In a way I am feeling content. Halfway through the movie I was worried, the movie that was so widely praised, that it felt like every person I know with an ounce of celebrity and every news medium seemed to celebrate it, and the film might be good. It would have broken my heart. But We as a society hasn’t really become mature, understanding and our male directors are, well, just being male directors. I warn you of spoilers following, For a good thing about the movie is the somewhat interesting first half, knowing some facts following might ruin that for you.
Aruvi is a fictional character. She is conceived, written and directed by a man. Visually captured in a conventionally beautiful way by another. If you search for the crew of the film, the press meet stills, you’ll find the lead actor and two other actors standing between a row of men, the producer director cinematographer music director, there is supposed to be another female music director who wasn’t there. As I mentioned in this article of mine about a short film that went viral a few months ago, It is stupid to analyze about the women in this stories or discussing women based on this stories.. But guess what will be a boring but not entirely pointless test subject to analyze based on these films: MEN.
Aruvi forgives her rapists. Does she even blame her family, if she does then forgives her father and loves him so much. Is angry at the whole world. But in a way forgives everyone. Tearfully wishes for the lost choices of marrying and having a child towards the end. I wonder if Aruvi ever had sex. There is nothing in the movie to suggest that. Emily is in a subservient friendship with her. I can believe the director desperately wanted to break the stereotypes on transwomen. The crowd though was cheering to her response to avalaa nee, and subash’s comments on her. How sacrificial she becomes serving in what Aruvi herself admits as an unrequited friendship is lost on the poor souls.
For a film with women leads, I still feel like I don’t know Aruvi, Emily or Jessie. After so many montages, so much narrative swinging back and forth, they still are somewhat two dimensional. Peter though strikes a connection, peter in a way was defined, his emotions and motivations were reflected in the audience. One of the rapists, though was not as well defined as peter was given chances to strike emotional, funny, pitiable chords with the audience. Maybe it is only few of us stonehearted fellows who didn’t yield to the attempts.
Aruvi’s rapes are not, but her having AIDS is, of some shock value. It is not lost on most people of the crowd that I watched with too. The punishment of her having AIDS on her rapists was cheerfully received. There was three men left with tears in the show I watched. Hey that was exactly the number of rapists in the screen. No I am not. . . That was just funny. I sincerely hope they weren’t part of the crowd that cheered at Emily being humiliated.
We are at a time many of the monsters amidst us are exposed. Rapists, Molesters, Parents who kill their children for caste, Men who draw policies about people they don’t know, People who wants to get rid of others. For some it is tempting to portray the humanity of these monsters. We can’t deny these monsters are of the same species as their victims. But when such a portrayal is made, we must ask, who writes this, who benefits from this, and so on. Aruvi mythologises a victim, distances her, and humanises her monsters.
We used to make some good tearjerkers, emotional tortures, that’ll make you cry and leave you feeling immediately stupid, like a teenager masturbating. I cried through the court scene in Deiva thirumagal and immediately wondered wtf! But Aruvi ended up disgusting.
Aruvi was captivating in the beginning. Aruvi portrays an independant woman, and female friendships which are rare in Tamil cinema. I can believe the makers of Aruvi made an attempt to point out the stigmas on AIDS affected persons and transwomen, the media circuses, and all the things that were mentioned in that never ending monologue. These attempts though weren’t introspective or thoughtful. As a film Aruvi’s storytelling falls into the pitfalls of sensationalism halfway through. It might get awards, for it fits into the conventional perspectives that predominate our screens. But as a mainstream artwork its effect on the audience can only be called negative or failed.
We can be silent about Aruvi, by reasoning it centers an imagined woman in its narrative, has a transwoman as a part of it, and so on. But if the other misogynistic films we see every friday are part of this society’s ruined puss filled foul wounds, films like aruvi scratch the itch around and make many feel better about it. We need the opposite.