By Sudha Pillai
“Malayalis will not accept her behaviour,” said a spectacled, bearded man on the July 5th episode of the Malayalam Bigg Boss, a reality show on my wish list of Malayalam television shows that needs to be blasted off to Mars.
The man was Deepan Murali, TV actor and contestant on Bigg Boss and he was referring to the behaviour of a fellow-contestant on the show, actor and model Shweta Menon.
Earlier in the day, Menon, along with two male contestants, comedian Anoop Chandran and TV actor Srinish Aravind, was chosen to play a game. They were joined to each other with a rope and metal links. The last person still connected to the metal links and rope would be declared the winner. Mr. Big Boss often comes up with such tween-worthy games.
A few hours into the game, Shweta declared that “After some time I am going to shed all my clothes and sit because it is too hot,” to which Anoop Chandran responded with something to the effect of, “But all Malayalis have seen everything of you…so it doesn’t matter.” Shweta responded by saying very calmly, “I want the viewers and the Big Boss to make a note of what he said. This is what he thinks of me, what he thinks of women in general.” Soon, all the other female contestants pounced on him and he kept trying to tell them that he didn’t mean any offence. Finally, he de-linked himself and quit that particular game. I want to think Menon played an excellent psychological game in bringing Anoop to a point where he wanted to de-link himself. Though later she said in the ‘confession room’ that she wasn’t playing any games but was genuinely hurt by the chauvinistic statement made by him against her.
Few of my male friends tsked their tongues at Menon while watching the show and grumbled about her playing the “woman card”. This is a game, for heaven’s sake! As a contestant, she will, and she should use all the cards available to her because the goal here is to win. If the roles were reversed, nobody would have said the contestant played a “man-card.” Instead, his skill and acumen would have been praised.
Shweta was now left linked to one male contestant, Srinish.
The human bladder does not care for any contests. It has to ‘go’ when it has to ‘go’. After a few hours, Shweta wanted to ‘go’. She had two choices before her: Delink herself voluntarily, which means quitting the game to take a leak, or take the young man along with her to finish her job.
Shweta opted for the latter. Accompanied by two female contestants, she went to the loo still attached to Srinish. He waited outside the partially opened toilet door while Shweta emptied her bladder. The door couldn’t be entirely shut because of the obstructing rope.
According to Mr Beardo and his lady-friend Archana, a TV actor, Shweta had just committed the unthinkable, “un-Malayali-like act”. Total lack of Bharatiya nari-ness! “How could she do that (meaning pee, which by the way is a normal function of a human body) with a man standing close-by?”
One could only imagine the soundtrack playing in his head. She is a woman! How dare she do something so disgraceful and disgusting?
“So many people around the world are watching her. Malayalis will not accept her behaviour,” declared Beardo. Even the most competitive contestant of the group, Archana, who was lying next to him, didn’t think twice before declaring, “I would never do something like that, I’d rather lose the game. I’m a woman.”
Shweta was playing to win. She showed a finely honed competitive spirit. If she were an athlete, experts would’ve said that “she has the killer instinct”, something which our sportsmen are accused of usually lacking in international arenas.
‘Killer instinct’ or competitive spirit is defined as an aggressive and ruthless determination to win or attain a goal. It is deemed essential to succeed be it in the boardroom or a stadium. It is a much-admired quality in a man. But not so much in a woman.
Killer instinct is genderless. But more often than not, we tend to pin a gender to the woman’s competitive spirit. An easy way to kill a woman’s spirit. The “You can’t do this or that because you are a woman” dictum has been played to us on a loop for eons.
As a career woman for more than two decades, I have encountered scenarios where a man with a killer instinct is always competitive, but a woman is aggressive; a man is a planner, but a woman is a schemer; a man is authoritative, but a woman is a bitch; a man is doing everything he can to win the game, but the woman has no morals or values.
Can we refrain from attributing gender to a woman’s ‘killer instinct’? Not annihilate her competitive spirit? Allow her to make her own choices about what is right and wrong to achieve her goals? It’s time to demolish a few boilerplate ideas.
Because it’s imperative that we don’t grow more Urmila Unnis (a senior Malayalam actress) who when asked about sexual harassment of women in the State, offered to talk about “cooking a nice dish” instead. She also giggled, wriggled and jiggled like a little girl in pigtails throughout. Better to pee than be Urmi.
Sudha Pillai is many things, including a writer, journalist, photographer and artist. For the last six years, she was the news features editor of Bangalore Mirror, until April 2016. Earlier, she was the editor of Bangalore Times, and now she’s a freelance writer and artist and blogs at A Sunny Square