By Ila Ananya
When Tollywood actors Rakul Preet Singh and Naga Chaitanya attended the audio launch of their new movie Rarandoi Veduka Chuddam, they probably didn’t expect to get caught in the storm of co-actor Chalapathi Rao’s making. Rao probably didn’t expect the storm either, because when asked if he thought women were injurious to mental peace (the movie’s tagline), he made a spectacular mental leap, and coolly said, “Women are not injurious mental peace, they’re fit for sleeping with men.”
The anchor seemed thrilled. “Super answer, sir,” he said, and the show went on as though nothing had happened.
But this silence didn’t last long. Not surprisingly, women’s organisations filed complaints against Rao in multiple police stations in Hyderabad, and suddenly he was in the news. Preet and Chaitanya had to put out statements saying they didn’t agree with his comments, clarifying that a video of them laughing after Rao’s inane comment was actually them laughing about something else.
Essentially, Rao and the movie’s makers were saying what women have always heard in different forms: you women are just too much.
The first time I remember being told I was “just too much,” was when I had come home from school with sand in my hair. Some months later, I heard it when I wanted to wear only black. I also heard it when I was writing a maths test and ignored the teacher who hissed at me about my bra strap showing. Then, it was thrown at me when I refused to make chai for uncles.
Sometime later, a boy yelled it at me across the basketball field in his very thick Bengali accent when I didn’t pass him the ball, but scored instead. Ten minutes later, I heard it again, when the same boy shouted at me for passing him the ball, but when he didn’t score. Then I heard that my newfound love for lipsticks was also too much — they were too bright, too red.
Rarandoi Veduka Chuddam’s tagline ‘Ammayilu manashantiki hanikaram’ (‘Women are injurious to mental peace’), is just another way of saying this.
It’s delivered in the same deadpan tone of cigarette warnings that play in movie theatres. All these anti-smoking ads usually say, ‘Jan hith mein jaari’ (issued in public interest), and if you’ve seen Rarandoi Veduka Chuddam’s trailer, you’d half expect the same disclaimer to follow their tagline. Which is also apparently issued in public interest.
In reality though, this premise is really not any different from most love stories in movies from any Indian film industry. Every movie is a version of boy meets girl, they fall in love, girl leaves boy, boy loses mind and becomes alcoholic. Then girl comes back to save him because she had left him for his own good in the first place, and here, what you always remember is that women drive men crazy, but they come around.
We’ve got movies like Half Girlfriend, Badrinath Ki Dulhania, and Befikre to prove this for us, time and again. After all, we are told, isn’t it so sad that Varun Dhawan, who really loved Alia Bhatt in Badrinath Ki Dulhania had to go through so much pain to win her back? She’s really too much, especially with her dream of wanting to work as a flight attendant. It doesn’t matter that Dhawan’s character is that of a brat, who is used to getting what he wants, and thinks he can shove Bhatt into the boot of his car and turn up at her house drunk.
Or like in Half Girlfriend, Shraddha Kapoor is too much because she cares, driving Arjun Kapoor so mad with his all-consuming love that he drinks incessantly and searches for her in every New York bar. And in Befikre, Ranveer Singh, who is driven so mad by Vaani Kapoor leaving him that he wants to rush into a marriage with someone else. As with every ‘particular’ man, he too becomes mad because faces the huge task of not knowing what cereal he eats because it’s Kapoor who’d buy it for him and store it away.
By the time I was 20, ‘You’re just too much,’ had also become, ‘You’ve ruined my life,’ and ‘You’ve made me depressed’. My friends and I heard it from boyfriends who became exes. The lines came to us via WhatsApp and bitter fights in auto rides, and occasionally on letters streaked with tears and blood. We were told we thought too much about ourselves, cared too much about work and other women. We were too much.
Various WhatsApp groups that we’ve all been a part of, mostly as silent spectators, have said the same thing. They are full of unending fights between men and women. The beginning of every fight is usually a video about women — how men are driven crazy by women who can’t spend less than three hours trawling through one store in a five-storey shopping mall, how men are driven crazy by women who can’t make up their mind about what they want to eat, or wear. It’s similar to when many men shared Abhay Deol’s Myntra ad saying women just can’t make up their minds. In the ad, Deol buys his wife a dress she likes online but the wife gets angry because she’s not a fan of online shopping. Not so surprisingly, men are also driven crazy by women who do know what they want — as always, whatever women do, they are too much.
Chalapathi Rao tried to apologise for his comments and then made everything worse instead, by saying, “Do we sleep with snakes? No. That’s why I said women are harmless and that’s why we sleep with them.” Perhaps we should make a movie on all these men and tell them that maybe, just maybe, they’re too much.
Co-published with Firstpost.