From adapting ancient literatures into motion pictures to directing sci-fi films, Tamil Cinema has come a long way. We live in a land where a dramatic satire like Parasakthi propagated Dravidian Principles in a way that forever changed Tamil Nadu Politics. Such is the romantic affiliation between the people and Tamil Cinema.
Cinema not only influences but also reflects the various aspects of the society at different time frames. This article is one such contemplation. It traces the varied responses of women to societal constraints as reflected in modern cinema.
She’s as delightful as the gentle breeze that softly hits the sweaty forehead on summer mornings.
And she’s as cold as the winter breeze that escapes from cracks of closed doors on icy December nights.
She’s the wind that carries the scents that surround her. The chirps of vivid spring and the ashes of crimson fall.
GVM is one among the few who sketched the mind of a woman to its near perfect essence in his characterisation of Jesse in VTV. From the conflicts she constantly faces within herself to surrendering to the qualms of the society; Jesse is just a dilated optical metaphor of every woman.
The romantic nature of the film may short sight us from viewing the reality called Jesse. The prime resemblance to reality is her indecisive and muddled nature. She constantly battles between her happiness and the society’s happiness; between her desires and the society’s desires for her. Though it may seem uncanny to visualise an awfully imbalanced female lead on screen, Jesse is the truest portrayal of a woman whose decisions are influenced by social dictations.
As Jesse later confesses to Karthick about her fondness for him from their very first encounter, we come to understand that the graceful simplicity of her demeanor is only a glamorous prison cell for her implicit emotions.
With time, through Karthick’s relentless courtship, Jesse manages to sufficiently liquidate herself and escapes from the prison that confined her. She catches a brief glimpse of how the world could be if she follows her dreams. She relinquishes the bliss of momentary freedom before the chains of social taboos drag her to the prejudiced reality. Her whims and fancies become incomprehensible to the society. They refuse to see what she believes her world could be. And finally, she succumbs and cocoons herself captive once again. Only this time, returning to the comfort of her prison walls, voluntarily. She decides to paint her walls with the vibrant colors of her memorable spring and dances stoically to the empty beats of the vacuum breeze. In the end, she becomes yet another refugee dictated by the society.
Jesse; she is every woman. And every woman is she. Jesse; in the words of Garth Brooks,
“She's as real as real can be
And she's every fantasy “
She’s as pure as the pristine water that gushes happily through the stout gorges of the tallest mountains.
She’s as naughty as the showers of the sky that drench the playing children on the afternoons of May.
She’s as painful as tears of the little child who has lost her whole family to the holocaust.
She’s the tributaries of the rivers that get polluted through its cruise to the ocean.
She’s the coldest glacier that melts only to crave your attention.
Unarguably Aruvi is one of the most brilliant debut films of all time. As challenging as it may seem to fashion an engaging film, Arun Prabhu Purushotham not only achieves that but also gives us a sociopolitical drama that does not get preachy. He conveys everything, from his outlook on social construct to the humaneness of the social outcasts, through the overtness called Aruvi.
Aruvi, she is the incandescent innocence that every child is born into, dancing merrily to the rhythm of waterfalls and listening patiently to the voices of Mother Nature. She takes delight in the openness that surrounds her. Though being separated from the comforting hands of nature, she slowly conforms herself to fit the constraints of the congested city life.
The impinging truth about Aruvi is that she could be you or me. She could be the one writing this or the one reading this. Because Aruvi is just a teenager like any other; happy and naughty, with loving family and the best of friends, who eventually becomes a victim to the mistakes committed by society. She is outcast and tagged socially unfit by the ones that corrupted her being.
Aruvi, she is the voyage of pristine cascade from the mountain, getting smudged by the soot of society.
Though being wronged, Aruvi does not pursue revenge but simply seeks an apology which is denied to her by the society. The hypocrisy of social structures cracks the walls of her dam, flooding the double standards set by the society and cleansing the falsity of social sanctimony. Aruvi gives perspective to the besmirched societal outcasts. In the end, she retrieves to her childlike innocence when she pardons her wrongdoers and pilgrimages back to the non-judgmental hands of Nature’s abode where she finally finds acceptance and love.
Aruvi, she is every woman punished unjustly by the society.
She’s as warm as an enlightened timber that nurtures the shadows of the night under its caressing flame.
She’s as timid as a flickering candle near the window, trembling ceaselessly against the piercing wind.
She’s the volcano patiently waiting to unleash her fountain of destruction.
And she’s the unrepentant trifling spark that swiftly consumes the entire forest.
In a film which primarily revolves around North Madras gangsters, it is Vettrimaran’s women in Vada Chennai, who, as helpless as they may seem, define the fates of the male protagonists.
Another interesting niche to Vada Chennai is that, though there are too many men in this film, they are merely pawns in the hands of Chandra, a character who shares a small yet the most significant screen space. Her presence is so crucial that without her, there would be no Vada Chennai at all.
Chandra. Like the innocent beam of daybreak, so silent and so suave, she fills the void of the rugged bloke and becomes the home to the mighty Robin Hood. Her light shines bright through the day, but hey, she is just a woman; a woman so naive. She trusts in the bonds that she built only to be forsaken by the ones who vowed to protect. Her light withers like the flickering rays of bygone dusk before pushing her into perpetual darkness. But she is not a woman like you or me; to put off her raging blaze and mourn in darkness for eternity. She is the modern Kannagi who cloaks herself with conniving tranquility but inside burns fiercely to consume the darkness, this time, trading her chastity. Her burning sense of chastity entices Guna. Like a little child tempted to touch the candle light, he yearns for her burning flame to ignite his manhood. He believed her to be the spark that lit his dinner night candles. Little did he know that she is the spark that starts the forest fires. She ignited his manhood only to turn it to ashes.
If we could see beyond the stigma posed by the laws of morality, we will come to realize that Chandra is only a visual analogue of every woman’s primitive and unconscious response to the unjust caused to her by the society. In the psychological sense, she is the ‘id’ which managed to suppress the rationality of ego and superego. She is exaggerated visual version of the unconscious laws of personality that govern us.
Chandra. She is the journey of a once virtuous woman into a devious flame.
Chandra. She is the spark inside every woman hoping not to be inflamed.
So, when strangled by society, who do you choose to be?