Monisha En Monalisa was labelled among Tamil cinema's lowest points. So I rewatched the film in 2020
I wanted to watch Monisha En Monalisa because I remembered it from my youth and I wanted to assess its problematic-ness in the clarity of adulthood. This proved to be a little tricky because problematics aside, this is a really, really bad movie.
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! Well fam, COVID and locusts are happening, so this is obviously a great time to talk about a movie called Monisha En Monalisa. Just to recap, I wanted to watch this movie because I remembered it from my youth and I wanted to assess its problematic-ness in the clarity of adulthood. This proved to be a little tricky because problematics aside, this is a really, really bad movie. Wikipedia tells us that one reviewer described it as the “low point of Tamil cinema” and that seems like a very good way to describe it.
This movie is about a pop singer called Monisha, who hates men and love because her mother was in an abusive relationship. This is conveyed via a montage featuring a cigarette, a rose and some anklets. Monisha also wants to be a free bird, which essentially means she needs to be taken down a few notches. A dude called Rahul sees her show and decides he’s in love with her.
Wikipedia tells us that “he wears her down and she finally succumbs, agreeing to see him.” What does he actually do, you ask?
— He finds out all her phone numbers and repeatedly calls her. When she says she’s not interested, he respects her wishes, say okbai and never contacts her again. Kidding! He basically says lol to her, assures her that he will not relent until she loves him, calls himself her future husband, and in one scene, he seems to imply that the telephone was created for dudes to stalk girls.
— He makes stalker phone calls to her from her own house, which is literally what happens in a famous horror movie.
— He breaks into her car.
— He harasses her in a temple.
— He breaks into her house, gets on her bed while she’s sleeping and looks at her body for a while. Kidding! I’m not kidding tho.
— He breaks in again while she is sleeping, steals her anklet, decorates her house with creepy messages and writes on her chest. HE WRITES ON HER CHEST YOU GUYS.
The only reason the dude stops “wearing her down” is because he dies (sorry, spoilers lol). Apart from all this, there are songs encouraging bros to mess with girls, especially if they are wearing jeans. There is a constant reference to dark-skinned people being ugly and therefore unlikely to have anyone ever fall in love with them. The college scenes solely consist of dudes harassing girls or imposing themselves on girls who have clearly and repeatedly said they are not interested. The comedy comes from scenes where a guy harasses a girl and she slaps him, which is hilarious I guess. And of course there is Monisha’s personal assistant, who repeatedly refers to the stalking dude as a hero and says he is a good man because when he broke in, he didn’t rape Monisha. Isn’t that all just so great?
Back in my youth, we would defend movies like this by saying that the women were saying no, but they meant yes. Why else would they dress and behave in that way? We firmly believed that the women in these movies were acting pricey, putting scene, being arrogant, and THIS was what was causing all the problems. Not the dude. Is that problematic? I would say yes, but I obviously don’t want to sound like a troublesome feminist because oh my God that’s just gross you guys.
Anyway, does any of that matter when the movie is so awful? Well, here’s the thing — it was an awful movie that spent Rs 10 million on one song sequence. In 1999. It was an awful movie that didn’t just exist as an idea, it was actually brought into being. This means that a large number of people were totally ok with this, so much so that they actually sank buckets and buckets of money into it. Which is fun, right?
Thankfully, this column has now come to an end. Next time! Join us as we investigate another Tamil movie from my youth that is allegedly problematic! Or maybe I will do an English one! I don’t know! Wear a mask!
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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