The all-new dashing Arvind Swamy successfully managed to take our mind off a little significant something that happens in Bogan. I’m talking about that Hansika introduction scene that shows her trying to figure out how to buy alcohol at a TASMAC outlet. As she stood there, some of us knew what’d happen. She was likely being bullied to buy it for somebody else (perhaps the hero?), or was doing it for noble reasons that would shortly be stated to sentimental effect. For instance, in the 2014-release, Oru Oorla Rendu Raja starring Vemal and Priya Anand, the heroine was shown buying alcohol. The hero could not believe his judgemental eyes. But sure enough, the scene ended by establishing that she was actually a doctor, and that she had bought it for medicinal purposes. The hero heaved a sigh of relief, and fell in love.
In Bogan though, Hansika’s character ends up drinking what she buys. You see, somebody has led her to believe that drinking will help her develop the cojones to confront her dad. Or as she awkwardly puts it, dhil kadaikkum. I know what you’re thinking. At least she’s not channelling her inner Teresa by buying it for medicinal reasons, right? The interesting part comes a bit later when she turns into the Mother India-inspired caricature that passes off as the heroine in Tamil commercial cinema. The protagonist is drinking at a party, and from a distance, she wiggles a reproachful finger at him. All is well again, as it serves the purpose of establishing that she’s a virtuous woman, after all.
This simplistic attempt at establishing the purity of lead female characters is as old as Tamil cinema itself. Good people don’t drink. Good people don’t let others drink. If only such markers were more reliable, it’d be easy to distinguish the good from the evil. Unfortunately, reality, as Nallasivam of Anbe Sivam (2003) indicates, is more complicated. Evil people cannot be, and must not be lazily profiled by trivialities like ugly looks, bad hygiene, or innocuous personal choices. And yet, we persist with this notion.
Of course, recent films like Kadhalum Kadandhu Pogum (2015) and Tharai Thappattai (2016) show the lead female character drinking without passing moral judgments. They are few and far in between, however, and why is that a surprise considering that outdated notions of female purity continue to be deified in our cinema? Isn’t that why in Bogan, despite the bad guy seemingly having conned the good guy’s fiancé to bed, you return from a song only to learn that the whole sequence was simply in the bad guy’s head? You see, in the virtuous world of Tamil cinema, a hero’s girlfriend cannot be conned into sinning.