In a society where stereotypes blind our consciousness, where people are labelled by the way they look or the way they talk, the just-released Tamil film 'Nerkonda Paarvai' has a lot of significance. It acknowledges and explores the deep-rooted stereotypes regarding women.
Starring Ajith Kumar, the film is an adaptation of the Bollywood movie 'Pink'. While 'Pink' chose to focus on the intelligentsia, its Tamil version also attracted the masses by including Ajith’s action and romantic scenes.
The movie begins with a music event where Meera (Shraddha Srinath) is one of the dancers on stage, she then catches up with her friends, Fami and Andrea, and they meet a group of young men. One of the men, Adhik, is shown bleeding heavily and is being taken to the hospital by his friends in the next scene. In another car, Meera, Fami and Andrea are going home, looking disturbed.
In the following scenes, we get two versions of how Adhik ended up getting hurt. The movie discusses issues that are relevant especially in our present society. The movie questions the tendency to label women as good or bad based on the way they dress and the way they interact. There is a scene in court when lawyer Bharat Subhramaniam, played by Ajith, defending the three women who have been implicated in a crime. He lists out the traits that society perceives to be ‘bad’ in a woman. Drinking is looked down upon for women, not for men. For men, it is just a health hazard. He also mocks the perception of how women's character can be evaluated from the venue she is in. The movie brings out the importance of consent regardless of whoever it is.
In its attempt to attract the masses, the movie doesn't compromise on the delivery of an important message. The actors haven't tried to imitate their Bollywood counterparts either. While Amitabh Bachchan's performance was fascinating in 'Pink,' 'Thala' Ajith didn't disappoint either. He brought his own spark to the character and made it his own. So did Shraddha Srinath. In an interview, she said she did not watch 'Pink' and decided to wait till the movie was shot. She also delivered a great performance and there wasn't a single instance where it felt like she was imitating Taapsee Pannu.
The narrative of a man saving the women (though not by showing muscular strength) might seem cliche but I believe it still serves the purpose, the purpose being to deliver the important message the movie has. Now when I think about it, this narrative could deliver this message to more people.
When people on the big screen see their favourite actor standing up and trying to serve justice for these women, it could really make them conscious of something that they probably haven’t paid much notice before. Same can be applied to Dalit rights or LGBTQ rights. The recent 'Article 15,' starring Ayushmann Khurrana, is a good example of this. An upper-caste man realises the injustices that the Dalits have to put up. He is then trying to change the system that discriminates people on the basis of caste. We are seeing through his eyes and his perception of things. Such a narrative could strike a chord with non-Dalits and those that aren't conscious or those that turn a blind eye to atrocities on Dalits. This film could be a wake-up call for such people.
'Ek ladki tho dekha tho aisa laga,' starring Rajkumar Rao, Sonam Kapoor and Anil Kapoor, also has a similar narrative. Here a straight man is helping his friend, who is a lesbian, to come out to her parents. We are watching the movie from his point of view, and our views change as his views slowly change; from disbelief to acceptance and finally acting as a cupid and helping her reveal her sexuality to her father, this movie is a ground-breaking movie and has the capability to change misconceptions of the LGBTQ community.
Movies such as these must be watched by the masses and if it requires adding commercial elements to achieve this goal, the directors should take the liberty to do so. Because movies can set stereotypes and break them, as well.
(Opinions expressed are personal)