‘Lakshmi’ is a Tamil short film that has garnered a lot of attention lately. At the time of writing this article, all the attention seems to have died down and I am quite surprised at myself as to how I missed this raging controversy. It was my husband who asked me to watch this short film and asked my opinion on this. I watched it without any preconceived notions. It was only after watching it that I guessed it would have ended up as a hot topic everywhere.
Coming to the story, Lakshmi, the lead character of the film, is married and has a son. They belong to a middle-class family and she works in a printing press. Her life is as monotonous as it can get. Her everyday routine is wake up, cook, send her son to school, husband to the office, go to office herself, return home, cook, eat and sleep. Some nights her husband uses her to pleasure himself without giving any consideration to whether she wants it or not nor if she is satisfied or not. One day during dinner, her husband gets a call from an unknown number. She attends the call and hears a female voice who cuts the call when she questions further. The caller calls again and her husband picks it up and says he will talk later. He doesn’t answer her questions and she lets it be since that is what women are expected to do. As days pass by, her daily train ride to and from her office spices up a little as she notices a guy showing interest in her. She slowly starts responding to him with a smile. One day, by chance they meet at a bus stop on a day of the strike and she ends up staying overnight at his place and they share a bed. She feels different and fresh after that but decides not to take the train to work for some days thereby indicating that she does not want to meet that guy again.
The short film was a good one to me. The concept was bold and something that the Indian society doesn’t feel comfortable talking about. This is something that happens in society, be it in India or anywhere in the world and I felt that is all there is. It is a story that is well written and well directed into a short movie. But the reactions to it were far from encouraging. There were a huge hue and cry about showing women in a bad light. ‘She was not being a good wife’. ‘She has a bad character. How could she do that to her husband? That too when she has a son?’ As per the haters, a woman, specifically, an Indian woman is supposed to accept ill treatment without any voice. That is what a ‘good’ wife is supposed to do.
As to what I felt about it, she going for a one night stand is not a solution to what is happening in her life. Though I understand that her husband doesn’t treat her well and to top it off, he cheats on her, I felt that going for that is not a right approach. To me, morally, it is a wrong thing to do. Saying that, I do not think Lakshmi is a woman of loose character. She is a loving, compassionate, hard-working human being who deserves so much better in life. She is the average middle-class working woman. Though what she did is a mistake, it is something that is understandable. And to me, it is not a mistake just because it is a woman who did it. It is a mistake no matter who does it.
The disturbing thing about the reactions to this movie in social media is not that they were condemning the action of cheating as such. It is that they were condemning the action since it was done by a woman. It is in the same short film that it is hinted that the husband also has an affair. But, there was no hue and cry about it. And then there were the reactions by the feminists of the society supporting the lead character and lauding her decision of doing what she wants. So, what do we make of it? Is it okay to not have morals just because you are a male human being? Or is going ahead and doing whatever she wants, even though morally wrong, a mark of woman empowerment? To me, it is neither. It is time we see actions as just actions without considering the ‘male or female’ factor in it. A wrong is a wrong, no matter who does it. Being a male doesn’t mean it is okay not to have morals and it is also not okay to treat wives like nothing. And being a female doesn’t mean you can do something wrong and label it woman empowerment. And maybe, when a majority of people start thinking this way, our society would become a tad better. Waiting for that day..