November 10, 2017
‘Lakshmi’!!! She has kicked up a storm in social media. Facebook is flooded with opinions and comments on her. They seem to be divided on gender lines. While a majority of men are opposed to Lakshmi, an equal number of women are backing her.
Who is she and what is it all about that has generated so much of heated debate? ‘Lakshmi’ is an 18-minute Tamil short film where the woman protagonist Lakshmi, hailing from a lower middle class family and living in Chennai, breaks her machine-like married life and spends a night with a male artist.
Director Sarjun K.M. has left the film open-ended. All that one can understand is Lakshmi, mother of a small boy and wife of a sexually demanding husband, a worker in a lathe unit, chooses to spend a night with Kathir after a day’s hard work at home and printing press where she toils. But then, whether she had physical relationship with artist Kathir is neither shown nor known, but is considered so by the audience’s popular mindset.
Still, a majority of men on Facebook have taken to moral policing unsurprisingly assuming that Lakshmi slept with Kathir, who she acquaints in Chennai’s ubiquitous electric train, and satiated her carnal desire. It is shown as she gets up from a double cot bed, where Kathir is sleeping at the other end, adjusts her saree and leaves his artistically-refined home, throwing a soul-satisfying smile.
Here is where the stark difference between lust and love comes to the fore. She yields to husband’s everyday lust in marital life, but enjoys the brief company of a man whose world is very different from the world of drudgery she is living in. He speaks to her about Italian painter Michelangelo and the fiery feminist Tamil poet Bharathi.
Like every other ordinary woman who is overburdened with familial responsibility, Lakshmi too craves for appreciation. As if understanding this yearning of hers, he appreciates her beauty, her value of physical work both in her house and at press, and more so he touches her heart by offering to cook for her – a relief every working woman from the middle-class segment would long for – that night if she were to go home with him. She goes and he infuses into her the much-needed confidence symbolised by he doing up her plaited hair. The conservative woman transforms into a woman with progressive thoughts. Yet, the mother in her chooses to go back to the routine to fulfil the moral duties thrust on her by the institution called marriage.
Kathir wins Lakshmi’s heart, but Lakshmi, expectedly, has become the subject of sharp criticism for almost every ‘normal’ man who has watched the film. Her crossing of lakshman rekha is questioned and branded as illicit relationship which her husband Sekar is also suggested to be into with another woman.
Lakshmi has elicited huge noise from the male sex that a few feminist voices calling out both Kathir and Sekar as exploiters have got drowned. Lakshmi actually is not a feminist, neither does she aspires to be one. She is the representative of every woman deprived of love and understanding on this mundane earth.
What is striking is the film has garnered 10,000 likes as against 1,000 dislikes on YouTube. Womenfolks, who do not dare to voice for Lakshmi out of the lurking fear of character assassination by the opposite sex, are perhaps silently liking it.
Here is the YouTube link to the film:
Here are some of the comments posted on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube on the film: