It’s astonishing how some of our wildly successful films couldn’t have existed, had the leading woman been allowed to exercise agency, had she shown spine. There’s no better time than Valentine’s Day to take a look at some of them, to see that in these stories, the woman isn’t as coveted, as she’s controlled and sometimes, even cornered.
The film which put Vikram back on the radar, Sethu, had him play a college student with a special proclivity for violence. Even his expression of love to the timid Abitha Kujalambal, has him kidnapping her, and threatening to kill her. It’s all in the name of love, and because he’s the hero of the film, she says she loves him too.
Rajesh (Madhavan) falls in love when he sees Reena (Reema Sen) dancing in the rain. He then tracks her whereabouts, and learns that she’s already engaged to Rajiv (Abbas). You and I would’ve let it go, and gotten on with life, but not Rajesh, who impersonates Rajiv, after learning that Reena doesn’t know what he looks like. Though Reena throws him out of her life when she gets to know he’s a strange man who wasn’t beyond cutting off her phone lines, she eventually goes back because well, she fell in love with him too.
Yet another love-at-first-sight story, Sivaji sees its lead (Rajinikanth) wanting a ‘kudumba paangana ponnu’ and deciding from her looks that Tamizhselvi is one. But instead of trying to woo her, Sivaji and his uncle masquerade as electoral officers in order to get more details about Tamizhselvi. What details? Kodal kozhambu vekka theriyuma, asks Sivaji. Things get worse when the families get involved and in the name of ‘vaanga pazhagalam’, Tamizhselvi’s family is at the receiving end of much violation of privacy. Of course, the family succumbs at the end and Tamizhselvi gives her nod, because you just don’t say no the hero.
Probably the first film which led to discussions on the influence of cinema when it comes to issues like stalking, Remo is once again a story of an impostor who tries to woo a girl that’s engaged. You can sense a pattern here. Only this time, SK (Sivakarthikeyan) dresses up as a woman and becomes a close confidante to Kavya (Keerthy Suresh) which he uses to manipulate her into giving up on the guy she was engaged to. As always, the girl accepts our hero despite knowing about the cover-up, because... well, you know it already.
Arjun Reddy (2017)
Arjun Reddy isn’t a Tamil film, yes. But considering the film is currently being remade in Tamil with the man who directed the first film in this list (and will star the son of the actor who acted in it), it must be mentioned. Arjun Reddy (Varma in Tamil), is also similar to Sethu’s lead —someone who has serious anger management issues. Keeping with the eerie similarities both films have, Arjun Reddy too has a timid heroine. Our hero dictates her every move because he loves her. The heroine is scarily compliant at all times, and that, of course, is in keeping with the template of these ‘love stories’.