Thursday, October 25, 2007

Arbitrary musings on male chauvinism etc.

A few days ago, I had a weird argument with Mr. Sriram. I argued that he doesn't come off as a male chauvinist in the true sense to me, when he claimed that he is a male chauvinist with no reservations whatsoever. And, he came up with some reasonable points to back up his claim: he expects his wife to cook and maintain the house and all that jazz. Of course, well-informed folks know that most of his gibberish is vetti scene, but let me not cop out in that direction for the moment; instead, for the sake of the argument, assume that he's in fact being honest. My counter-argument was that it's only his way of getting away without doing that sort of work. Which only makes him a lazy ass. An escapist at best. Responding to this, he insisted that he truly believes that it's the wife's duty to cook food for him (and herself, I presume), but he confessed that he won't advocate it to anyone else. This total refrainment from the advocacy of his own notion of a wife's "duty," I thought, was a clincher to my case. (To his defence, he added that he won't advocate anything to anyone for that matter.)

Of course, whether or not he comes off as a chauvinist to his readers is irrelevant to me in all possible ways, but this got me thinking about male chauvinism and gender bias in general, and specifically in our social context.

[Please note, this fruitful discussion happened before he wrote that lousy post about saving rate, aachaaram etc. where he defended theettu, pathu and echchal, and justly earned the wrath of a well-meaning, unsuspecting lady who unfortunately expected him to make sense, no less. In fact, if I may play Freud for a moment, I'm positive that it's his defence mechanism that must have made him come up with something as weird as that post, after having been unable to convince me.]


So much for my musings on advocacy of one's beliefs. I don't really have a rigid notion of what's chauvinistic and what's not, and perhaps more importantly, who's chauvinistic and who's not; especially in a social setup like ours where the difference in the treatment of the two genders are so pronounced and deep-rooted. There's more to anyone's life and the man-woman relationships in it than what can be deduced by passing a judgement on what the person thinks about gender roles. There is more to a woman's life than what can be deduced by passing a judgement on how she is "oppressed" and "confined" to the role of a housewife in a patriarchal setup. It's even bizarrely high-handed (and insensitive) to even suggest that these unsuspecting women are definitively subordinated by virtue of their role as housewives.

To my mind, male chauvinism and gender bias exist in all shapes and sizes across all social stratas. Likewise, I am tempted to believe that some form of "real-world" feminism exists across all social stratas. It'd be incredibly naïve to suggest that mere societal conformance or yielding to a conservative mindset (or even possessing one) automatically translates to "oppressing" or "being oppressed."

[On that note, here's a somewhat related and even more incomprehensible post, where I had mused “on how words (especially if it is ‘one word’) can’t completely describe any man,” among other things. To grasp the the degree of incomprehensibility therein, sample this: “The validity quotient of any statement is definitely statistical; and that statistics differs with any physical parameter one can think of.” Wow. It's so much fun to quote oneself, I say.]


Let's take our own Tamil cinema. There is this superb folk duet, Kai Valikkudhu from the movie Kunguma Chimizh. (I haven't seen the film, nor the video of the song.) Now, the lyrics of that song will make many liberal feminists tear their hair out. (For better results, try directly reading the lyrics than listen to the song.) The lines of the song espouses many of the broad gender archetypes of our society. "Ammi araippadhu pombala velai dhaandi," the husband says, and if at all he chips in, it's said to be only a favour. Now, for a true feminist, this would most probably be deeply offensive, but I don't find it as problematic. In fact, it's these kind of portrayals that represent the reality of our society and the way it works. And, frankly, it'd only be naïve on anyone's part to judge the relationship between the two on the basis of what the two think about the gender roles and man-woman equation. On the other hand, I find the portrayal of the educated woman in a seemingly modern film like Kaakha Kaakha quite chauvinistic in the way it tellingly reduces the role of the woman (pun intended) to someone who the hero has to protect, who makes him vulnerable. Not to forget the way the film ends -- the hero's ladylove is dead ("killed" by the writer so as to make a martyr of him), but the hero has to go on. (Well, I am not accusing Gautham of being chauvinistic here, it's probably just bad writing.)


Some time back, a close acquaintance of mine (who, to my knowledge, is significantly liberal in her ideas) offered me a serious advice that I should go for an arranged marriage. Why, I asked. Because, in that case, the wife "will listen to me," she said. At the same time, she was all for a girl to go for a love marriage and found it only fair that she "does the talking" instead of "just listening to her husband" out of the marriage. Effectively, she advocated love marriages for women because the girl will be an equal partner or even have the privilege of "dominating the proceedings," even as she advocated arranged marriage for men. Needless to say, I was deeply perplexed. It's the same person who thinks it's appropriate for the man to "dominate" in an arranged marriage but also finds it as appropriate for a woman to "dominate" or at least "be equal to" the man in a love marriage. Now, is she a feminist, or one who reinstates -- inadvertently or otherwise -- the patriarchal system?


One is probably better off without making a point, but I am afraid I've made a couple of them in this post.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Aadum Neram Idhu Dhaan... Idhu Dhaan!

The genius touches one everyday. And, all one can ever hope is to chance upon as many of the innumerable instances of it as possible before one simply ceases to exist.

ஆடும் நேரம் இது தான... இது தான்!

Raaja's version of kaattuvaasi music has always been singularly special. The quintessentially Raaja-ish, otherwordly mood he gives to it, in the rhythm patterns, in the choice of instruments et al. rAman AndAlum, Asaiya kAththula, viLakku vaippOm, the list goes on.

This song is a sublime mix of the elements of this Raaja-tribal-ish music with typical western arrangements, creating sheer magic by the marriage. Every single note here screams genius. [1]

The song starts with a fantastic guitar piece, the guitar riffs wonderfully backing up the song from thereon. The unusually used guitar, the mystical flute and the offbeat rhythm patterns, all conspire seamlessly to create the otherworldly mood. Not to forget the urumi that joins the percussion in the second interlude and the tranquil flute that cuts through it.

The first interlude boasts of a great trumpet piece as Raaja plays with the rhythms, while the second interlude goes back to the otherworldly mood. And, there is that all-too-charming little piece of trumpet (followed by that seemingly nonchalant click of the guitar string!) that bookends the first couple of lines in both the stanzas (simply chorus chants!).

Wait, I've not even got started on the singing yet. P. Susheela's intoxicating singing and the intoxicated chorus chants [2] takes the song to a different level.

[1] – I wish some filmmaker does a Scorsese with the boundless reservoir of songs of Raaja, the kind that are simply not made anymore irrespective of the genre. I mean, let's suppose one is in want of a truly hip song, is it even possible for someone to get hipper than a Tholin Mele?

[2] – Where O where are the full-throated choruses of the yore? The ones with a very healthy dose of coarseness? Like the earthy chorus that so beautifully goes "Tharathaththa tharathaththa tharaththa thararaa" in the beginning of "Paada Vandhadhor Gaanam"? The so-sweetly voiced choruses of today aren't half as captivating.