Recently, while trying to savour my cup of tea during the interval between the Work and Home parts of my day, I had to share a table with a family of six. This group included a toddler who looked to be about two, who insisted on jumping on the table and generally being what we refer to as a brat. He either tried grabbing the phone from my hand, or he was on the verge of knocking over the tumblers of water. His parents looked on indulgently, while I tried to give them stern looks and let out a few variations of the pch sound. Soon after, they understood I was displeased and murmured something about “Aunty not liking it.” [Aunty?] I admit I didn’t like to be called Aunty, but what rankled even more was the not-so-veiled accusation that I was being a terrible person.
There is a scene in Ohm Shanthi Oshaana that I would like to bring to your attention. It doesn’t require much background, so here we go:
Pooja (Nazriya) is at a restaurant with her girlfriends, trying to dissect her non-existent love life. She is worried that Giri (Nivin Pauly) might be interested in someone else, and this new development makes her anxious. A mother and child are at the adjacent table. The child is in the mother’s arms and keeps reaching out to Pooja. Apparently her hair clip is quite fascinating to the child. She loses her patience at her hair being tugged repeatedly, and in one swift movement, she yanks the hair clip and thrusts it at the child. “Here, eat it,” she says with irritation she doesn’t care to conceal. She goes back to her conversation. The mother looks at her with the kind of dirty look reserved for baby-hating-monsters, and if one weren’t careful, the baby might indeed be eaten by someone just like Pooja.
I enjoy watching this scene. I actually enjoyed the entire movie (and I wrote it about here), but I like this scene a little bit more because of how it eliminates the clichés surrounding women and children. I am a bit tired of women in Tamil movies, with the endless raptures they go into every time they are around kids. It is a lazy way to establish the woman’s character. Here she is, we are being told, the ideal woman who spends her time playing silly games with children. She helps them cross the road, or she is busy smiling back at babies she may encounter, or maybe she spends her time waving at little girls in shopping malls. These traits make said woman more likeable. Meanwhile, I start wondering why an adult woman’s friends are all at least two decades younger than her1.
And then there’s Pooja, hanging out with friends who are her peers, and reacting normally to a situation that would have otherwise been an opportunity for a film maker to showcase the bond a female lead would share with all children in the world.
What a relief.
1Too many examples to recount here.