attitude as the perfect portrayal of applause-worthy machismo of their favourite hero. I am sure none of them bothered to think of the character Mammootty played as a flawed hero with serious issues in dealing with or talking about women, but only as a hero who puts women in their place with his punch dialogues. A story like “Devasuram” showing the antagonistic traits of the mass hero, but also showing how he realizes and repents his acts and behaviour before his fall, is a perfect example of showing negative shades, but not glorifying it in any way. But sadly, that is not how most of our movies are made.
? Isn’t it up to the audience to see a movie as just a movie and leave it at that?
You think audience should be mature enough to distinguish between reel life and real life. But there I am sorry to say that you are blinded by your maturity as a viewer and of a lot of people you have seen. The fact, like I have said multiple times before is that, ours is a country that worships movies and heroes as religion and Gods and the kind of influence they have is huge. Just look at the number of stalker crimes or brutal attacks based on unreciprocated love that you see around and also the kind of comments under those from a huge number of men who think the girl deserved it because she didn’t respect the guy’s love. True, it has to do with them. But whether you see it that way or not, it also has to do a lot with the kind of romanticizing that movies have done with these crimes. A mass hero pursues a heroine no matter how many times she says “No” to him; in his frustration he yells at, abuses and even threatens the girl; and we still sympathize with the hero because “all is fair in war and love”. And the girl is supposed to fall for this guy who in reality has terrible anger issues and a pathetic psychopathic behaviour. Do you think people don’t get influenced by this message that has been bombarding them via movies from childhood? You and I won’t do it. But it’s wrong to assume that no one won’t. The rural and urban crowd alike do get influenced – that is the harsh truth.
? Movies are only an extension of our society. So why blame movies for showing what happens around?
Yes, movies are an extension of our own value system which is really flawed. But if we keep on reinforcing the same skewed value system in movies too like it is absolutely okay, how do we ever change that perspective? Think of one Hollywood movie where they show the hero slapping his spouse because she is too arrogant and needs to be shown her place, and then shows him as the guy who we should root for. Not that domestic abuse does not happen there. But it is in no way normalized like it is in our country and that is why in no way they will show it as something “Chalta hai” in their movies either. The backlash would be too much if they do.
? So what if the director says it is okay to slap your lover, or if he and his partner live that way? It’s their personal life. Why should we say anything about it?
Now read through your own comment once again and see how you have been unknowingly influenced by the skewed value system of ours that even when you are not the kind of guy who would ever resort to slapping or abusing your partner, your response to someone else doing that, even if it is mutual between the partners, is not one of being alarmed, but “it’s their life, let them do what they want”. There lies the issue that we are talking about! True, we can’t go into someone else’s house and see what is happening there and beyond a point we don’t have control on anything like this. But to say that it is their life, let them hit each other if they want to, is the kind of passive attitude that our whole country is accustomed to, because it has been fed to us for generations, through our own society and through anything that is a reflection of that society, including movies that could make a huge difference. The question is, tomorrow one of these people who hit each other ends up dead at the hands of the other – what would be our response? Do we say it was their personal life, and he/she got killed because he/she wanted to? Or do we demand an investigation and arrest of the culprit? If the latter is our choice, why wait until someone is dead? Why think that anything right before the killing part is totally okay if it is their personal thing? And it is such issues that get reinforced by movies like these.
? The guy is shown as a toxic character. But the girl loves him despite his flaws.
Yes, the guy is shown as a toxic character. But in a culture where domestic abuse victims need a lot of psychological assistance to help them understand that what they mistake for love is bondage and that they need to think about themselves instead of staying on as victims with someone in the name of love, the point that you said – a girl who loves the guy despite his flaws – is undermining the issue. Because what is shown as simply some flaws a girl or a guy can overlook in someone are not flaws, those are severe issues, not just in this movie, but in a lot of them. Hari overlooking my OCD with organizing is overlooking a flaw, someone ready to get beaten up by her partner is not.
? People conveniently forget that there is a scene where the girl slaps the boy too. And anyway, I can’t recall a movie where a man doesn’t slap a woman or a woman doesn’t slap a man. So why make a big deal of this movie?
A woman shown slapping a man because of anger issues or even for comedic effect in a movie is something I will never defend just because I am a girl. Only that in 99% of the movies, a woman slapping a man for whatever reason is portrayed as an arrogant bitch, but a man who slaps a woman is not necessarily so. Most of the times it is the hero of the movie who has to put a woman in her place by slapping her, and almost always you see that with that one slap the heroine has turned pages to being a Savitri. That is the problem, where the slap is not violence, it is an accepted means of disciplining someone. But your point of “I can’t recall a movie that doesn’t show a man slapping a woman or a woman slapping a man” is again reiteration of the fact that we feel it is okay to do that. Why make a big deal of a slap when it is so commonplace, especially in movies?
? Why should the director of the movie and the lead actor of “Arjun Reddy”, Vijay Devarakonda be attacked online for saying their personal opinion?
While I am totally against indecent and abusive comments against celebrities, the backlash is for the kind of normalizing and romanticizing of domestic abuse that they have repeatedly done through their comments. Kind of like “What is the issue with a slap if someone is in love?”, “How is love real when you can’t even slap your partner?” Personal opinion is one thing. But trivializing and even glorifying a CRIME, is in no way acceptable, especially from people who make movies and sell them to an audience who are hungry to be influenced and use them as an excuse for their pathetic moves. If anything, these people should have been booked for the kind of supportive comments they made for domestic abuse, not in a movie, but in a real interview. Because just like you and I believe in, freedom of expression is not devoid of responsibility. If as influential people, their words are inciting someone to go ahead and commit the very same crime they are preaching, it is not to be brushed aside as personal opinion, but as inciting a major crime. And for this actor to say “I dislike that people are celebrating at my cost. That’s my issue. I don’t care what you think of the film, misogyny or the interview” when faced with backlash is the most immature thing an actor can say after making such stupid comments – bloody well done!
I hope I have addressed all the points that came my way. 🙂