For me, the movie Bigil is usual Vijay potboiler with the frequent use of vacuous but trendy words such as verithanam, vera level, pullingo, mass — words which pump gallons of adrenaline into the minds of current-day youth for no healthy reason. Words, which hold no practical meaning for themselves.
By now, even Vijay’s fans will know what the predictable and pedestrian themes of his movies are and will refuse to accept it if such ingredients are absent in his films.
However, if you take a closer look at the movie wearing a discerning lens, you may find my observations are probably an understatement. I was able to observe a large Christian work of craft, smoothly woven by the director, whom I feel is loyal to the evangelical cause.
The movie, overall, is a package of anti-Hindu and anti-Brahmin sentiments, peppered with subtle evangelical bigotry, imparted intelligently to largely unthinking Tamil cine-goers who swamp movie halls.
The first half of the movie was supposed to look witty, casual and entertaining (which as usual wasn’t). All the main characters either bear a Christian name or symbol.
The movie is set in the backdrop of a slum from where the protagonist hails, and is shown to have a majority of Christians as its constituents.
Now, living close to slums and being acquainted with a few people from that area right from my childhood, I am well aware that there are Christians living in the slums, but they are victims of predatory proselytisation indulged by evangelical forces whose sole aim is to change the face of Tamil Nadu’s demography and politics.
However, in the film, we are given to believe that the majority population of Tamil Nadu is Christian as the non-slum scenes are showcased as an extension of the slum life.
It is very common to see, either in Tamil or any other Indian movie, a blend of actors with a mixture of identities. But in Bigil, there emerges a new pattern where only a monochromatic reality is portrayed — an obvious sign and expression of religious uniformity.
In the film, a friend of the protagonist is seen driving a car. The friend has Hindu holy ash on his forehead. However, the car has a cross hanging inside, with no relation to the scene.
As an addendum, there is also another powerful antagonist who happens to be a north Indian Brahmin with the surname Sharma.
Seen alongside is his assistant, a south Indian Brahmin, sporting a red holy mark on his forehead with heavy a Brahminical touch to his speech.
Unfortunately, we are made to believe that the protagonist succeeds in “changing” the Christian antagonist in lamentation of his “sins” — a “privilege” the Brahmin antagonist never gets.
This is where I believe the evangelist in the director comes in to play. The “father”, who is essayed by Joseph Vijay, is seen sporting a holy Hindu mark on his forehead and a cross on his neck.
Once you watch this movie, you will realise that his head mark has no value since in one scene, the man appears to pray in front of Christ in a “Christian way”, thus highlighting his religious loyalties — a strong rebuttal to his secular pretensions.
The mark on his forehead appeared to serve no particular purpose, except for maybe political reasons.
As the first half of the movie takes us on an evangelical journey, with the constant reminder of Christian ubiquity, the second half was interesting — with direct disparagement of other religious traditions — which is signature evangelical strategy.
Before going into the second half, I am of the strong view that demeaning a religion generally happens by accusing its principal practitioners or progenitors.
In the case of Hinduism, it happens to be Brahmins — a well-known fact — as is always the case in Tamil movies.
The principle is simple: If you illegitimise the superstructure in a hierarchy, the foundation is automatically weakened.
It is no wonder then, that certain faiths hold their messiahs in absolute reverence, and revolt violently at the slightest attempt at their scrutiny and deconstruction.
The crux of the movie comes in to play in the second half, when the protagonist heads a senior women’s football team as its coach.
Now, we have to navigate through various feminine issues, and conveniently, the director casts all the girls in the team as “Hindus”, except for one — a trick which he handles craftily — to bring out the barriers between the women.
That one girl, who is a Christian, has no issues, except that she has been crippled by an acid attack, which makes her a poor victim, unable to realise her dreams.
So once again, anybody poor and crippled are all Christians — a convenient hark back to the Mother Teresa effect.
In the film, we also get to see a Brahmin girl, who has to abandon all her dreams for the sake of an orthodox lifestyle, as demanded by her parents and in-laws.
It is here that director Atlee completely loses it. He seems out of touch with contemporary social realities, as today, there are hardly any Brahmin girls who are forced into orthodox living.
Atlee seems oblivious to the fact that it is the Bishops and the clergymen who are world-famous for duping innocent children, as well as for sexual abuse within Christendom.
And, another ploy used to defame the Brahmin community is to ridicule their Tamil accent.
It is common knowledge that every mother language has innumerable dialectical derivatives, used not only by Brahmins, but by various other communities as well.
How is it that Atlee did not deem it fit to ridicule other Tamil dialects in his movie? Was he scared of offending “non-Brahmin” sentiments, if we may respectfully ask?
The crux of the movie — women’s rights — was shown so strongly for a Brahmin girl, which, as mentioned above, holds little significance to the current way of life as the community is far more empowered than others in the social spectrum.
Alternatively, the director could have opted for a girl under a Burkha from an orthodox Muslim household, if he was so keen on portraying patriarchy and female subjugation.
The director has to be educated about the fact that Hindu women (Brahmins included) are largely free these days to wear any dress they wish, even to temples.
Unfortunately, it is inside the churches that I see women covering their heads, which I believe, is in accordance with Biblical mandates.
It would be generous of the director if he could explain such orthodoxy.
In conclusion, talking of director Atlee, it is in order to discuss, however briefly, his filmmaking philosophy and some of its manifestations.
He has a history of movies and scenes with anti-Brahminism as a running theme.
Raja Rani (2013)
A Brahmin’s role is performed by a comedian (Swaminathan) who lives opposite the protagonist’s house. He is shamed by the protagonist and the comedian several times. He is also depicted as having an extra marital affair, which is criticised comically.
The protagonist and Assistant Commissioner of Police (Joseph Vijay) visits an IT company to enquire about a missing employee whose father had lodged a complaint with the ACP. The ACP begins his investigation with another employee, who is understood to have held some managerial post in the company.
The man starts speaking in a Brahminical dialect and gives a reply which is crafted by the director in a manner that is presented as irritating for that particular situation.
The ACP ends up punching that manager (which is not shown) and he fearfully agrees to the enquiry.
Being a Brahmin myself and taking offence to such engineered bigotry, I didn’t watch his next movie Mersal. But I did watch Bigil, only to find reinforced hate for a community and a faith as its plot.
Tamil Nadu is indeed changing, and ironically, by those who hold the flag of a man who was believed to have been crucified for showing compassion. Is this what the tall concept of secularism is about?
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