The female lead is played by Rashmika Mandanna. She has 2 purposes in the movie. Both have always been the purpose of heroines in commercial movies. Firstly, to romance the hero. Secondly, to be a damsel in distress that needs saving, so that the Hero can step in and show his ‘Heroism’. Commercial films have been eating on this concept since the time of sages, and Pushpa has proven that this idea is not going to change anytime soon.
While these usual problems in a commercial film have been spelled out time and again, Pushpa caters to a few more problematic scenes. As usual, Allu Arjun, called Pushpa in the film, falls in love with Rashmika (Srivalli). It happens to be love at first sight for him, and since then Pushpa starts following Srivalli wherever she goes. Again, commercial films and rom-coms are known for promoting Stalking culture, where it is okay for a man to follow a woman, because he is a ‘Hero’. Srivalli apparently doesn’t even notice Pushpa, and therefore the latter decides to give up.
But, Pushpa’s friend pays Srivalli and her friends, so that she could give him a glance and smile at him. Srivalli’s friends agree to this because they need money to watch a film, and are short of some. While this itself is problematic, Pushpa then asks his friend to pay them more money, so that she could give him a kiss. What is worse is that, Srivalli’s friends take the money and ‘convince’ her to kiss him for the amount. If this is not harassment, what is? The director has tried to fit these scenes as ‘comedy’ in the long action movie. But, surely nobody would have even found those scenes watchable, let alone laugh at them.
Now, here’s a no brainer! In spite of all of this harassment and stalking, Srivalli actually falls in love with Pushpa, so much that she addresses him as ‘Saami’. We come to know of this when Srivalli comes to Pushpa for help, when she’s threatened by one of the villains to sleep with him. Srivalli confesses her love to Pushpa, and Pushpa thrashes the villain. Again, this entire scene is problematic for a number of reasons.
The villain has a womainising character, and with his power and money, he has threatened many girls into sleeping with him. This character of the villain is established at the start of the movie itself. Pushpa, who does not thrash him for almost 1.5 hrs of the movie, knowing this character of his, thrashes him only after Srivalli is in trouble. How is he Heroic then? Also, after attacking him brutally, Pushpa goes on to say a ‘Manly’ dialogue that ‘Manliness’ is fighting a man and not threatening and harassing women. The irony is that Pushpa himself has harassed Srivalli in the past, but that is heroic because he’s the Hero. But when the villain does it, he’s not ‘man’ enough, because he shows his ‘valour’ to a woman. This hypocrisy is just indigestible in the movie.
One of the skeletal outlines of Pushpa’s character is that he is born to a mother, who is not married but chose to have a child with a married man. So Pushpa is triggered, everytime someone asks him for his surname, because he was deprived of one by his father’s legitimate children. Again, while the attack is supposedly placed on Pushpa, the one who is actually insulted and attacked is his mother, for the choices she made in her life, questioning her chastity and fidelity. Of course, Pushpa speaks against this idea of bringing in mothers when swearing at people, but it is not acceptable after everything Pushpa does to Srivalli in the movie.
Film reviewer Ashameera Aiyappan had shared a tweet that showed how Rashmika Mandanna was credited for the film. Her name was spelt entirely wrong in the end credits. This just shows how much importance a ‘female lead’ of a commercial movie is given. Even Mahesh Babu was recently criticised for appreciating all the main artists involved in Pushpa, including Allu Arjun, Sukumar and DSP, but leaving out Rashmika entirely.
A friend brought to my attention that this is how Rashmika Mandanna’s name looks in #PushpaTheRise‘s end credits. Nothing to say, really.
— Ashameera Aiyappan (@aashameera) January 9, 2022
An issue like this is not the first of its kind. The movie had a good storyline and performances. However, it would have surely been much much better, if this unwanted and unnecessary usage of the female lead as a pawn to show the Hero’s machismo was avoided. Rashmika’s character could have surely had more depth, and her role could have been way more meaningful.