Remember this problematic punchline from Sivakarthikeyan’s Remo? “Ponnungala control pandradhu dhaan kashtam, aana confuse pandradhu easy!” (Controlling girls is difficult, but confusing them is easy.) What if this was tweaked a bit, replacing ‘girls’ with a naive audience possessing a shallow idea about casteism? Mohan G’s Draupathi is a film based on this concept.
Unlike some previous caste-worship films which made laughing stocks of themselves with their OTT treatment, Draupathi pulls a ruse by keeping the flavour subtle. I am all for the representation of different communities in cinema, but, demonising an entire community is something that deserves serious condemnation.
In one scene, we see a group of girls awaiting their college bus and a philanderer tries to lure one of them with evil intentions.
The victim here is shown to be nothing less than an angel, whose sole aim is to study and make her father proud. But her ‘friends’ cheer Mr Romeo to go for his target saying, “Dei pora da poi ushaar pannu.”
No points for guessing that both the cheering girls and Romeo belong to ‘that’ particular community. These people from ‘that’ community are also the masterminds behind the fake marriage racket, the cola factory that sucks out the wealth of our agricultural lands, and the list just goes on.
Though I was initially trying to stay invested in decoding the director’s point of view, the ever-increasing list of accusations only made me laugh out loud. Mohan presumably refrained from accusing ‘that’ community of being the reason why aliens don’t visit us, simply due to time constraints.
I would have been less bothered if all this was shown as a story happening in an alternate reality, but, alas, Draupathi tries so hard to establish itself as a reflection of reality. The way filmmaker Mohan whitewashes honour killings and presents an alternate history which once again points fingers at ‘that’ community, can either be considered a heinous crime or applauded for its creativity. As they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Even if we leave aside the casteist angle, Draupathi fares no better as a film with its mediocre making and inconsistent performances.
Draupathi could have been an interesting vigilante revenge drama taking on the flaws in the marriage registry system. The way the protagonist’s personal tragedy is connected to the fake marriage racket of 2014, under which more than 3500 pseudo marriages were registered, actually sounds interesting. But all is lost once Mohan starts his finger-pointing.
Draupathi was advertised as a whip to ‘naadaga kaadhal’ (No, not those testing romances in serials named after famous films). Though we hardly get to see kaadhal, the naadagam bit fits given the drama-like execution. Rishi Richard’s Rudhra Prabhakar is shown as a martial-arts trainer, but almost all the fights in the film resemble clumsy faceoffs between middle-school backbenchers. The rudhram (rage) is to be found nowhere but in his name. Though a part of me was happy to see Richard getting some long-pending visibility, it was saddening to realise that it being showered on one of his weakest works in a morally-conflicting film.
I kind of admired Mohan’s admiration of his own work and how he keeps making references to his debut, Pazhaya Vannarapettai, throughout this film. Things reach a whole new level when a character in the film reviews Draupathi (Draupathi Sabadham, a film within the film) and calls it a revolutionary work that unmasks the hidden truths of society. That self-indulgent review is the point where the film unmasks its own motives without any inhibitions and shouts aloud, “Casteism is the cure.”
The sudden cheers for this sequence in a theatre filled with people whom I assumed to be marginally progressive, intimidated and outraged me at the same time. The film also goes on to say that caste-based division will put an end to a whole lot of problems. If a film dares to say that separation is the solution in 2020, I guess we are left to say that the only thing people must be separated from is such works of hatred.
Director- Mohan G
Actors- Rishi Richard, Sheela Rajkumar, Nishanth
Producer- GM Film Corporation (Crowd-funded film)