Revisiting Singaravelan: Nine thoughts on watching '90s Kamal Haasan-starrer
Singaravelan was released in 1992, a time when in our little corner of the world, the only options for entertainment were the non-AC cinema theatres and hanging out at the railway station. If you were a dude, I mean. If you were not a dude, lol.
'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.
Read part 1 of this column.
Hai fam! Here we are, with the sizzling and slightly sour second instalment of our column. As promised, we have successfully re-watched Singaravelan and now, it is time to share our bubbly thoughts regarding the same. First of all, the weird things.
— There was a scene where everyone was playing the saddest game of basketball in the world. With a soccer ball. And I was like, oh my God this can’t get any weirder. But then Kamal threw Khushboo through a basketball hoop and I was like ok, nemmind.
— There was also a scene where Khushboo, wearing a dress and hat, ran over a number of hurdles, entered a phone booth, two dudes started acting sleazy with her, she exits the phone booth, a whole bunch of dudes appear and act sleazy with her so she beats them up and dances with them.
— The movie had that weird choreography which was so prevalent back then because we were copying Western culture without having any proper exposure to Western culture. Also, Western culture down down.
— There was a lot of innuendo regarding Khushboo’s breasts. ALOT. Like ok, she has breasts, we get it bro.
Now, before I start, I want to make it very clear that this started out well. It was funny, there was a song (with possible animal abuse? let’s not talk about that though), there was a fight scene. I was totally ready for the hero to do great things because he was so great. Maybe this was just a good ole Tamil masala movie, full of fun and not problematic at all! I mean apart from the animal abuse and all!
Anyway, that didn’t happen. Why? Because this movie was essentially about a dude who tries to win his lady love by doing the following:
— Sneaking into her bedroom and kissing her in a non-consensual manner while she is sleeping (stop doing this!! It’s gross!!)
— Aggressively harassing her in various public places. This includes making repeated references to her breasts, grabbing her and lifting up her skirt, all in a sparkling, non-consensual way.
— Singing a song that says women should have ‘acham’, ‘naanum’ and ‘maddam’ (timidity, shyness and innocence, according to Google), or else it is only natural that they will be harassed. This song also stated that a woman must be obedient or else she will suffer later in life. Good to know bro!
— Now this is where it gets a little confusing. Hero gets angry when someone suggests he should marry the heroine. You know, the one that he is relentlessly harassing? And he’s like HOW DARE YOU!! Does this woman wear a pottu? Flowers? Sari? Does she have the aforementioned timidity, shyness and innocence as well as ‘payirpu’ (aversion to other/strange men? according to Google). Would any man ever marry her? We later learn that he has also said she looks like a man because he is a real fun guy.
— When the heroine tries to tell someone about this harassment, they tell her that if she had dressed traditionally, none of this would have happened. I mean, obvs fam.
Anyway, all this leads to her having a complete change of heart where she decides to wear saris, flowers and be very shy forever and ever. Everyone likes this. The end!
Maybe you are saying, dude! What the actual heck! How did none of that register as problematic for you? Well, in my defence, I was very stupid as a youth. But also, it’s a Kamal movie! Kamal is hero! And heroes don’t relentlessly sexually harass people! I mean they do but…like, I think if you do it with music, it’s ok? Idk actually.
Fam, we could wax long and eloquent about this but we’re not going to, because feminism is the worst and keeps ruining great movies. Also, we have to end this column now. Hopefully you will join me again in our next instalment when we look at another Tamil movie from my youth!
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