I was watching this Malayalam movie the other day. It showed, Suresh Gopi barging into a women’s ashram and demanding to see an inmate. The heroine of the movie who is the caretaker or manager of the ashram refuses citing rules and regulations. A perfectly normal response. What happened next was disgusting. Suresh Gopi tells her to “Shut your bloody mouth” and walks away. I was shocked!!! Does the film maker realize that this is not a standard response of a gentleman in anger? Or as my friend pointed out, this was considered the smart response in Kerala to women who speak up!! How many people must have watched this movie? How many people would it have influenced and encouraged to behave in a similar fashion with ladies? I suspect many!
Another rerun I saw showed a father in law telling a son in law after he had slapped his wife, that only now he (Son-in-law) had become a man and worthy of respect. There are several movies that I have seen in which physical abuse against women is justified and considered necessary “to keep her in check.” Even the new movies follow the same trend. In a movie that was released some ago, Prithviraj slaps Roma and justifies it by saying that she will anyway be beaten after the wedding so she can deduct this slap from the ones she will get then. And he says it so affectionately. The message of all these movies is clear. Women are to be controlled. And a slap or beating is always shown as the chosen method of control.
Last week I was on the last flight out from Kochi to Bangalore. I was in the last row of this Indian Airlines (now Indian) flight. Two rows ahead of me was a Malayalee youth who looked like he was on the way to Bangalore for a holiday. After take off, he lit a cigarette. A stewardess in her thirties or so, asked him politely to stub out the cigarette. In front of my horrified eyes, he told her to eff off! The lady was taken aback. Clearly she had not been addressed this way before. White faced she went off to complain to the Pilot. The guy grinned and looked around smugly. The grin froze when he saw me. He looked away quickly. He was pulled up at Bangalore and mildly reprimanded, given a lecture in manners and let off!
I have not lived in Kerala. But I know the Malayalam language and hence when I see these movies, I spot these abnormalities quickly. What is surprising is that when I point this out to my friends from Kerala, they say that it is the norm and very much the mind set of the 100% literate State. And what’s worse, women lead the pack that espouses strict control over women. The method most often used to goad men who do not hit their wives or treat them with respect is to call them ‘henpecked”! Women are to be seen not heard is apparently the state motto, I am told. It is no wonder that Kerala has the fastest growing divorce rate in India today!
p.s before anyone asks me, by Kerala standards, my Dad is the most henpecked man from the State. Go figure! :p