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The experience of watching a family drama gets personal when it rubs off on real relationships back home. Recently, after the film Love Today, some couples experimented with exchanging mobile phones like in the movie. Similarly, one expected the latest release, Gatta Kusthi, featuring Vishnu Vishal and Aishwarya Lekshmi in the lead, to set off a debate about male chauvinism among couples. Its trailer, which released sometime back, was a straw in the wind.
But now that Gatta Kusthi has hit the screens, the question arises whether the film is really worth such discussions.
On the one hand, the protagonist expects his prospective wife to be less educated than him as he studied only up to class 8. On the other, the heroine, afire with desire to make it to the national wrestling tournament, gets miffed over being rejected by several suitors in her personal life. The film meanders through various interesting situations, delineating the quirks and quiddities of the two leads when they happen to enter into wedlock by some quirk of fate.
A distinct feature in the film is the role reversal of the lead pair with the heroine indulging in whatever the hero has customarily been up to for long on Tamil celluloid.
Vishnu Vishal, the hero, is brought up by his uncle, having lost his parents earlier. He whiles away his time drinking and squaring off with villagers and living off the income from his coconut groves. Both the hero and his guardian are steeped in the mores of the male chauvinistic society. “Women need to be controlled and reined in by men” is their outlook, and this seems to be the whole village’s belief too.
Director Chella Ayyavu has conveyed this message not only from the perspective of the villages but also from that of cities and towns, very subtly and unobtrusively.
Though several questions can be raised about the logic of certain scenes in the film, the narrative interspersed with humour moves too fast to give room for such pauses
Humour, the main staple
Even the most trivial of life’s incidents get transformed into interesting scenes pepped up with humour in Gatta Kusthi. Actors Karunas, the actress who plays his wife, Kaali Venkat, Munishkanth, Redin Kingsly, Hareesh Peradi and Telugu actor Ajay Ghosh who plays the villain in the first half have all contributed to the comic quotient of the film.
Mathew Varghese, an actor typecast as an elitist government official or father in several films, appears here too, essaying his role with aplomb. Telugu actor Shatru, who plays his friend, indulges in a little bit of overacting and helps in the ultimate triumph of the hero.
As the whole story revolves around the heroine, the hero plays second fiddle throughout. Yet the climactic portion makes up for it, giving him enough of a chance to carry the day.
Aishwarya, who has already come into prominence with the film Gargi and had an appearance as the boatwoman Poongkuzhali in Ponniyin Selvan, sparkles in Gatta Kusthi, adding one more feather to her cap. She has proved that a heroine is not meant to just sing, swing and sway in duets with the hero and has demonstrated that as a woman she too has an inner world of ideals, dreams, desires and passions. She has successfully presented a portrait that sends chills down the spines of male chauvinists.
The question of whether male domination is necessary in present-day society is not fooled around with even in the commercial ingredients such as comedy, romance etc. That bears testimony to the director’s skill of focusing on the basic spirit of the storyline.
Though several questions can be raised about the logic of certain scenes in the film, the narrative interspersed with humour moves too fast to give room for such pauses. Cinematographer Richard M Nathan, art director Umesh Kumar, editor Prasanna G K and stunt masters Anbariv brothers have all contributed their mite to the making of this entertainer with a message.
If the film, sanitised of masala, is remade in other languages, it may end up being a feel-good entertainer
Male chauvinism does not merely involve a man thinking of women as inferior but also the gimmicks he plays that seemingly support women’s causes, while secretly indulging in anti-woman activities as well as exploiting women. This message is conveyed in no uncertain terms through the character Shatru who plays the heroine’s trainer and coach.
The overused template in Tamil cinema, of women always ending up deferring to men despite being superior to them in several aspects, is broken to pieces in Gatta Kusthi. Here the heroine towers over her man, yet fixes problems in her intimate relationship with him.
The way this message is conveyed through a narrative in line with modern times is worth appreciation.
Since Gatta Kusthi (wrestling) is more popular in Kerala, the heroine practising her sport is shown as being from Palakkad, just across the border from Pollachi where the hero is from. The heroine’s father Gajaraj is shown as a Tamil and mother Srija as a Malayalee, to tap into the age-old ties between the two linguistic communities. Thankfully, the usual practice of making fun of Malayalees is avoided in the film.
The major plus points of the film are that it is a comedy and that the lead pair are strong characters. The focus of the main storyline about how a woman can do one better than a man seems to dissipate in the second half, which seems to be riveted on the villain and in the climactic hero-villain stunt sequences.
Though the film shows male chauvinism at its worst, as if to challenge it, it cannot be altogether billed as a total revolt against male domination.
If the film, sanitised of masala, is remade in other languages, it may end up being a feel-good entertainer.
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