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Tuesday, July 05, 2022

Dear Parvathy, please don’t stop calling out misogyny in films even if you are trolled every time

In a panel discussion at the International Film Festival of Kerala, award-winning actor Parvathy shared her thoughts on how a woman is 'sexualised' and used as a property in films.

Written by Manoj Kumar R | Bengaluru |
Updated: December 17, 2017 6:00:57 am
parvathy sexual harassment Parvathy’s remarks at International Film Festival of Kerala have caused controversy.

Hollywood is right in the middle of an uprising of sorts by women actors against powerful men, who indulged in sexual misconduct with impunity in the industry. The majority of Hollywood showbiz from leading male actors, directors, technicians, award functions and TV talks shows have joined the movement in an effort to instill fear of accountability in those, who so far had thought they can get away with anything they do. In Indian cinema, a reckoning on such scale is nowhere in sight as, like Richa Chadda pointed out, the actors who risk exposing the unseen side of the powerful men in the industry, can kiss a goodbye to their careers.

In the meantime, a conversation about prevailing misogyny in the film industry, especially in Malayalam cinema, has begun. Thanks to a team of women actors for starting a conversation about a deep malaise in films that has unsettled a section of the filmmakers already.

In a panel discussion at the International Film Festival of Kerala, award-winning actor Parvathy shared her thoughts on how a woman is ‘sexualised’ and used as a ‘property’ in films. “I don’t want to say name of the film,” said Parvathy at first. However, on the insistence of filmmaker Geetu Mohandas, Parvathy named Mammootty’s Kasaba. “I, unfortunately, watched Kasaba. With all due respects to the technicians who worked in the film. I was definitely disappointed to watch an actor (Mammootty) par excellence, happen to say dialogues to a woman in a scene which was not only derogatory but most saddening.”

She pointed to the fact that when a big hero glorifies misogyny it makes other men think it is “sexy and cool” to talk to a woman that way. “We have discussed it a lot in the past and we will continue talking about it further. We would not want to allow such perception of heroism,” said Parvathy, who is also a member of Women in Cinema Collective.

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Her remarks have courted controversy as she has been subjected to constant trolling by fans of Mammootty. What’s more depressing is the filmmakers of Kasaba have put out statements dismissing Parvathy’s valid concerns.

“There is no need to discuss a movie that was released a year ago. It is quite evident to all that this is merely a publicity stunt hoping to garner fame. Like a majority of people, I too believe that the actress’ criticism is not worthy of a response,” responded director Nithin Renji Panicker in a post on the Facebook page of Kasaba. “Besides, I do not think that this actress is worthy of a retort from my end.”

Producer Joby George posted rather a provocative response to Parvathy’s opinion. “If Geethu aunty and Parvathy aunty tell me the dates of their birthday, I will show Kasaba in full house as my birthday gift.”

It is an irrefutable truth that films play a greater role in shaping the impressionable minds of society. Even as the filmmakers are well within their rights to defend their work, refusing to allay the concerns of Parvathy is a clear sign that they have no regrets about the fact that they had contributed to the most pressing problem. That their film, paying ode to patriarchy, may have somehow influenced a viewer to mistreat or speak derogatory words to a woman.

What’s worse is their efforts to discourage the women in the industry from speaking out against onscreen sexism by terming such discussions as a mere “publicity” stunts or calling them “aunties.”

While we are far away from exposing Harvey Weinsteins in the Indian film industry, it is about time we address the misogyny, male chauvinism, patriarchy in our films, so that, as Parvathy noted, the young generation can understand that it is not okay to disrespect women. “I grew up watching films that presented male perspectives of women,” Parvathy said, noting that she was fed the wrong idea about being a desirable woman that played into the hands of patriarchy.

“There aren’t many movies which explore the sexuality of women in Malayalam Cinema till now. It is through books that I gained the right perspective,” she revealed. “The lack of exposure to right perspective has caused me to be in abusive relationships. When a boy stubbed cigarette on my leg, I thought it was out of love. You know why because our films taught us slapping in the face was a way of expressing love.”

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