Lately, Kerala Women’s Commission has been in the spotlight for the wrong reasons. It all started with a high number of dowry-related deaths that went unaddressed. And this was followed by insensitive remarks from former Chairperson M.C. Josephine. She was also accused of trying to shield a man accused of raping Olympian Mayookha Johny’s friend. Shahida Kamal, another member is being accused of using false educational qualifications. She was also criticised for posting a selfie on Facebook that included location details that showed she was travelling to Vandiperiyar in Idukki. The post was insensitive as she was going to meet the family of a 6-year-old girl who was allegedly raped and murdered by local youth. These back to back controversies got me thinking…
What is the function of the Kerala Women’s Commission?
According to the official website of KWC, the commission functions as a statutory body. It looks into all matters relating to women’s problems. The Commission inquires into the complaints on any unfair practice and takes decisions. After the inquiry, the Commission shares its recommendation with the Government.
Representation of Women’s Commission in Movies
Kerala Women’s Commission has been shown in multiple movies. This shows that there is awareness and recognition among the public about the body. This could either be due to the high literacy rate or the body’s capability to create awareness. One would think that this translates to efficient functioning and an egalitarian society. But should examine how they are represented in these movies too.
Njangal Santhushtaranu (1999)
Geethu (Abhirami) seeks the help of an organisation like KWC. She raises a few complaints against her husband Sanjeevan (Jayaram). The scene depicts what the makers of the movie think the women who work for the KWC are like. There is not an ounce of professionalism in their behaviour. Procedures are not followed to understand the complaint and its details. They belong to the ‘ahankaari’ stereotype who are man-hatters. They are not ‘kulastrees’ and wear modern clothes. Their real intention is only to belittle Sanjeevan who is also a police commissioner.
Now let us look at how Sanjeevan reacts to their enquiry. He mocks them, agrees to the fact that he harassed his wife and makes sexual innuendos that drive them away. He also does not forget to give his wife a lecture at home to establish his power and enlightens her that these organisations help only ‘adakavum othukavum ulla’ women.
Also Read: WHY SOME MALAYALIS HATE FEMINISM
Baba Kalyani (2006)
Baba Kalyani (Mohanlal) is an IPS officer who is in charge of an anti-terrorist unit. He gets into an argument with Advocate Madhumitha (Mamta) over some of her clients. He insults her and uses his physical power to silence her. This scene gets photographed and the evidence is used to file a complaint against B Kalyani. The KWC takes up this issue and B Kalyani consults a lawyer. The lawyer asks him to publically apologise to Madhumita and settle the case. He refuses due to his male ego. The lawyer explains to him how women have become so powerful that they can misuse the law and rejects his case.
When B Kalyani appears before the WC, they mock him and behave in an unprofessional manner. As expected, B Kalyani showcases his machoism and gives unsolicited advice to all. He also refuses to apologise and claims that he has the right to touch her as she is his lover. He produces some photos to prove his point. Madhumita refutes the claim by stating that they are no longer in a relationship.
Like a typical Malayalam movie from that era, the hero confesses that he is still in love with her. He also points out that his actions were a reflection of his love towards her to discipline her. He does not forget to deliver a heart-wrenching speech that moves them to tears and glorifies his love and respect towards his mother. It is to prove that he cannot misbehave with women. He is let go from the case and he walks away in slow-motion. He also casually apologises to Madhumita for sharing their personal pictures with the WC. This, along with a few scenes where they share an umbrella in the rain, gets Madhumita to forgive him and patch up. At the end of the movie, all their misunderstandings are cleared and she comes to him. She now has a coy smile and an immature way of talking.
Inspector Garud (2007)
This movie has Dileep as a corrupt CI of Police, Madhavan Kutty. Kavya Madhavan (Sethulakshmi) is a sub-collector. She uses her authority to stop some malpractices by Madhavan Kutty. He is infuriated and takes revenge. She tries to stop him and he insults her in public. She files a complaint and he is forced to apologise to her in the presence of the WC. He takes revenge by blackmailing her to marry him. He also invites the WC to the marriage. In front of them, he starts humiliating her as she is now his wife. He dreams of how he will torture her as his wife during the song Kanthari Penne. True to most Dileep movies, this movie too has plenty of rape jokes and misogynistic dialogues. The women learn their lesson and the toxic masculinity of the hero is celebrated.
Also Read: Slap Culture in Malayalam Cinema
Action Hero Biju (2016)
You would think that these are old movies and now, this trend is on the decline. Action Hero Biju starring Nivin Pauly which got released in 2017 also has a similar scene. The only difference is that in this movie, it is human rights activists that are targeted. The makers of this movie have created the character based on existing stereotypes. A police officer who is worshipped by all not only flaunts his arrogance but also insults them. He even makes an inappropriate comment based on his ideas of toxic masculinity. He glorifies breaking laws and implementing violence-based punishments on criminals. This scene even received applause during its release.
Also Read: VIOLENCE AGAINST DOCTORS: A DECONSTRUCTION
These are a few examples. There are many more and there will be more in the future. Society’s idea of an empowered woman is still based on male ideas. According to these ideas, an empowered woman will be an arrogant individual who wears modern clothes and speaks English. She is a man-hater who is working to bring down a perfect society.
Only when we stop defining women based on such regressive ideas, will we be able to move forward as a society. A lady need not belong to a stereotype to fit society’s idea of empowerment.
A body like the Women’s Commission plays an integral role in society. They have legal, social and moral responsibilities towards society. Let us hope that the Kerala Women’s Commission rectifies its shortcomings. They have the potential to become a role model for other states. Let there be a change in the way the KWC is portrayed in the movies.