CHENNAI: Many people I know raced to catch up on the nominated films in the lead up to the Academy Awards that was held this past weekend or have on their top priority — the ‘to-watch list’ consisting films that won. I, on the other hand, decided to give a couple of hours to Halitha Shameem’s Sillu Karupatti, meaning slivers of jaggery, that is now streaming on Netflix. It is an anthology of four films, all seeking to answer what is possibly the longest debated question — what is love? There are a few reasons for why I did this now:
I was unable to watch the film during its theatre run but heard varied reviews of it. Though there are haters and lovers for any film I’ve known a large number of people to agree upon a number of things or pick on parts of the film together, depending on which side of the fence they are. But with respect to this anthology, and four stories complicate matters by that many times, those who are likely to be on the same side of the fence stood divided, and liked, disliked, loved and even hated some of the shorts more than others, sometimes taking hard unforgiving and rare stances. One of these people who watched the film in the theatre left mid-way. He claimed that he couldn’t sit through the film, that it was so bad and contrived he had to leave. It was the first time he left a movie hall because of a bad film. Another has loved the real nature of the stories so much so that he has watched it many times since the film first became available online.
If the mixed reviews put the film on my radar, it was actually an article co-authored by Devon Proudfoot and Aaron Kay for the Los Angeles Times that got me to finally watch it. This Op-ed which was published last week posits that there could be a more scientific, psychological reason for the academy’s brief history of women nominees and awardees — that women’s creativity is judged more harshly — and was written now, specifically making an example of Greta Gerwig’s Little Women that deserved more than it got. Backed by years of research, the authors explain how men’s work is looked at as more creative or innovative than their female peers; what the exact ways of ‘thinking outside the box’ mean for men and women and how both are held accountable to different standards of quality. I wondered, on reading this piece, if the same may be true for Sillu Karupatti, especially given its ‘loved it-hated it’ extreme reviews, and hence decided to watch it finally.
Not so surprisingly, I loved the film. I cried, laughed. nodded at the characters. They were all familiar to me. Even where the story was cheesy or over-the-top or hands-down improbable I didn’t see the fix coming, and so sweetly that too. It made me angry that a person chose this to be the first movie they walked out of — I’m hardly going to begin a twitter troll campaign against the said friend, but I am appalled at the double standards because of the number of trashy films I know he’s watched.
I am not saying one should watch a film they don’t like. Neither am I asking to give women a longer rope when watching their films. Love them, hate them, rip them apart and then some more, as one would any other film. But I insist, as one would any other film, and all the while remembering that there are far too few women making movies, that we watch too few movies made by women, that we are conditioned to watching and loving what men auteurs create and holding women’s work to that imaginary higher standard. Female directors are typecast, expected to write cutesy cinema, don’t get large budgets, big stars, a multi-camera set up or five hundred side dancers — and then a tight leash and a shock collar whereas the boy’s club can bathe collar free in cliches, afford a good trainer and claim to be trained all themselves.
archanaa seker email@example.com
The writer is a city-based activist, in-your-face feminist and a media glutton