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Social media is ablaze with arguments and counter-arguments for and against the recent Tamil film Bakasuran directed by Mohan G. The film is getting more brickbats than bouquets, with the chief criticism being that the film is promoting misogyny and supporting patriarchy, which treats women like slaves. They have billed the film as conservative, as they say that its message is this: Women should not be educated or permitted to use mobile phones.

Not only social media, but mainstream media too has been pouring scorn on the film. So, let’s take an objective look at the film.

Mohan G’s earlier films had a casteist outlook. When his film Draupathi released, I asked him a question none had dared to pose. Pattali Makkal Katchi founder Dr S Ramadoss has long been alleging that youth of a particular community are taking the women of another community for a ride in the name of love which he claimed was merely a ‘drama love.’  Draupathi confused the audience, linking the ‘drama love’ and ‘drama wedding’ at one point. I asked the director about this. As the director puts the moniker ‘Kshatriyan’ after his name, I asked him bluntly if he believed in the mythological story that people of the Kshatriya caste sprung forth from the fire.

Mohan G’s earlier films indeed had a lot to be criticised. As for his present film Bakasuran, it can be criticised on some counts, but it does not support women’s enslavement, as it is being criticised for.

The film is getting more brickbats than bouquets, with the chief criticism being that the film is promoting misogyny and supporting patriarchy, which treats women like slaves

The film’s storyline goes as follows (*spoiler alert*): A man wants to get his daughter married off after his wife’s death. But the girl wants to pursue higher education. Her father is ready to defer to her wish but insists that she study in a local college rather than in a college away from the hometown. Critics point to this, saying the film promotes the ancient practice of not allowing women to go out. I feel they are wrong in their interpretation. It is natural for parents to insist that their child, be it a boy or a girl, pursues education in local institutions. How is this a denial of women’s rights?

In any case, in the film, the father does fulfil his daughter’s wish and allows her to pursue studies away from home. Later, the girl informs her father and grandfather that she is in love with a youth and wants to marry him. The elders tell the youngster visiting them that the wedding will be conducted after the pair complete their college education. How can this portion of the story be taken as suppression of women’s rights?

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In another story narrated in Bakasuran, a young girl commits suicide. Her father in a moment of vexation and ire chides his wife, asking, “You are always at home. Couldn’t you take care of our daughter?” Critics highlight this line in support of their argument that man too has a role in taking care of his daughters. “Should women alone be responsible for parental duties?” they ask. But the reality is that such marital discords happen in poor families where the man is always in pursuit of economic activities, leaving his family into the care of his wife.

In the episode in question, the mother laments, saying, “Our daughter is always engrossed in her mobile phone, locked up in her room. Today she committed suicide!” While the critics ask if the scene advises parents not to give mobile phones to their daughters, their criticism has no substance because the film has neither a scene nor dialogue that dishes out this kind of anti-woman advice regarding the modern communication gadget.

A line in the film gives a warning: “Keep tabs on children browsing their mobile phones, as the gadgets have many apps that mislead and misguide them.” Critics slam this line, asking if children are slaves to parents.  Even the coordinator of a debate I took part in recently asked this very same question.

Just as the hero of the 1952 film Parasakthi said, “I do not say temples are unwanted; but simply say that the temples should not become dens of the evil,” the film Bakasuran does not say no to mobile phones, just that modern gadgets should not become tools of obscenity and perversion

It is known that teenage is an impressionable phase in one’s life, when the mind struggles to find its bearings. It is during this period that one could get led astray by external influences. So, parental surveillance, love and some reasonable restrictions are needed to keep youth from falling for evil baits, I believe.

The critics say that the scene in which two women die by suicide after a sexual scandal connotes weakening of womanhood and women’s liberation ideals. The women characters should have been projected as fighting the situation, tooth and nail, they argue. But the film just holds a mirror up to society’s failings. It is only portraying incidents that are regularly reported in the media — of women ending their lives on being disgraced by online stalkers. Of course, the affected women could have been portrayed as rising up in a keen fight against the perpetrators. But doesn’t a film-maker have the right to show the ground reality as it is?

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I agree that Mansur Ali Khan’s song and dance number is unwanted. Yet, the overall theme of the film is quite topical. Just as the hero of the 1952 film Parasakthi said, “I do not say temples are unwanted; but simply say that the temples should not become dens of the evil,” the film Bakasuran does not say no to mobile phones, just that modern gadgets should not become tools of obscenity and perversion.

The detractors seem to bear Mohan G some grouse or prejudice because they have criticised him for some scenes and lines that aren’t even in the film. Not a long time ago, social media users slammed another film of Mohan G, Rudra Thandavam, for a scene in which a youth — who was wearing a T-shirt sporting an image of Dr B R Ambedkar — was selling ganja. But the film, in fact, did not have such a scene.

It seems like the same kind of misleading criticism of Bakasuran is being carried in the media and social media — a campaign that leaves a bad taste in the mouths of film buffs.


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