Friday, October 28, 2011

Ivar Vivahitharayal

Director: Saji Surendran
Cast: Jayasurya, Bhama, Samvritha Sunil
Year: 2009

Ivar Vivahitharayal (ഇവര്‍ വിവാഹിതരായാല്‍) is a decent entertainer. It's one of those "message" movies that seems to be popular with audiences and filmmakers alike, but which I find insulting to my intelligence. Fortunately, the message is woven into the story for the most part, and the preaching is limited to a few - very irritating - scenes. The best thing about the movie is that the central character, Vivek (Jayasurya), is well-developed. That makes the story believable. Jayasurya has definitely improved his acting skills.

While the movie itself is rather entertaining, I was left puzzled and worried.

If art is a mirror of society, the picture this movie paints about the average malayali male psyche is really worrying.

Watch the song "Poomukha Vathilkkal (പൂമുഖ വാതില്‍ക്കല്‍)". This song is supposed to be Vivek's dream where he fantasizes about his ideal wife. Here's a breakdown of scenes from the song, which shows Vivek's expectations from his wife:
  • She wakes up early in the morning, showers and gets dressed in a set sari. Her wet hair is wrapped in a thorthu (തോര്‍ത്ത്‌) with pottu (പൊട്ട്) and chandanam (ചന്ദനം) applied neatly on her forehead.
  • She brings him coffee and wakes him up 
  • In return for her devotion, he condescends to show her some affection which she gratefully accepts
  • She rubs oil on his head before he goes into the shower
  • While he showers, she prepares his breakfast from scratch, irons his clothes, and washes his car
  • When he's out of the shower, she dresses him, combs his hair, puts on his watch, and even polishes his shoes (yikes!)
  • She then hand feeds him breakfast
  • Finally, as he walks out the door, he kisses her on the forehead as if she were a child
Do young malayali men really harbor such fantasies? 

The words to the song, which is originally from a 1986 movie, are even more telling of how backward the thinking is. Here's a line from the song:
കാര്യത്തില്‍ മന്ത്രിയും, കര്‍മ്മത്തില്‍ ദാസിയും, രൂപത്തില്‍ ലക്ഷ്മിയും ഭാര്യ (A wife is a minister/diplomat in issues, a servant in deeds, with the body of a goddess). 
To be fair to the filmmakers, this song is shown at the beginning of the movie, and they spend a significant part of the movie debunking this fantasy. But they don't go far enough, in my opinion.

Vivek at one point tries to show his new wife, Kavya (Bhama) who's boss and almost slaps her in front of his friends. Kavya later tells him that if he had hit her, she would've been okay. It was the verbal insults in front of his friends that she couldn't handle.

A slap would've been okay? Is she a child who needs to be punished? A wife is an adult who is capable of thinking for herself and making her own decisions. She doesn't need to be punished or taught a lesson any more than a husband does.

In another scene, Vivek's friends come over to visit. Kavya serves them tea while Vivek takes it easy chatting away with his visitors. Vivek, being the gracious host, then invites them to dinner. He asks them what they want to eat, and each one asks for a different item. Vivek orders his wife to make all these items and to make it quick. Kavya protests, but the only thing she says is that she doesn't have the necessary ingredients to make those dishes. She doesn't protest being ordered around like a servant!

There are lots of scenes like this that show how far our culture has yet to go to achieve equality of the sexes.

If this is how the new generation of males think, then I really feel bad for the girls growing up in Kerala. They are being raised to think that the natural order of society is for men to dominate women.

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