There’s been a huge roar of approval for actress Parvathy Thiruvothu for calling out the by-now mythical misogyny of the Telugu blockbuster Arjun Reddy and its Bollywood twin Kabir Singh during a roundtable chat moderated by critic Anupama Chopra, and that too in the presence of the Arjun Reddy star Vijay Deverakonda.
Parvathy said, “Arjun Reddy and Kabir Singh had the visual grammar of glorification. Joker did not. At no point did I look at the character Joaquin (Phoenix) played: ‘Arre yaar, I totally agree with you. You must kill everyone’.”
She also ended up putting her foot in her mouth by describing the behaviour of the protagonist in Arjun Reddy as “bipolar”, a sensitive mental condition whose casual use to describe the protagonist’s unpredictable behaviour has rightly incensed Twitter users.
With all due respect, Parvathy seems to have got the entire “grammar of glorification” wrong. Nowhere in Arjun Reddy is there an idealisation of misogyny. Not one single person in the audience wanted to be as boorish and arrogant as Arjun Reddy. This “hero”, if he may be called that, is nobody’s ideal. Even Vijay Deverakonda, who played him, and Sandeep Vanga, who wrote the character, hated the man, but loved the challenge of creating a character steeped in his self-serving obeisance to hedonism.
Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker has triggered off a worldwide debate on glorifying loneliness and despair to the point where taking revenge on an uncaring world seems the only antidote. The film has played havoc with millions of troubled minds across this anarchic wretched godforsaken earth. It very clearly questions the quality of life conferred on those millions of faceless people who don’t know when the day begins and their life ends.
So yes, Joker is an extremely toxic film, though nonetheless brilliant for it. Joaquin Phoenix’s portrayal of destructive desolation is real enough to cause havoc in the collective mental equilibrium of our trouble-ridden universe.
On the other hand, what harm has Arjun Reddy caused to anyone except himself? He is a crappy man and no role model for even the most debased generation of self-seekers.
In an interview with me, Arjun Reddy director Sandeep Vanga had explained, “How Arjun Reddy/Kabir Singh feels is not exactly what I feel. Violence may be his way of expressing love. It’s not mine. I never said one “needs” to slap. All I meant was, one needs to be fully honest in a committed relationship. And that honesty can take on a violent form. And why is only Kabir slapping his girlfriend Preeti being talked about? What about the fact that she too slaps him back? It works both ways. How they express their love is their choice. Why are some people judging them? And judging me for the way the characters behaviour? My point is, in a true relationship, the emotions can get raw and violent.
Vanga reiterated that what Arjun Reddy did or said did not reflect the director or the lead actor’s mindset. “I would do anything and everything with my partner to make sure I am my real self. I would drop all defences, pull down all my guards. For me, the essence of a strong relationship is honesty. I wouldn’t say I’d slap my partner. Even in the film… how do I explain to the idiots that? It’s pointless to harp on the slap.”
I agree. It is so easy to go on a bashing binge against one of our own films and so trendy to praise a Hollywood film which unabashedly celebrates the collective subconscious fantasy of a trigger-happy generation.
People are not treating you kindly? Kill them.