Arul is hunched over a smoking gun, in a railway station, after having just murdered his friend Michael. A brutally tortured prisoner of war, VC, in his 8×5 solitary cell, stares into space. A physically hurt Prabhunath watches a policeman point a gun to his wife’s head, as she pulls the trigger to her death.
These are pivotal scenes in three similar and important films — Karthik Subbaraj’s Iraivi (2016), Mani Ratnam’s Kaatru Veliyidai (2017) and Ram’s Taramani (2017) respectively. As cinematic experiences, these are distinctly different films. These stories are set in different worlds, their characters speak different languages, have different jobs, eat, drink and be merry in very different ways. But, fundamentally, all these films are about men’s journey towards the epiphany that they are sexist scum. The above are the exact points in the narrative — following brutal physical violence — where these epiphanies occur.
In this essay for the Firstpost, I write about how abusive heroes are treated as merely ‘flawed’ in Tamil cinema.