Neelambari is one of the greatest characters, villain or otherwise, written in Tamil cinema. It came at a time when we barely had any strong women characters. Yet for all the positives of Padayappa, there were quite a regressive scenes, and one, specifically, that propagates a popular myth. The scene in question has Neelambari gifting Soundarya’s character a red saree, just so the bull that almost killed her, would kill Soundarya instead, given the colour of her clothing. What!
Animal activist Nikhil Talreja reacts with similar amusement. “In reality, bulls are colour blind. This myth that bulls go after red colour began in Spain where bullfighting is a country tradition. In their bullfighting arenas, the final round usually has a red cape being waved about. The bull which is trained to be aggressive to the person in front of them after two rounds doesn’t really care whether the colour is blue, red or green. It is trained to go after whatever is waved in front of it. Somehow, Indian cinema seems to have picked up this idea.”
He further explains, “One of the reasons why they probably used red was to try and cover up the colour of blood because they wanted the spectacle of bullfighting to be seen by everyone.” He makes a reference to our own jallikattu, and says people often mistake it for bullfighting. “In jallikattu, people don’t just wear red for one, and are happy to use the natural momentum of the bull, as it comes out screaming, in order to try and tame it.
The sport here isn’t as bloody in comparison, and that’s why in films like Murattu Kalai and Virumaandi which depict jallikattu, you see participants wearing a variety of colours.” In short, Soundarya from Padayappa had nothing to be scared about.
Bulls attack those wearing red
Propagated in Padaiyappa, Kovil Kaalai