As Minnale nears its 20th anniversary, revisiting the good, bad and problematic of Gautham Menon's film
Minnale goes from relatively harmless, goofy rom-com to a story about dudes engaging in rather alarming behaviour.
'Allegedly Problematic' is a monthly column by Kuzhali Manickavel, which takes a cheeky look at literary/cultural offerings from the past that would now be considered, well, problematic — and asks, 'But are they really?'.
Read more from the series here.
Hai fam! I am pleased to inform you that I have successfully watched Minnale. First, the good news. This was most definitely a decent movie in that there was no unnecessary or necessary rape of women. There was actually no rape at all! Isn’t that nice! Wait, it gets better! Nobody slapped the girl. Not the hero, not her dad, not some random fellow passing her on the street looking for timepass. In fact I don’t recall any scenes of physical violence against women at any point in the movie. And for a while, I was like huh! Maybe this one’s ok! Maybe we are all going to be ok!
I’m not saying it was the wokest thing ever. The first part did have some garden-variety homophobia. And maybe there was some sexism. Like, a smidgen. And a half. And perhaps there was a gentle shade, a coy suspicion, of sexual harassment. But you can’t keep complaining about every single, small thing, no? Of course not! I know my place, fam. Instead, let me try to recap this movie. We have two young men, Rowdy and Notrowdy, who don’t like each other but share an extremely strong homoerotic bond which was frankly, kind of distracting. The first half was mostly taken up with Rowdy pretending to be someone else, namely Known America Dude. In this guise, he wooed The Girl, who he was soft-stalking because he saw her once at night in the rain and fell in love with her. And by soft-stalking, I mean he did sort of harass her friend in a vegetable market, but he didn’t lift up her skirt while doing it.
Then The Girl discovered that Rowdy was not her Known America Dude (who is actually Notrowdy btw. And who she has never actually seen also). By this time, they had spent time together and she had come to like him. So upon discovery, she was like omg ew gross who are you even go away. But Rowdy does not go away. She calls Neighbour for help. Rowdy and Friends later beat up Neighbour because you know what fam? Dudes have many, many feelings. Like, so many.
The Girl tells Rowdy to go away. Rowdy does not go away. Rowdy approaches The Girl’s friend for help. She tells Rowdy to go away. Rowdy and Friends break into Notrowdy’s house and threaten him, telling him to leave town because Rowdy likes the girl Notrowdy is supposed to marry. Again Girl tells Rowdy to go away. Rowdy does not go away. He says, I’m a good guy! You know why? Because I didn’t sexually exploit you when we were together! Then something surprising happens — The Girl tells Rowdy to go away. And Rowdy does not go away.
Rowdy stalks the couple. Then he kind of beats up Notrowdy and for a second, it looks like he suddenly understands what ‘go away’ means. We will never know for sure though, because in the end, Notrowdy gives The Girl back to Rowdy. Like he literally takes the girl to the airport and gives her to him like she’s a block of cheese. This proves that when a girl repeatedly tells you to go away, you should not listen to her because lol why would you do that anyway.
So was Minnale problematic? Well to me, it felt like it went from relatively harmless, goofy rom-com to a story about dudes engaging in rather alarming behaviour. I know, I know, Rowdy’s actions are apparently justifiable because a) he really loves her! b) he said sorry! c) she actually likes him! But it does feel like The Girl had very little agency in all this. I mean she was literally passed from one dude to another. Rowdy, his friends and his thatha all seemed to have better insight into The Girl’s true feelings than The Girl herself. And her anger at being conned was certainly not as important as the anger of Rowdy who conned her and got mad because she got mad because he conned her. But this is what is known as useless feminist speculation. And I for one, will not stand for it on my platform.
Thankfully, the time has come to end this column. Please join us next time! I promise you another syrupy, crunchy column, chock-full of complaints about other allegedly problematic matters! Bai!
Kuzhali Manickavel is the author of the short story collections 'Insects Are Just like You and Me except Some of Them Have Wings' and 'Things We Found During the Autopsy', both available from Blaft Publications
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