Readers Write In #607: The new normal in Tamil cinema that’s abnormal

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Readers Write In #607: The new normal in Tamil cinema that’s abnormal

By Madhumithaa

Jai Bhim, Viduthalai, Por Thozhil.

This is just a quick list off the top of my head. There are definitely more movies that will effortlessly make it to this list. There’s a disturbing pattern that I notice in these movies, and an even more disturbing pattern with the audience.

The disturbing pattern is the extent of gory violence shown on screen, especially against women. When it comes to films like Jai Bhim and Vidudhalai, the immediate defense that everyone so passionately takes on the directors’ behalf is that they are true real-life incidents, and the only intention is to bring them to light, educate the audience and make them aware of the evils in the society.

My question to every film maker is this:

When you have chosen “cinema” as your medium of expression, is the amount of violence, perversion, brutality, ruthlessness, and gore you deliberately choose to show on-screen justified?

Does it serve the purpose you claim it serves? Have you thought about the other obvious repercussions that you’re causing in the society?

Let me quote these few examples to convey my point:

The brutal rape of the woman at the police station in Jai Bhim;

A nude woman runs across an open ground desperately crying for help, gets struck on her head with a heavy object, and drops dead then and there in Vidudhalai.   

The censor board very sensitively uses blurring and ensures that we don’t see the private parts of these women. Because clearly, watching nude women on big screens is poisonous to the society and causes irreparable damage.

But on the same screen, it is completely okay to watch these women get forcefully stripped, be brutally hit, raped, threatened, abused, and victimized by men (of all age groups).

Now, not even for a moment am I disputing the truth behind these incidents.

But why show them in such detail?

Why can’t you think of subtle ways that can effectively convey the intensity of the situation?

Why do you resort to the convenience of visually showing every gory detail on screen?  

How are you taking responsibility for the possibility of a fraction of your audience taking notes and using what they see on screen to commit new crimes, and again, especially against women?

Coming to the even more disturbing pattern I notice with the audience.

Nobody seems to find the violence shown in these films to be excessive anymore.

I’m taking the example of Por Thozhil to make my point here. I watched the movie after reading multiple positive reviews and recommendations from friends and family about what a good watch it was – only to be taken aback by how cold blooded the sequences in the movie were.

There’s a particularly elaborate sequence in the movie where a bunch of women drop dead like flies in a matter of few minutes. A teenager decided to keep his abusive cop father busy and distracted by committing a series of murders. But why did he pick only women to be his victims?

Have men become invincible? Are they immune to knife stabs and gun shots?!

As unfortunate as it sounds, I think it’s become convenient and may I say, normalized to show women as victims to violent crimes. It’s true we live in a world where atrocious crimes get perpetrated against women every single day, but should this not imply exponentially more responsibility and caution about what’s shown in films?     

I didn’t see a single review about Por Thozhil that mentioned the degree of violence to be disturbing or alarming. I’d have truly appreciated just a word of caution.

But apparently, this is the new normal we’ve successfully reached as a society. Of all the things we could have normalized with a powerful medium like cinema, we have normalized bloodshed, gore, third-degree, perversion, rape, torture, and casual victimization of women.

How do we go back to the times where extreme violence was not the norm?

How do we restore the sensitivity we all inherently had, but have lost along the way?

How do we inspire film makers to take more responsibility and accountability of what they choose to show the audience?  

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