Homely girls

During a conversation with A in which we complain (and then complain some more), she broached the topic of Homely Girl, and its meaning in present day Tamil society. Now I don’t claim to be a language expert, but I shall lay claim to some amount of subject matter expertise.

Who is a homely girl? A homely girl isn’t glamorous or typically good looking. To simplify further, she may not be fair/tall/slim (fair, tall, slim: adjectives commonly used to denote beauty). She may need glasses for perfect vision. She wears clothes that are not considered ‘modern’ (relatively speaking, of course – what is modern in Anaikatti may not be modern in Chennai). One special young man seems to have gotten the meaning right – Homely girls don’t wear leggings, he declared. Homely girls speak when spoken to (no talking back, no snarky comments), do not hang around in restaurants/beaches/parks, otherwise known as the immoral ground Tamil movies love to lampoon (they may do so occasionally in a group, but never by themselves). The number of male friends they have is inversely proportional to their homeliness, and the number of romantic relationships in their life will remain one at most (and always end in marriage). They know to cook and to draw a kolam (I hear this is important). They are hesitant to travel alone (be it buying groceries or taking a bus to another city) as they have no experience dealing with the variables these events may throw up (however, this is seen as an adorable indicator of the sheltered life they have been leading). Their language is rated G, and so is their choice of movies. The homely girl is considered an ideal candidate to be someone’s wife, any other talents she may have are irrelevant at this point. Most importantly, homely girls are against consumption of alcohol (they may relax this rule for their male partners).

Here are two examples for you from the past year:

  1. Keerthy Suresh whose homely girl act in Rajini Murugan set the golden standard for 2016, if popular opinion is to be believed.
  2. Samantha in Thanga Magan (please note that homely girls do not usually look like Samantha, but she otherwise matches the description). Being homely is about attitude and attire, in equal parts.

If you are still reading, let it be known that contributions are welcome.

P.S. Why is there a war on leggings? I admit it took me some time to warm up to them, because I spent a year with the absurd idea that leggings are manufactured for girls with thigh gaps, but thankfully, that kind of negativity is a thing of the past. Also, this means that all chances I may have had of gaining acceptance to the Homely Girls Club were successfully eradicated about seven years ago.

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14 thoughts on “Homely girls

  1. Nice post there. So, I have two thoughts on this:
    1. Certain directors use the character of ‘homely’ girls in order to make the hero look more macho. Classic cases in point – Soundarya in Padayappa and Abitha in Sethu. In Sethu, of course, the point was not heroism as much as establishing the contrast between the guy and the girl. But take the Kushboo character in Mannan for instance. Except for the “Rajathi Raja Un ThandhirangaL,” she is a docile, conservative chamathu ponnu, the types that are meant to make the character of the hero look extra protective.
    2. Certain other directors like Visu who had a good pulse on the middle class setting created characters that looked homely but were extremely strong on the inside. They had hearts of gold, yes. But also nerves of steel. Suhasini in “Kudumbam Oru Kadhambam” and Lakshmi in “Samsaaram Adhu Minsaaram” played pretty homely, down-to-earth roles but they were strong roles – they had minds of their own and they didn’t stand there to make the hero look more heroic. By the way, Rahini David’s description of Samantha in Thanga Magan (from her ‘open letter’ review!) is hilarious. I will let Rahini do the honors of posting that comment here!!

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    1. Hi! Thanks for the comment, and the examples.
      I want to say this post isn’t so much about homely girls in movies, but rather about homely girls in general with some examples from the movies to make myself clearer.
      It’s a bit tiring to hear young men say they want to marry/ fall in love with homely girls. Because we all know how despicable other kinds of girls are. It seems to be some kind of a fantasy I guess.
      I’m annoyed by guys asking a girl if she knows to cook, or if this is how she dresses always, or if she knows to drape a saree or draw a kolam, and go on to remark that they wouldn’t want to live with a girl who doesn’t match these expectations.
      I’m also annoyed by young women who call themselves very homely and consider it to be some kind of a superior quality.
      Also I just realised I’ve missed out on adding an important point.. Homely girls are against alcohol! I’ve added it now. 😀

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      1. Yes, I did get that you were talking about the world outside the movies as well. But I listed those to suggest that a director like visu understood what defines a truly ‘homely’ woman in real life and could portray that effectively on screen (most of the time). If you’ve seen “Kudumbam oru kadhambam” you’ll know what I mean – Suhasini’s is a fabulous character – one that has a mind of her own, is loyal to the family but yet wants to break free of the supposed societal norms around working women. (You’ve got to remember that this was made 35 years ago!). By the end of the movie, she DOES go to work to support the family. A small win but a big step in those times, I am sure…

        In real life, from a guy’s perspective, I will tell you that you are absolutely………right 🙂 I have seen and heard a lot of what you wrote about. In my case, it was a little different, not because I am a great guy or something. It’s because the men in my family were such model guys. (And, my mother and grandma agree too!) I had some very good examples of how men treated women and what being truly ‘homely’ meant (had nothing to do with what they wore, cooked, etc.) I absolutely liked what Anu Hasan wrote in her book – that her parents never said that she shouldn’t do something just because she was a girl. She was told not to do certain things because it wasn’t the right thing to do. Take for instance, alcohol. I confess to being completely against alcohol since I have been a teetotaler all my life. So, when I was looking to get married through the arranged marriage process, that was an expectation that I had, I confess. It was not because it’s something that I expected out of a girl. It was an area of potential incompatibility that I wanted to avoid. I guess that makes my wife (who’s a teetotaler) and ME, both ‘homely’!

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      2. Thanks for the thoughtful comment! No disrespect to you but I’m now wondering what the male equivalent of a homely girl is. Hehe. 🙂
        Also, I haven’t watched Kudumbam Oru Kadhambam.

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  2. Do homely girls like you’ve described actually exist in Chennai? They seem quite uninteresting!

    Your blog has been my go-to page when things have been slow at work in the past few weeks. Love your writing 🙂

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  3. Basically homely girls are supposed to not voice their opinions, boom boom madu madiri thalaya aatanum, ideally cook, clean and not complain.

    I was outraged when how certain girls were eliminated during the arranged marriage process of a relative who is in his early twenties. If a profile said “modern, independent thinker”, then they were rejected. There were discussions about that kind of girl might not be suitable and what if that girl later on says I said so in my profile.

    This said relative finally married a homely girl. I believe she is strong but comes across as a lil sadhu person. I dont know how strong she is to voice her opinions against madi, pathu, out of door rituals or maybe she does believe in them making her the extra perfect dil.

    I have seen this a lot with me being a little sadhu apperaing but inwardly strong anyways vs my sister who is outspoken and could come across as rude. If you are docile looking and dont voice your opinions, you are homely. If you are true to yourself and speak your mind, you are a b××××. This is true especially for females. A man is always applauded for being strong vs a female is criticized for being strong and is called names.

    Also you should add in a category called homely and then tam brahm level homely:)

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  4. “but I’m now wondering what the male equivalent of a homely girl is. ”
    –> That will require a separate post by a brutally honest guy! LOL! You may have just given me an idea for a blog post! :))

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  5. Rahini – isn’t that true or what!
    I don’t remember the movie but Santhanam had a pretty hilarious description of different types of guys. And, he said something like, “Romba English-la pesina peter, English therila na mokka, Romba peela uttaa scene-u, Romba samatha irundha pazham!” Not one charitable term! Aan Paavam-nu idha thaan solraangala! 🙂

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  6. Anu: On second reading I find it difficult to understand which are the young man’s points and which are yours. Could you update the text to make that clear?

    I am reminded of an incident that happened in the office bus. Usually when the menfolk believe that the womenfolk are either asleep or listening to music share a few naughty thoughts with each other. However, on a particular day, I did not have headphones and so they used what they apparently hoped to be obscure coded language. With my talent for educated guessing ( and thanks to the tutelage of KayKay, the self confessed pervert) I could see that they were discussing factoids about Sunny Leone. I kept my poker face and expressed no curiosity. However, a male friend who felt bad that I would be feeling left out in this discussion said, “It isn’t someone you would know”. I am still amazed at my own talent at pulling a poker face. I was mighty amused that he thought I would not even heard of her. Did he know that she does act in mainstream Bollywood fare too? Or did he think that is beyond me? I never know. 😀

    Ram: If I am not wrong, the movie is NEPV.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi! I don’t think any of the points are my own..I’ve collected them after few confrontational conversations and some careful eavesdropping. 😀 I don’t use this ‘homely girl’ phrase at all, my opinion of it is limited to feeling annoyed.

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