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The last two Fridays have been very interesting for the Tamil cinema buffs. Well, it is not just the last two Fridays. But every Friday since April because of the back to back releases that we have been having from that period. However, the last two should be special for very small and distinct reasons that are generally not part of mainstream cinema. Deivathirumagal and Kanchana have broken stereotypes in the most unlikely of manners and we owe them a big round of applause for doing so.

So, what stereotypes are we talking about? Is it the superhero image of Vikram which was invisible in DT or the fearless attitude of the Tamil hero in general which was broken down in Kanchana?
  Prakash Raj
Neither, because we all know that these stereotypes have been broken before, by the same people! Vikram has made it the norm that people expect the unexpected from him. He never repeats himself and never shies away from something challenging and Raghava Lawrence has already done the ‘Courage-The Cowardly hero’ routine in Muni. So, there is not much you can say about stereotypes of both these actors. So, what is the stereotype that we are talking about?

Both the movies have portrayed differently abled or challenged people in a way that Tamil cinema (even Indian cinema) has not dared or willed to do over all these decades. Take for instance Deivathirumagal; the central character is a person suffering from developmental problems of the brain. To broadly put it, the film tries to portray the life of a mentally challenged adult. It is not often in Indian cinema that we get portrayals of mental disability that transcend the realm of the exaggerated and overdone depictions of their problems. Often, the concept of the mental disability or unwellness has been stretched in order to give excuses for showing violence or crass comedy. Think of Anniyan – while still being an entertaining film, it chose to stretch the concepts of multiple personality disorder to make Anniyan and Remo out of Ambi. Or think of the Hindi Krazzy 4, which took four people with different mental complications, put them in one film and created situation after situation where one or the other of them got into trouble (comedy). Instances like these abound and mental disturbances are generally used as tools by the director as a perfect cover for a character to go berserk – like what Fazil did with Shobhana in Manichithrathazhu. But, Deivathirumagal chose to be different from all these. Showing that a mental condition need not mean that a person no longer has hope in life; showing that an affected person need not be as inefficient in judging things as we have so long made out to be in movies; showing that with a little bit of understanding and help, they can lead normal lives. Unfortunately, our cinema has always only chosen to build an image of mentally affected people as unpredictably violent and juvenile in judgment. Kudos to Vijay and through him to the makers of I am Sam.

And about Kanchana! It has broken the decades old stereotype of the transgender. We can perhaps say that this is one stereotype that has endured for the longest in Indian cinema. The one and only thing about transgenders that cinema has chosen to show over the decades are their queer dancing, clapping and cash extortion habits. It is almost as if they do not have another side or life to them. This in spite of the fact that there have been MPs from this section of the population! One need not talk too much about the way they have been shown on screen, everyone who has followed Indian cinema knows only too well that they have been used for nothing more than crassly banal humor or to create a sense of aversion towards a place or character. Mostly, it has been the former; there have been a few cases of the latter, like Prakash Raj’s role in Appu. And, to think of it, the films only reflect the reality in society, because that is the only way that we see transgenders in real life too, perhaps because they are excluded from the mainstream of society. And, cinema has only reinforced such stereotypes. But, Kanchana so bravely went against it. It is surprising that such a bold step was taken in a film that is unapologetically commercial. Kanchana is perhaps the first portrayal of a transgenders in Indian cinema as people with dignity and high aims in life. Perhaps it is a cue for other films to pick up and stop the crass portrayal.

And, a special word to honor the courage of Raghava Lawrence and Sarath Kumar. This must be the bravest casting decision of the decade – Sarath Kumar as an effeminate character! An actor known for his action, his iron man physique, a man who once carried the titles of Superhero and Supreme Star! It is really unbelievable that he showed the gumption to take up the character when it was offered. But, even greater applause is due to Raghava Lawrence for having the vision and courage to approach him with the role. A small error could have toppled the entire film because the character is the key to the plot.

It has been two weeks of good cinema, from opposite ends of the spectrum. But, they both had one thing in common; they chose to break social and cinematic stereotypes.
Tags : Kanchana, Raghava Lawrence, Sarath Kumar, Deiva Thirumagal, Vikram, A L Vijay
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