Super heroes could be many in number, but Super Star?
There’d be just one in every film industry(who change from time to time) be it our Bollywood, Kollywood, Dhollywood, Mollywood, Jollywood or Sandalwood and the list is endless.Image: youngisthan.in
Fun woods no? Yes.
One wood can’t represent the whole lot but there’d definitely be a Super Star or someone with that kind of reputation in every woods. Like Rajini Kanth in Kollywood, Shah Rukh Khan in Bollywood etc. who inspire many young minds.
If anyone says that entertainment doesn’t have any effect beyond the silver screens then they’re just wrong. Anyways I’m not here to argue about that, cos we all know the answer. I’m here only to play a game with y’all.Image:Bookmyshow.com
Have y’all heard of the Bechdel Test?
It’s a test to evaluate the representation of women in entertainment media based on three rules. One, there must be atleast two women characters in the movie, playing an important rule.
Two, they both should be having an actual conversation and Three, the conversation should be about something other than a man. I know more than half the number of Indian films would fail this test. There are a number of other tests like this, The Vito Russo test, which tests the representation of LGBT characters in movies and if the representation goes beyond the character’s sexual orientation, having a role for themself in the plot. Many of our movies fail this test too.
So this game or theory that we’d be playing is based on these tests, I don’t know if it’s an actual researched theory like many others, if it is, then credits to that person, well we started playing this on a lazy afternoon in class, okay enough of me rambling, so the game goes this way, first pick your favorite ‘Super Star’ and then one of your favorite movie of this Super Star, (who most likely is a male I suppose?if it’s a female then please drop me a message I really would like to see her movies and anyways please pick a male ‘Super Star’ for this game’s sake).
Now substitute the female lead of this movie with a decorative object like a vase or a fan, anything. Now check if the plot still makes sense and has the intended ending.
Still made sense and has the same ending without much complexities right?
Now I’m gonna try this test on my favorite star Rajinikanth’s famous movies and check if the movie’s plot makes sense even if the female lead is replaced by an antique lamp.
Let’s start with one of his old movies and then come to his most recent one.
1. Padayappa:Image: Times Of India
This is one of my favorite movies, loved it at the age of ten for Padayappa the hero, now for Neelambari the villain. The female lead here is Vasundhara( replace her with an exotic lamp at this pount itself) who is a submissive docile beautiful young woman, a perfect foil to the ambitious Neelambari, the villain. Image:Twitter
The entire movie revolves around Padayappa and his achievements, which includes winning over Vasundhara (the lamp)and marrying her despite Neelambari’s devious plans(Neelambari-Bad cos she wanted to marry Mr.P. and took up various unconventional measures but fails-villain. Mr.P. takes up some unconventional measures to win over his lady love- hero).
As years went by, (we are talking about twenty years here), Neelambari, growing more poisonous with revenge plots a new scheme to bring down Padayappa for rejecting her, using her nephew.
She instigates him to make, Anitha(Mr.P’s daughter) fall in love with him and to abandon her before marriage to get back at Mr.P.. Sadly the boy falls in love for real and therefore her plan back fires.
With no one by her side Neelambari commits suicide. Now that’s the entire movie, did the movie make sense with Vasundhara replaced by a lamp?
Yes. One dialogue which basically sums up an ideal woman’s character in the movie and echoed in many Tamil households for a longtime is, “A woman with too much of desire and a man with a hot temper can never live happily.” And this became a popular dialogue in the society and is still used sometimes.
Now let’s try out our lamp theory onto one of his more recent ones, It’s really hard to pick just one cos in almost all of his movies his female pairs could be replaced by an object and this would not affect the plot at all, but still let’s go with Darbar the most recent one.
Image: Times Of India
Here Mr.Rajinikanth is Aaditya a police officer who is transferred to Mumbai which is the drug hub of the country before his arrival there.
He gets cross with one of the major goons and consequently loses his daughter in an planned accident(in a plot to kill him and not her) so he becomes wild and uncontrollable. He finds the goon and kills him that’s the end.
Oh sorry, did I forget to mention that Nayanthara plays the female lead role, his pair here? Maybe that’s because she didn’t really have any role there, apart from simply being there. So we don’t even have to try out the lamp test game on this movie, there’s clearly no point. We can argue that the movie was about the police officer and anything more would only deviate the audience from the main plot so if that’s the argument then why the role at all? We know the answer, to satisfy the male audience. We can argue that there was his daughter, but we fail to look that the daughter only boosted up more muscle to her father in the movie.
This had been the case and the trend starting from his Padayappa to Enthiran, (a globally acclaimed movie where Aishwarya Rai too could have been replaced by some other object, the plot was already set like this, A disciplined robot without emotions is taught about emotions develops emotions and nearly destroys the world to acquire the lamp(Aishwarya Rai) and finally is dismantled by the hero.
Here there’s only more importance to Rajinikanth cos he plays both the hero and the villain.) to Darbar.
Though this is fun, testing if the movies still make sense with objects substituted in frmale leads’ place, this reveals a dangerous truth about how the society still looks at women from an objectified lens. This is not about blaming anyone cos the actors go by the script.
And the scriptwriters too can’t be blamed cos they are just serving what the audience wants.
So who are we targeting?
We’re just noticing the trend and hope that we don’t unconsciously aid to the growth of such plots, to become more aware of the subtle yet poisonous gender discriminations in the entertainment industry on screen and behind screens.
Test more movies and more stars maybe together we can create (if not a change) atleast a statistics report.