Though it was actor Parvathy who opened a can of worms regarding the depiction of misogyny in cinema, the fact remains that discussions and dialogues had already started on social media platforms much before that. In fact, during the time of its release, Kasaba was already dissected by online and print media film critics, drawing a wide margin between depiction and glorification of misogyny. But looks like the debate continues to rage on and is today more about feminists versus non-feminists. In such a context, we asked some of the writers and directors in Malayalam cinema regarding the depiction of women in cinema—do they have a guideline in that matter? Did some of the reactions remind us of the famous saying— “When you are privileged, equality feels like an oppression”? No, we are not telling you that. They are.
We consciously try not to show misogyny in cinema and our scripts are filtered multiple times to make sure such glaring errors aren’t made. I think misogyny is being misunderstood—we need to understand the difference between depiction and glorification. In Koodevide, the misogyny isn’t glorified. Adaminte Variyellu, according to me, is the best pro-women film in our cinema—three women are struggling to find their feet in a world surrounded by extreme misogynists. It’s reality and the maker offers no solutions. He is just showing us a mirror.
We have had a multitude of films where romance is often the result of a hero slapping a heroine. Insistent stalkers are celebrated. Misogyny cannot be blended in with heroism. We would never write a scene where the dinner table only has the dad and a 10-year-old son seated, while the mother and sister are serving them food. Honestly, there are times when we aren’t entirely free of chauvinism thanks to the centuries old conditioning we received from around us. We do discuss with our women friends if we are sceptical about a scene.
Ultimately, it’s the writer who should be held accountable for what is being said on screen.
In How old are you? though we were confident about the scene where Nirupama declines her daughter’s request to join her in Ireland, there were many who were sceptical. Won’t it look bad on her image as a mother? But on the first day, we were gratified to watch the scene being welcomed by claps. That seems like a tribute to womanhood.
Ajith Kumar B (Editor-Director)
I don’t think I subscribe to any guidelines as such. In Eeda, it was a prior decision to allot equal screen time to the man and woman. So much so that in the end I wondered if she got the lion’s share of it.
Dileesh Nair (Scriptwriter)
We don’t have any guidelines. But we do try to ensure equality in representation. She should not be someone without a voice, nor under the hero’s shadow and has some involvement in society. There is no pre-fixed agenda, glorification of misogyny is consciously avoided. At the end of the day, cinema is art and not politics and we try to be honest to it.
Ranjith Sankar (Director)
I don’t really differentiate a character according to their gender. For me, any character I sketch, be it male or female is about getting in deep, up to their roots, and understanding them thoroughly.
Althaf Salim (Director)
It is about how the character travels in the plot, not according to their gender or any existing trends. I look at a character’s history, behaviour and assign dialogues accordingly. I don’t want to mix politics in my characters.
Basil Joseph (Director)
I try not to make it offensive. There is a conscious effort to give equal weightage to the hero and heroine. I think genetically women are known to react more strongly to emergency situations than men. But I don’t really like the idea of forcefully making women-oriented films, I would rather go with well-rounded female characters instead. Most of the women around me are independent in every right and that’s enough to draw inspiration from.
SreebalaK Menon (Director)
I basically take an effort not to make her a stereotype, as I think women are mostly caricatures done in different ways. They don’t have a uniqueness as each human being has. When I sit to write, apart from not stereotyping them I also strive to bring out a uniqueness. In commercial cinema, roles for women are just filled for the sake of it, they don’t resonate with that of a modern woman. For my heroine in Love 24./7, I put that Trivandrum slang, which is already categorised as a comic slang and is never used on heroines as it works against the image of being coy and innocent. Even today they talk about that scene. That’s the uniqueness I am talking about. We have ample space for layered women characters but such efforts are only taken while sketching men.
These quotes are taken from their previous interviews to fullpicture.in
Amal Neerad (Director)
Right from my first film, when Malayalam cinema was all about “thanthaykku pirannavan” (born to righteous dads) in Big B there were heroes who were “ammaykku pirannavanmar” (born to noble mothers). There is a dialogue between the hero and villain where the latter laments his current state to not having a noble mother. I think when you talk about women in cinema, it’s not enough to have a woman in every single frame, it’s about empowering female characters. It was there in IyobintePusthakam. And KullanteBharya is her story, right? After all, Sagar Alias Jackie was just a goonda, who followed Shobana’s instructions to the T.
Rima Kallingal (Actress)
It’s difficult to even grasp the kind of stories written for us. I keep hearing writer friends in industry animatedly discussing the possibilities of sketching these male actors in different shades. I never hear that about actresses. To me a giggling, unsure, complicated 18-year-old girl is a strong woman. A housewife who is keeping her home and family together is a strong woman. I feel that everyone of us have strengths and weaknesses. When you represent a woman with strengths and weaknesses intact, they are called strong. That’s like portraying a woman in the truest sense.
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Fullpicture is an exclusive, comprehensive, online English magazine on Malayalam cinema, put together by a team of experienced journalists who share a passion for everything about Malayalam cinema. The idea is to put out well-written and well-researched features, exclusive interviews,...