Song and dance sequences are an essential feature of commercial cinema in India’s various film producing regions. Where dialogue cannot express sexual desire or love, the hero and heroine often celebrate their union through song and dance.
A distinct style of songs also addresses the feelings of loss and longing when love doesn’t blossom as expected. In Tamil cinema, these breakup songs are known as “love-failure” songs. While female and male characters sing and dance their agony, a subset of love failure songs only give voice to the men who invariably go on a blaming frenzy and attack women for breaking their hearts. .
Sociologist Premalatha Karupiah aptly identified the misogyny of these songs – while scholars from other film industries in India and around the world have addressed similar issues in elements of the film.
Beyond the misogyny of those Tamil film love-failure songs, what fails here isn’t just gender politics. The very idea of love has been abandoned by the male protagonists’ self-interested preoccupation with their egos.
Western audiences can usually associate the habit of singing and dancing with Bollywood – a globally recognized cultural category that refers to the aesthetics of Hindi-language cinema emerging from Mumbai. But song and dance routines are also common to other regional film industries.
Although the first Tamil film, Keechaka Vathamwas produced in the mute era, the first Tamil talkie, Kalidasreleased in 1931, featured 50 songs.
What began as an element of attraction, borrowed from ancient theatrical traditions, has since turned into a familiar cinematic formula. Each film contains a minimum of five to six songs to serve two main functions: to advertise the films in India and around the world by promoting the film’s music, and to help punctuate the various emotions that unfold in the film’s narrative.
Blaming women for grief
The quintessential melodramatic narrative of ‘failure in love’ songs in Tamil is the blame for a failed relationship projected onto the figure of the woman. One of the oldest and most vivid examples where male romantic grief turns into anxious invective against women (and the God who created them) is found in the song “Kadavaul Manithanaga Piraka Soldm” (“God shall be born human”) from 1963. movie Vanambadi (Lark).
Through dramatic camera angles and movement combined with lyrical prowess, male lead Sekar asks God to come down to earth and be born as a man to experience the suffering and betrayal of love at the hands of women. .
Contemporary iterations of this accusatory approach are usually set in a public place where a group of men gather to sing and dance their woes against women.
The Tamil song “Why this Kolaveri” (Why this murderous rage), an international film hit of 2012 Moonu (Three), set the stage for the genre of “soup” or “flop” songs. The term “soup”, coined by by Moonu lead actor Dhanush, refers to the emotional state men find themselves in after being dumped.
In the song called “Local boys” of 2013 Ethir Nechal (swim against the tide) Dhanush makes an appearance: we see him consoling the hero who finds solidarity among strangers in a local bar. They come together because they claim to share the same fate with women and the same decision to drown their sorrows in alcohol.
The song begins with the phrase “Honestly, I don’t need you”, and the lyrics continue to encourage men to get rid of their addiction to women and live freely without any worries. By interpreting rejection as the fault of women, these songs not only soothe the male ego, but they also help grieving men bond through their identification as “soup boys.”
This movie-induced identity not only potentially helped to legitimize harassment and other dangerous and unethical modes of pursuit of women, but also potentially galvanized narcissistic behavior, something incompatible with love. .
In an acknowledgment of his social responsibility, the film’s director apologized for the lyrics in an interview with Cinema Expressyears after the release of the tube.
love has no ego
In my preliminary research, I measure the philosophical durability of these songs. As lyrical expressions of personal failure, they reflect excessive self-obsession. The bereaved lover sees his beloved as an investment that is supposed to pay off. When the love is not reciprocated, the blame is placed on the woman. Love and woman come together
But what every soup boy needs to learn is actually that the fundamental condition of love is the appearance of a broken and fractured self, even before a breakup and even if the betrayal is real. Because from the moment one is in love, there is in fact no self to possess.
As the late French philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy explained, when we are in love, what we know and recognize as an “I” disintegrates into an ineffable connection with the other. There is no ego in love. There is no property to own.
“I love you” really means: I am fully exposed to you in all my vulnerabilities and particularities. I am naked in front of you; I’m already broken in your presence.
Give up the blame game
In my opinion, to counter the misogyny of love-failure songs, instead of portraying the reverse, of women drinking and singing about their issues with men, films should experiment with poetic statements about the true essence of love. : how we risk everything when we love.
There are many examples of Tamil cinema illustrating non-possessive ways of portraying love that the “failure in love” genres could build upon. In Rajiv Menon’s adaptation of Jane Austen Sense and sensitivity (Kandukondain Kandukondain
(I saw it, I saw it)) Aishwarya Rai plays Meenakshi, based on Austen’s Marianne Dashwood, a love-loving girl.
In the song “Enge ennathu Kavithai?” (“Where Did My Poem Go?”), Meenakshi finds out that her lover is going to marry someone else. She longs for her lost love in a scene of pouring rain and flooded streets. Blinded by discouragement, she slips into an open manhole to be rescued by a good-natured and more trustworthy man, the one she will later fall in love with.
The song blames no one because in love there are no enemies. There is no “I” or “you” in love: only the cosmos that brings us together again and again.