Last Sunday, I saw the Malayalam movie 22 Female, Kottayam. It is about a nurse who is abused by people whom she considered close to her and how she wreaks revenge. Nothing groundbreaking, almost the illegitimate offspring twice removed of Ek Hasina Thi and Kill Bill (and for once acknowledged by the makers). It was though quite a different movie from the dominant fare in Malayalam, no over-aged fat hero trying to carouse with a million girls less than a third his age nor a superhero who defies all laws of physics while bashing up the baddies while mouthing punch dialogues at the same time. I liked the movie, though I can’t say I enjoyed it because that would make me a rather sick person.
But this blog is not a critical review of the movie. Rather this is a about a train of thought that was triggered while watching the aforementioned movie. I can’t actually say triggered because I have thought about it earlier too but only now am I actually putting it into words. It is about a factor that influences how we appreciate, enjoy or empathise with the characters, let it be a movie or a book.
It is a three letter word that starts with S and ends with X. Not in that way you pervert, though that might play a significant part too. I meant sex as the gender. I have felt that the gender of the character plays a very significant part. Big deal you might say, and I agree, nothing that others haven’t thought of. But I thought a long time about this, and so reader, I have to bore you too.
As a person who likes reading, I tried translating it to books that I have read. Then I remembered about Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. It is a book that I have thoroughly enjoyed and a book that I will recommend to everyone. I enjoyed it much more than A Thousand Splendid Suns, by the same author. But while discussing about it with an aunt, she told me that she felt ATTS was much better. The reason we felt totally opposite, I surmise was because she associated more with the female protagonist rather than the male protagonist of KR. Both undergo repeated misfortunes in their lives. Comparing the two is difficult and I guess is left to the reader. This I think led to the contrasting views about the books that my aunt and I had about the same books.
Going one step forward, I think I will associate more with a male doctor protagonist than a female engineer protagonist inspite of being (almost) an engineer myself. It might well be the most important trait of the protagonist which decides how I associate with the character. Putting it in a nutshell, the targeted audience matters a lot for me while appreciating a creation, let it be a movie or a book. Sidney Sheldon with his female protagonist and Harold Robbins with his male protagonists targeted different audience. Stephanie Meyer targets an altogether different audience which can’t be easily characterised, though giggly, pink and immature are the words that immediately spring to the mind. Without deprecating books with targeted audience, I have felt that a book is truly great when any Tom, Dick or Harry and Eena, Meena or Deeka are able to equally enjoy it.
Reading through my prolonged discourse on people of literary merit far that I can’t even dream of reaching, the thoughtful and eloquent reader might have been wondering how the !@#! is this related to the movie I mentioned. Spoiler Alert, if you want to watch the movie, don’t read on. The female lead as I mentioned is repeatedly abused and finally cheated by a guy whom she loves. As revenge and to prevent him from further abusing anyone, she castrates him.
Ouch! Inspite of everything that happened earlier, and knowing that the suffering villain was a total douchebag and a vile person too, I could not help feeling sympathy towards him. I felt queasy even as I thought about what happened to him. I guess the feminine half of the audience felt the same when the heroine was abused. The director targets both audience here knowing that both will be equally affected and this is what I think makes the movie really good.
The movie-going public has started demanding different films than the usual. Many big budget movies with the usual plot sunk without a trace. What with movie rights and all, a movie doesn’t fail totally but still it vanishes from the screen which can be said to be a failure. This demand might also attribute to the meteoric rise of a certain person without no shame whatsoever who does everything in his movies, including directing, writing the story, penning the lyrics, playing the hero and dancing with the 7 or 8 heroines, all equally poorly. I have felt the said person to be an affront to our collective sensibilities, but some people like him, so there you are.
In some of these offbeat offsprings of the intercourse between the demanding public and new directors, societal issues are being addressed in a more straightforward manner than the allegorical or metaphorical portrayals earlier, swearwords are coming in (which is a big step indeed) and ‘variety’ plots (lifted from elsewhere of course) are being used. Whether all these are forward or backward steps is something that is difficult to say at the moment. History after all moves forward*.
But sometimes I hark back to the good old days when I could enter a theater blankly, laugh a lot, enjoy the songs, ogle at the heroine and come back without anything on my mind, let alone such gruesome images. Movies are no longer an escape to another world, but becoming a window to the rather sick world that we live in.
‘Til Later*A quote by Nassim Nicholas Taleb of Black Swan fame