Karthik is a lazy, jobless, upper middle-class guy and the only son of his father, who is a bank manager. Karthik is always hanging around with his friends: an autorickshaw driver Kumar, a tea shop owner Shekar, and a traffic constable Vishnu. Over-ambitious in his life, he always wants the best of everything in his life, from pens and clothes to every other accessory, and has made it a rule to try out everything before zeroing in on one. Now wanting to choose his best life partner, he applies the same method and decides to select three girls, whom he would romance at the same time and make to fall in love with, then reject two of them and finally marry the third one.
On a surface and very shallow level, we can identify the warning signs that come with the story line and the character ‘Karthik’. The pride he takes in his approach to finding a suitable life partner and how he relates it to that of buying accessories, shows how superficial his outlook. He proceeds to choose women from different backgrounds, lies to them and tries to woo them into loving him. Much applause needs to be heralded to the women as well, who initially fall for his lies and take him for his word. While Jyothi and Teju come to their senses and confront Karthik, he blames them for calling out his bluff and dumps them. While Priya on the other hand remains faithfully manipulated and gas lit and gives into his every whim. She accurately captures the mindset of innocent and naïve with almost no backbone or a mind of her own.
The blurry line between fiction and reality:
To breakdown the hidden meanings behind the connections Karthik makes we need to dive into how the character perceives these women. He ends up picking the innocent naïve girl who “values traditions” and believes every lie and fable Karthik offers to her. Even when he mispronounces her name she brushes it off and strongly believes that Karthik is innocent despite both Jyothi and Teju approaching her with the truth. Karthik’s character arc stoops lower when he chooses to fake a memory loss post an accident to check if Priya really loves him and he approaches the audience by promising that he has had his eyes only on Priya from the beginning.
This ‘Karthik’ character joins a plethora of other characters that have dominated so called rom-coms in Tamil cinema, where toxic and misogynistic behaviors have been normalized and regarded as something to be laughed about and not worked on. From movies like ‘Siva Mansukula Sakthi’, ‘Boss engira Baskaran’, to ‘Sachien’ and ‘Remo’ Kollywood’s representation of rom-coms has left us baffled. Apart from glorifying toxic behavior, it is something that a lot of children grow up watching. This sort of toxic behavior is internalized and it comes out in the form of acts of violence against the opposite gender.
Though a lot of people may argue it is just fiction, and how everything has to be taken with a pinch of salt, there are multiple real life cases where stalking, manipulation, and gaslighting has become so common. Relationships that are formed on this basis leads to one party being kept in the dark while the other has a lot more freedom to manipulate the other party. This movie also portrayed women in a weak and naïve light where the crux of the story is not how Karthik finds the love of his life, but how weak men think women are.
Caution first ladies!
Being empowered, educated and enlightened about oneself, setting boundaries and treating your relationships as a part of you and not the other way around are all essential when you are woman navigating your way through life. Movies like this act as ego boosters where the youth can assume that manipulation, gaslighting and cheating on your partner is normal and that is how relationships work. Being faithful to your partner is something that is explicitly expected from women, whereas men are given a lot more liberty to lead lives that are pleasing to themselves. This movie significantly glorifies cheating and manipulation as a tactic for a man to have multiple partners. Both Teju and Jyothi who call out Karthik’s bluff are instantly thrown under a negative light where Teju is seen as arrogant and Jyothi is seen to use her bother to beat up Karthik. The movie some how manages to show Karthik as the victim at certain points despite the fact that it is all a repayment of his actions.
The more concerning part is how this movie is just a decade old and how this mentality of playing women for clout and for a hormonal high is still relevant and a lot of men choose to be that way. A huge ego with a twisted misogynistic approach has now become the basis of ‘masculinity’ and is widely propagated on social media as well. Staying alert and vigil is now a default setting for a lot of women. This movie dodged a lot of bullets under the guise of comedy, and is still seen as something of a entertainer.