Tamil Features

Ms. En Scene: When Seven Tamil Cinema Women Turn Superheroes

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Ms. En Scene – where Ranjani Krishnakumar concedes that cinema is life. Opinions expressed are those of the contributor, and not those of the company or its employees. 

It is the year 1986 and Sujatha joins ‘Dhinakkural’ as a reporter, armed with an MA in journalism. One of the assistant editors, Kaalamegam, is a creep. He propositions her, passes lewd comments, asks her to come home for the night, and keeps pushing on despite her ‘no’. In the city of Manithanin Marupakkam, apparently, this is fair game.

Because that’s what she tells Preethi, who travelled all the way from a city called Vikram, when they met for whisky. Preethi is a graduate of IIT Madras and is literally a rocket scientist, but her new partner can’t get past her gender. They shake their heads in disapproval of these men, down their whiskey and go home to prepare for their next day’s work.

And life goes on.

*****

Thirty-three years later, Sujatha calls Preethi to the same bar. “I’m meeting someone for something very interesting. You should come along,” she insists. Preethi agrees and they catch up.

Sujatha is now writing her next book about capital punishment as a deterrent of sexual violence. She’s been researching capital punishment and violence against women since her first assignment trailing her sister’s alleged murderer all those years ago. Preethi is advising RAW about cyber terrorism — but obviously, she can’t tell you that.

“How’s Vikram?” asks Sujatha.

“Eh, we separated when I moved to Delhi for work. He wouldn’t go with me — he said something about his career being more important. We’ve been happily married, from a distance, ever since,” Preethi chuckles.

“Good for you!”

They clink their glasses and go on drinking, just as KoKo walks in, throws herself tiredly on the sofa and orders a vodka.

“You all right, kid?” asks Preethi, adjusting her disproportionately large spectacles.

“Meh, this loser of a store manager wants to sleep with me for the chillra hike he’ll give me,” she groans.

“Are they still doing that shit? Unbelievable,” exclaims Preethi.

“Is it really? I can totally believe it. During our time, we laughed and empathized with creeps instead of sending them to jail. Now, they’ve given birth to these creeps. I take responsibility for what’s happening to you, KoKo,” says Sujatha.

“Yeah, I told him to bugger off,” says KoKo “But man, I should be paid double just to deal with creeps.”

*****

“Who is going to pay me for cleaning up those assholes for you, sisters?!” floats in Bhavani.

“You’re doing what now?” asks Sujatha in shock.

“She’s cleaning the world for us. She is from a small town called Airaa. After her personal mission was accomplished, she had free time and figured she’ll help us out. You know like Norman Bates, but for creeps ” says KoKo.

“Dei. More like the Exterminator for creeps,” protests Bhavani.

“Rightu vidu. Ukkaaru.” [All right, sit down.]

“Pch, not like I have legs that’ll hurt. What’s the topic at the girls’ night here, eh?”

“Take a wild guess.”

“Creeps.”

*****

“Tell me about it!”, storms in another young woman. All of them turn around and look at her, as common understanding fills the air.

“Creep-at-work problems?” asks Bhavani, knowingly.

“These guys don’t even work with me, man. They are some military folks investigating someone at my bank. They just made a sexist/offensive comment about me while passing by my door!”

“Wait, wait. Back up a bit, Urvashi. Tell us everything,” Bhavani urges her.

“I work as a manager in a bank in a city called Irumbu Thirai. I’m a nondescript supporting actor. I have a name only because they have to look me up in the scene.

One day, some military men — without any authority or jurisdiction — come looking for someone in my bank. They first searched Gopinath, my colleague. They made some rubbish joke about Neeya Naana. Then, they came to me. They realised I’m not the one they are looking for.

So, instead of going away with his gob shut, one of them says, “Illaattiyum parava illa da. Chumma kadathiyaavadhu veppom da. Edhaavadhu therum da.” [Even if she’s not the one we are looking for, let’s just kidnap her for keepsakes, something will come off it]. I couldn’t hear anymore, because, I had work, but he kept vomiting sexist rubbish, I’m sure.”

“I’m so sorry, Urvashi. At least in Kolamavu Kokila, I told my harasser off. Small mercies,” says KoKo.

“Yeah, that’s because you’re the hero there, friend.”

*****

“True. I’m kinda the hero in my city — It’s called Taramani,” says Althea and walks to the table. She waves at the bartender to repeat her drink and continues, “I can also tell off my predator, blackmail him and still have a life and career. But I do wish I was Bhavani, though. Murder is a much cooler and satisfying crime than blackmail.”

“Dei, you’ll have to die for that first,” warns Bhavani and they all laugh.

*****

“What hero? It’s not an omnipresent condition, ok? I just went to this city called Mr. Local. Vechu senjaanga, manda kaanjudhu. Sometimes, I wish someone else took over the job of doing the right thing, preferably a man.”

“Like hell they will,” sassily walks in Madhuravani along with a young woman and her infant. I’m just coming back from a small town called Raatchasi, after speaking to Geetha Rani, for a documentary I’m making. Apparently, the head of the school before her — an AHM — was himself a creep and would look at little girls strangely. Absolutely no one took action on him until she arrived.”

“Vani ma’am, thanks so much for emailing me. You’re such an inspiration. I studied journalism after seeing your work for Prajavani in Nadigaiyar Thilagam. I’m so pleased to meet you,” gushes Sujatha like a 55-year-old kid in a candy store.

“Hey, Vani,” Preethi gives her a high five. “So, we were waiting for her, eh?” she asks Sujatha.

“Here,” Althea passes Vani’s drink.

*****

One by one, each woman greets Vani, in friendship and admiration. “So, you’ve all met each other, I see,” she begins.
“Hello ladies! Welcome to the Tamil cinematic universe. Today, I bring all of you together because the world is in doom at the hands of creeps, creep supporters, creep enablers and creep sympathisers. Our universe is under attack and it needs to be saved.

Please meet Preethi Junior. She’s from a city called Arjun Reddy, which is doomed. But all is not lost. We’re here today to fight for a nearby city called Aditya Varma, where the epidemic is just spreading. It is under attack and it needs us….”

*****

Unmistakable. Meticulous. Predominantly an essayist. Evolved from a marketer. Ranjani Krishnakumar eats Tamil films all day and fruits for breakfast. Roosts with pair in Chennai apartment. Usually found chasing Vitamin-D. Believes “Dei” or “Pch” is the answer to all questions. 

Twitter: @_tharkuri

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