Sunayana Suresh: The recent murder of S Swathi, a young software engineer, in broad daylight by her alleged stalker has brought back the debate about the lopsided portrayal of love in cinema, in which, more often than not, stalking is masked as candyfloss romance. Online posts and tweets have already got many people debating this topic, wondering when makers will stop legitimizing stalking as love in their stories.
Filmmaker and mother of a young girl, Kavitha Lankesh, tells us that the situation that these films create can put society in a Catch-22 situation. “We want our young girls to grow up being strong and brave. But these situations and the popular stereotyping of women ensure that we end up raising them in an over-protected environment. If you take a look at young kids today, most of them are packed off with gadgets galore to ensure parents are assured of their safety. There are updates and messages sent if a child misses one day of school. This is a society that is only a direct result of the way popular media has portrayed women,” she maintains.
Filmmaker Lingadevaru also believes that films and aesthetics play a big part in the conditioning of the male psyche. “If we look at films of Puttanna Kanagal, the women were independent and the relationships were real. The way he portrayed women was something else. If you look at films like Samskara, Ghatashraddha or even my own film Naanu Avanalla… Avalu, these films all dealt with sex in their own fashion. But the makers chose to showcase them in a different way. I did suggest scenes that involved my protagonist in sexual acts, but the way we showed it got us a U certificate. The fact is that filmmakers can ensure their films are real and not hyped with unnecessary factors. But the commercial aspect has taken over the art value of cinema,” he points out.
A leading heroine from South Indian films, on the basis of anonymity, says, “I have played roles that required me to say no to the hero and then end up with him by the end of the film because he is relentless, and that is supposed to be romantic. Unfortunately, only a fragment of the scripts portray realistic relationships. They want to make romance aspirational. While cinema is meant to be a means of entertainment that helps one get away from reality, one must restrict the false hopes they build in young minds.
The Chennai incident can be pinned down in some way to the way most films in India dictate that a woman always says yes to a romantic proposal, irrespective of what the hero does.”
Kavitha agrees: “Almost every hero is a stalker in Indian cinema. If we are to put it into numbers, around 90% of the heroes are portrayed as stalkers. It is bad that we have to accept this as romance. These films see the hero pursue his woman long and strong until she gives in and turns around a new leaf. And this has always been the case in films from as long as we can remember.”