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Vairamuthu’s New Song Slammed for Normalising Predatory Behaviour

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(Left) screenshot from the video; (right) Silverscreen India media library

Vairamuthu, the Tamil lyricist who is the subject of sexual harassment complaints from multiple women, has written and produced a music video titled En Kadhala, that showcases –  a young schoolgirl falling in love with a much older man.

The song is set to music by NR Raghunanthan and sung by Srinisha Jayaseelan. The video features 16-year-old Anikha Surendran falling for an older man – a poet – played by Yohan Chacko.

“What does a kiss on the mouth know about age?” the young woman asks in the song speaking about her love for the poet. She continues to sing, “I want a husband like a father” and “there are some rules that have exceptions in nature”.

The video had garnered over 300,000 views as of Wednesday morning and is part of Vairamuthu’s Naatpadu Theral, a  project that will include 100 songs with several hundred technicians including composers and directors.

The description of the video reads, “This is a different song. Yes, this song has an age difference. A song that shows a young woman falling in love with an elderly man, a love that transcends lust. Love does not have eyes. Sometimes, it does not consider age differences either.”

The song been called out by many social media users and prominent personalities, including singer and voice artist Chinmayi Sripaada, for normalising predatory behaviour.

Chinmayi Sripaada, the singer who is a leading voice on the #MeToo movement, wrote, “The concept of sexual grooming falls on deaf ears in this country and here comes something that glorifies this.”

Quoting a couple of lines from the song that talk about the girl wanting a husband like a father, Chinmayi said, “No wonder he had a pattern to the targets he chose.”

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V Iswarya, who is a campaigner against the promotion of stalking in Tamil cinema and runs the page Calling Out Stalking, replied to Chinmayi on Twitter, “This perpetuates the same shameful tradition of Tamil songs that have repeatedly fetishized teens (specifically 15-17 y.o.) while men continue to be at least double the age. Perhaps the trope started when child marriage was common, but today it’s disgusting, evil and predatory.”

Speaking to Silverscreen India, Iswarya said, “It is creepy. But this song is not a standalone offender. It belongs to certain tradition in Tamil songs where teens are sexualised. In the past, we accepted such songs because people did get married at that age then. But, to carry over that trope to today’s scenario, in a changed world [where we are having] conversations about how old men are preying on younger women, in that context, it [the song] sounds very regressive and creepy.”

Iswarya added that the “position of the writer” is also a matter of concern. “If we have an actual adolescent making a video about having a crush on a teacher, it is a different issue. It could be considered a legitimate self-expression of a teenager, even though there are problems with that too. But it is a larger problem when a “respected” lyricist facing several accusations for his predatory behaviour creates a song where a teenager is shown to fall for a man much older than her.”

“Now, the pushback is coming from a generation whose values have changed. The song comes across creepy to a generation that considers the patriarchal culture very creepy,” noted Iswarya.

The video shows a young girl falling for an older man and not vice-versa, Iswarya said, “Who does the maker of a piece of art sympathise with? It is important to note the voice of the author. Does the author condemn or endorse it? In the book Lolita, it is very clear that the author wants you to realise how creepy the narrator is when he falls for a teenager. But in this case, the lyrics which suggest wanting a husband like a father make it clear that this man [Vairamuthu] endorses this behaviour.”

Iswarya said that songs from the late MG Ramachandran’s movies always show the [much younger] female actors who imagine romancing him. “These men, in order to gratify their fantasies, and to give themselves a clean chit, used their power to show that it is the women who expressed their feelings for them while they remained clean throughout” she explained.

Besides Chinmayi and Iswarya, many social media users have also condemned the song. Vairamuthu, known to be an ally to Tamil Nadu’s ruling party Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), was one among the guests to be invited for the oath-taking ceremony of the state’s chief minister MK Stalin, held recently. Many requested senior DMK party members to take action against Vairamuthu just like they came out against harassement  by a teacher in a Chennai school.

 

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