Sex and sen­sa­tion­al­i­sa­tion

The New Indian Express - - EXBUZZ - THAMIZH TALKIES

Ifound the trailer of 90ML un­palat­able. This dis­claimer notwith­stand­ing, what I did like was the idea of mak­ing a girl-gang film in Tamil where the babes seem to be hav­ing as much fun as the dudes. No, you won’t get any ‘Tamil cul­ture pro­tec­tion’ talk from me. Af­ter all, the same ‘girls just wanna have fun’ con­cept was re­ceived very well in the Hindi film, Veere Di Wedding, which also ran into its share of con­tro­ver­sies over scenes far bolder than the ones we see in the 90ML trailer. And when I went all guns blaz­ing to sup­port that film, you may ask why I find this trailer un­palat­able. I asked my­self this ques­tion again and again be­cause I’m one of those women who work be­hind the cam­era and who wants to make a dif­fer­ence to the cin­ema of my times. So when I see other women do that (90ML is di­rected by Anita Udeep), my first in­stinct is to stand up and cheer for them and I am quite sad that I couldn’t get my­self to do that for 90ML. Ir­rev­er­ence to con­ser­va­tive, pa­tri­ar­chal or stereo­typ­i­cal por­tray­als must be wel­comed in any artis­tic medium and our Tamil cin­ema es­pe­cially needs to have more of break­ing the norm/ rule per se, es­pe­cially when it comes to its women. But should it be done in such an ‘in your face’ man­ner or can it also be done in style? Ex­am­ple of such ‘ir­rev­er­ence in style’ can be found in any Venkat Prabhu film. Take Sneha‘s role in Goa for in­stance. An hith­erto ‘homely hero­ine’ like Sneha played a ruth­less busi­ness­woman who runs a casino, gets high on cough syrup (and ob­vi­ously on al­co­hol also), and shows the mid­dle fin­ger and says the F-word but the dif­fer­ence lies in the fact that Sneha did it all like a champ. The stag­ing was not about hit­ting be­low the belt. The writ­ing and act­ing was within the cor­rect me­ter of how that char­ac­ter should be por­trayed. Now, 90ML’s trailer is a hot topic, thanks to its shock­ing con­tent — but to what ex­tent will the mak­ers go to sac­ri­fice form for sen­sa­tional value? Even soft porn, when done well, will make for great view­ing for the gen­eral au­di­ence. But does this trailer qual­ify for such view­ing when the stan­dard fil­ters of good writ­ing, cam­era work and act­ing is ap­plied to it? A trailer is that one grain of rice which stands as a sam­ple for the whole pot (yes, I’ve trans­lated the Tamil proverb). It’s only with the trailer that I de­cide as an au­di­ence, whether to go watch a film or not. If the film is well-made, why must the trailer be crass? Trans­lat­ing an­other proverb, isn’t it true that what­ever’s in the cook­ing pot will only come on your plate... As much as stalk­ing a woman can­not be taken as proof of the man’s love for her (Remo), show­ing girls dis­cuss “mat­ter” and getting them to speak of their body parts, I think, is war­ranted only when there is a gen­uine char­ac­ter arc or story plot which re­quires it. I agree I have not seen this film and hence, can­not com­ment on the con­text of that par­tic­u­lar scene but this is just go­ing by the trailer. Sure, it can be edited for ‘sen­sa­tion’ value as that will bring in the open­ing day au­di­ence but then, what about the there­after? When the au­di­ence gets tired with mere tit­il­la­tion, is there a good story and a great film wait­ing to be seen too? In VDW, the women grap­ple with gen­uine per­son­al­ity and fa­mil­ial is­sues (the film be­gins with their child­hood) which re­quire that they get out of their com­fort zones and be­come as­sertive, strong, sex­u­ally ex­pres­sive. It was re­lat­able. In 90ML, the trailer also ends with some gun fight etc which to me be­trays the in­ten­tion of the film to be in the masala zone. So why this level of crass­ness to the point of mak­ing me, an adult woman, squirm? For the buzz? And just be­cause the men seem to get away with their half-baked adult come­dies, must women should re­sort to mak­ing the same? Why can’t we make bet­ter adult come­dies? Why can’t the al­co­hol and smok­ing and swear­ing be shown in bet­ter form/style? Had that kind of pack­ag­ing been there, then in all cen­tres, this film would make its mark, right? (I refuse to buy the ar­gu­ment that I write in English, live in a metro and there­fore, that makes me an A-cen­tre au­di­ence.) We are the same au­di­ence who ap­proved of Maya declar­ing to An­buchel­van that she wanted to make love to him. Jy­otika’s char­ac­ter from Kaakha Kaakha re­mains one of the bold­est fe­male parts ever writ­ten for a Tamil film hero­ine till date. She didn’t have to drink or smoke or swear to prove this. Yet she did what even An­buchel­van IPS didn’t have the courage to do. She made the first move. If your ar­gu­ment is that 90ML is an adult film, I urge you to watch Sex Ed­u­ca­tion — a series on Net­flix which will show you how to deal with sex on screen and more so in your life and in the lives of your kids. Closer home, do check out Lust Sto­ries (Net­flix again) made by four of In­dia’s best film­mak­ers or I give you an op­tion that’s fur­ther closer to home: Balaji Mo­han’s As I’m Suf­fer­ing from Kaad­hal on Hot­star where the women swear, drink, smoke and have sex but they do it while be­hav­ing like nor­mal, reg­u­lar peo­ple. And then tell me whether you still like the trailer of 90ML. I’ll wait for your ver­dict.

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