As I’m Suffering from Mixed Feelings

Posted on July 13, 2017

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Spoilers ahead…

Read the full article on Film Companion, here: http://www.filmcompanion.in/article/southern-lights-as-mi-suffering-from-mixed-feelings

Two new web series in Tamil serve up fare that’s not seen on the big screen, but they could be so much more.

With As I’m Suffering from Kadhal (As I’m Suffering from Love), the web series now on Hotstar, director Balaji Mohan no longer has to follow the dictates of a priggish Censor Board, and his joy is that of a teenager whose parents have left on a long holiday, forgetting to lock the liquor cabinet. He lets the abuses fly. “Shut the fuck up.” “Balls.” A subtitle that reads “Fucktard.” This may not seem like much to the average consumer of the multiplex Hindi movie, where people swear all the time, have sex all the time, but we are talking about Tamil cinema, which plays by different rules, due to the necessity of having to cater to “family audiences” across A, B and C centres.

On screen, swearwords are uttered but we hear beeps. Women can be stalked, leered at, objectified, but they have to remain paragons of virtue, saving themselves for the wedding night. Upscale urban life is frowned upon – the hero has to assert, proudly, that he cannot speak English, and his “taming” of the English-speaking woman is seen as “mass” (as opposed to “class,” the pejorative applied to the films of Mani Ratnam and Gautham Vasudev Menon). Even the titles have to be in Tamil,  otherwise there’s no tax exemption. And no star wants to be caught offending the “thaai kulam” (the female audience, enshrined as Nirupa Roy and Pandari Bai rolled into one).

With the gradual realisation that it’s the youth audiences that are patronising theatres and guaranteeing the all-important opening, the stories may have grown younger, but the general rules still apply. Balaji Mohan himself is a victim of this environment. He made a couple of urban rom-coms – Kadhalil Sodhappuvadhu Yeppadi (2012) and Vaayai Moodi Pesavum (2014) – but then, he roped in Dhanush for Maari, and it almost seemed like a capitulation to the Establishment. The plot read like a laundry list of must-haves of Tamil cinema. We got the rowdy hero. We got a catchy mantra for this hero: senjiruven (I’ll do you in). The title of the film’s Telugu version said it all: Mass.

Continued at the link above.

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