Move over Kolaveri di, Jimmiki Kammal has arrived and how! This trippy, peppy Malayalam number, composed by Shaan Rahman, appears in Mohanlal’s Velipadinte Pusthakam, and when a bevy of belles grooved to the beat for their Onam celebrations, the song went viral with even popular talk show host Jimmy Kimmel professing his love for it. Men of all ages declared themselves enamoured of the lead dancer from Indian School of Commerce (ISC), and even started WhatsApp groups in her honour.
One intrepid radio jockey tracked her down for an interview frankly declaring that traditionally, a Tamilian dude’s heart beats faster when in the vicinity of a beautiful Malayali girl. Around this time, Kangana Ranaut joined hands with All India Bakchod (AIB) for a satirical video on the rampant sexism in Bollywood. Between interviews, she dished the dirt on abusive relationships she had been involved in with married men from the film industry of varying star voltage.
As always, her cheerleaders applauded her for the frank exposé of taboo topics, while critics wondered about her sincerity given her tendency to bring up scandalous issues just prior to her fi lm’s release. Her supporters countered that if Aamir Khan can embrace pressing social causes, timing it to promote his latest cinematic offering and get applauded for his keen business acumen, why can’t Kangana? But all was forgiven, thanks to the AIB video and the gales of laughter it induced.
Even the worst chauvinists who refer to feminists as feminazis, warmed to the witty Ranaut who sizzled in a midriff-baring crimson outfit. Both videos got me thinking about the male gaze and the sexual politics behind it. In visual media, as Laura Mulvey pointed out in her famous 1975 essay, it refers to a sexualised way of looking which empowers men and reduces women to mere objects of desire. Yet, in both these videos, where the female agency is apparent, somehow the male gaze is successfully transformed into something that is no longer ickily voyeuristic and creepy, but strangely endearing, notwithstanding the touch of ‘scopophilia’ or the sexual pleasure derived by simply looking.
Seeing grown men get so excited by the terpsichorean grace of a girl next door, or the prospect of watching a movie because Ranaut ‘has a vagina re’, reminded me of a simpler time when it was okay to see provided one wasn’t seen seeing. When it was perfectly okay to whistle at a pretty girl without getting pulled up for eve-teasing.
The flush of satisfaction on being at the receiving end of an appreciative glance since it did not pose the risk of stalking or rape. Conversely, with regard to the feminine gaze, surely a lady has the right to ogle an intense and sexy Rafa without getting accused of lewd and lascivious staring? Thanks to the gender wars we have been fighting for so long, we are losing out on so much that is awesome about being male or female, including the playful interplay and banter between the sexes, which need not be limited to intercourse or incendiary politics. Let us celebrate and satisfy masculine and feminine scopophilia, Jimmiki Kammals, Kangana’s vagina, Rafa’s hot bod and bring friendship, fun and flirtation back into our relationship with the opposite sex. Political correctness be damned!
Author of Arjuna, Kamadeva, Shakti, and Yama’s Lieutenant