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Hateful Pogaru movie is not only anti-Brahmin, it is toxically sexist and completely denigrates women

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The moviemakers of the Kannada film Pogaru recently courted controversy for spewing hatred towards Brahmins and especially towards everyone who indulges in the profession of Paurohitya. Karnataka has hundreds of temples where people from castes other than Brahmins officiate. After the Brahmin community members decided to fight against it, the movie makers issued an apology and agreed to cut 14-16 scenes and mute a few dialogues.

In the press-meet where the director was supposed to issue an apology, instead of simply apologizing he actually said, “IF our actions have pained anyone we apologize, BUT this movie is the product of the effort of three and a half years, we DO NOT understand what is wrong in the movie. In fact, we could actually debate what happened historically, about who oppressed whom and what is wrong in what is said in the movie (alluding to the Dalit atrocities that have happened in the past). But I do not want to get into that debate, so I will issue an apology IF I have hurt anyone” (see here. Ergo, He is not really sorry for hurting sentiments, he still thinks what he did is right. What the director does not realize is he was not criticizing or showing solidarity with Dalits in the movie, instead he was spewing hate towards Brahmins, who have become a punching bag for everything wrong under the sun.

The hate did not end there, the ‘fans’ of the so-called hero issued death threats and used the vilest of the terms towards the journalist Chiru Bhat who raised his voice against this hate, the so-called Hero did not even call out his fans to stop the hatred. This does not come as a surprise, during the initial press-meet of the movie, the close friend of the Hero and a director himself, by the name A. P. Arjun, had incited violence against YouTubers who give bad reviews to his movies, he actually told the producers to abduct the YouTubers who give bad reviews and teach them a lesson (see here). A. P. Arjun said, abduct that guy with long beard who gives bad reviews and teach him a lesson. This clearly shows Kannada film industry has been taken over by thin-skinned rowdy elements who cannot take any criticism, the only review they accept is ‘Movie Super Guru‘.

Be that as it may, the hate in the movie is not limited to Brahmins, it is also directed towards women. Even now the debate is completely focused on the controversy surrounding the anti-Brahmin hate, but the toxically sexist and denigrating way in which women are shown in the movie is completely overlooked.

Toxic masculinity and sexism in Pogaru

Most people have watched the song ‘Karabu’ on YouTube, last checked it had close to 211 million views which is a record for any average Kannada movie. Even a cursory glance at the song would show the abusive way in which it is shot. The hero literally drags the heroine by her hair, forcefully fondles her, threatens her with weapons, etc. The song literally translates to, ‘The Boss is very Karabu, just run just run’. Karabu is actually a corrupted form of the Urdu word Kharaab which means bad, but in Kannada, it is used to say something bad and audacious. That is not the only problem in the movie there are a series of such abusive actions in the movie. Kannada readers can simply listen to the Kannada version of this article here.

In one of the initial scenes, after the Hero allegedly protects the Yajna being performed, the savior becomes the tormentor and starts extorting money from the Purohits. He says, ‘Give me money, I know you have money, after RBI maximum money is there with Brahmins only.’ When a hapless, aged Purohit asks the Hero why did he protect them from the rowdies if his sole intention was to extort them, the hero replies, ‘why should hero protect you, are you heroine or the mother of the heroine, all that you have done is given birth to two girls who are extremely ugly‘. Take a look at how the hero looks in the movie, by any standards, he should be in no way judging the looks of anyone. Still, that dialogue is passed off as a comedy, one wonders what exactly is funny there? Is giving birth to two girls a wrong thing? or the external beauty the only standard to judge women?

  1. In another scene, the hero is celebrating his birthday by throwing crackers on the passers-by in the middle of the road. The heroine confronts him for throwing explosive fireworks on her, and asks him, ‘Why are you creating nuisance in the area, also burning fireworks is harmful to the environment‘. The hero replies, ‘Girls who put on make-up, who use perfumes, wear flowers, and who wear shorts and disturb the mind of boys are really harmful to the environment‘. If girls wear makeup or wear shorts how is it his or anyone’s problem. They have as much right as guys to wear anything they want. Normalising this kind of moral policing as comedy is completely wrong. But we should not really question this, because the hero has already declared, ‘Karabu Bossu Karabu’.
  2. When the heroine confronts him more, the hero threatens her with more explosive crackers. He says, ‘Ley, this is 1000 count cracker, if I spark it and throw it on you, your trousers or lehenga will be burnt and you will have to run away screaming for your father and mother‘. He literally talks about burning a woman’s clothes in the middle of the road as quip and all that audience should say is, ‘Movie Super Guru‘. All of this is passed off as comedy, as heroics of the Hero.
  3. In the very next scene the hero asks the heroine, ‘Oye, why are you talking so much, you are not even as big as my biceps(In Kannada, ‘nan tolastu dappa illa este maatadtya’). Ergo, since a woman is not as ‘big’ as him, she has no right to talk. All this makes one wonder, do these people talk like this in front of their mothers too? We live in a world where woman is made to think a hundred times before speaking up, in the middle of all this what is the need of such dialogues?
  4. After this, the heroine goes and complains to the police, and brings an inspector. The hero then threatens the heroine’s father saying, ‘she complained against me it’s okay. But know this, she keeps walking alone, what happens if someone abducts her and does something to her? What if someone throws acid on her? Or worse what if someone stabs her?‘. This is passed off as a comedy dialogue in the movie. Day in and day out we see acid attacks on women, abductions, rapes, which is partly inspired by the glorification of violence and objectification of women in Bollywood. Our society has a problem related to safety of women, any responsible person should get sensitised towards women issues instead of joking about throwing acid on women. Well, we cannot really expect that can we? Because, ‘Karabu bossu Karabu’.
  5. Right after this, the girl’s father apologises to the hero and says, ‘My daughter is mental, she cannot think straight, that is why she complained, I am really sorry‘. This is again normalising the victim blaming, this happens time and again in the movie. While I do understand the situation there, what message this sends to the society is another issue altogether. Essentially, women should not even speak-up even when they are begin harassed.
  6. In the middle of all this, the movie also targets the heroine Rashmika Mandanna about her personal life choices. In one of the scenes, the hero says, ‘the one who forgets her mother tongue, is extremely shameless’, alluding to the fact that Rashmika Mandanna has been accepting offers from other languages. The hero also pantomimes, ‘Hi Sir come no come no, this is alluding to one of the press-meets of her Telugu movie. Essentially Rashmika Mandanna is targeted for accepting offers from other languages. This is extremely hypocritical as this movie was released in more than three languages, with the Hero and the director gloating about it as an achievement. Such a double-standard and hatred for Rashmika for the simple fact that she accepted offers from other languages. There were rumours that the script that was read out to Rashmika was completely different than what they showed in the movie and Rashmika therefore did not promote the movie on social media.
  7. In the next scene, after heroine’s father makes her take back the complaint, the hero brings the police with him in front of the heroine’s house and says, ‘This girl has raped me (he uses the word maana-bhanga in Kannada which means rape), she should be sent to jail. Why? Only girls can get raped or what, boys can also get raped‘. Everyday on an average 88 rapes happen in India, hundreds go unreported, should we be really trivialising the discourse about rapes like this? This dialogue is also passed-off as comedy. If the dialogue writer and the director for a second stopped thinking about the money that they could make or the whistles they could get in the theatres, they would have probably realised the gravity of the dialogues they have written. Do these people talk like this in their homes?
  8. Thereafter some things happen and the hero again confronts the heroine but this time the hero gives an ultimatum to the heroine, ‘From this moment on I will love you purely, will you love me? You have no choice, you SHOULD love me. Even your shadow might not follow you, but this Shiva will follow you. I am not the kind who gives life for love, I am the kind who kills for love. Recently, Tauseef Ahmed killed Nikita Tomar, for refusing his proposals for religious conversion and his ‘love’. The girl ended up shot-dead on the street. There were even reports that Tauseef Ahmed was inspired by Mirzapur movie where a character kills a girl by shooting for not accepting his proposal. There are many such examples, where stalking happens for extended periods of time and eventually girls end up dead. When it is such a sensitive subject, should we just watch movies as movies and not expect some responsibility?
  9. After this scene, the most famous ‘Karabu’ song plays, wherein the hero literally drags the heroine by her hair, fondles her forcefully, molests her, uses choicest of abuses, threatens her with weapons to ‘love’ him. I am not including the link here as that video should not be watched anymore than already it has been. The song had close to 211 million views in Kannada, 61 million views in Telugu, and close to 6 million views in Tamil. This shows the collective psyche of our younger generation as a whole where violence and abuse against women is celebrated. The director and the hero were actually using this as an endorsement of everything right in the movie, saying ‘people have watched it 211 million times there cannot be anything wrong’.
  10. One might think that this is just an honest mistake, may be they are not sensitized about women issues. But here is a twist in the tale, in the very next scene a villain tries to slap the heroine. Hero, as it always happens, comes to her rescue and says, ‘Oye, our highly civilized (susamskrutha) country teaches us that even winking at women is wrong, in such a country you are trying to slap a woman‘. So, these people are not unaware of what society expects, or how we should treat women. For them winking at women is vile, but threatening women with acid, abduction, rape, and death is in their own words ‘susamskrutha’. It just boggles my mind. If there is a national award for hypocrisy it should be given to the Hero, his director, and the screenwriter.
  11. Normalization of acid attack as a genuine expression of love happens all over the movie. For e.g. the hero barges into the house of the Brahmin Purohit (the heroine is his daughter) kicks all Pooja materials, washes his face with the Teertha that was being prepared for Pooja, offers mutton etc, and when heroine confronts him comically says, Oye darling, you forgot me or what. I am your ashiq, the same one you don’t remember acid, station, police’? Essentially women should remember their attackers, if not it is a crime. Could not have these people stopped for a moment and thought how such a dialogue would scar the minds of acid attack victims? Well, apparently not, because ‘Karabu, bossu Karabu’.
  12. After this the hero says, ‘I don’t know how to love silently, I only know how to cut my hand and write a letter with my blood. I only know how to love by harassing‘. Is there any need for the glorification of such violence when we know, day-in and day-out women are being attacked in the country?
  13. After all this stalking and harassment, the girl ‘realizes’ his worth and tells her father, ‘I am getting a feeling that he is right, I have never done anything wrong, he will not be alive without me‘. She tells the hero, ‘even if you harass the whole area and extort them, I knew that you had a good heart.’ After hearing about his sob story, she says, ‘how are you alive after experiencing so much pain? I might not be able to make your pain go away, but from now on I will be there with you to share it’. And then comes the ultimate dialogue which received many whistles in the theater, it is more impactful in Kannada, she says, ‘Piece neenu thindu, rice nanage kodu (You eat the piece and give me the rice)‘. This is essentially saying, in the non-vegetarian food he eats, he can eat the meat pieces and give her the remaining rice (an allusion to her Brahmin origins). Everywhere in the whole movie such allusions to Brahmin practices, derogatory attitude towards women is rampant. And the audience should not ask why should she eat rice with the piece and why should not he become a vegetarian for her, because hey, ‘Karabu bossu Karabu’. He even declares in one of the scenes, ‘he might give his life for her, but he will not compromise about anything else’. In Kannada he says, ‘Kattu koydu kodtene aadre gattu bidalla (I will cut my head and give it to her, but will not leave my swag)’

I can go on and on about the movie but there would be no end to it. Essentially, what this movie does is normalizes, anti-Brahmin hate and abuse towards women. The movie gives the message that it does not matter if you harass a girl, threaten her with acid, abduction and rape, as long as your ‘intentions’ and ‘love’ towards her are pure. If you are persistent and you will be rewarded as in the end she will understand and come and eat mutton rice with you. By the way, the fact that Brahmins don’t eat meat is shown in such a derogatory way, so many times in the whole movie that I lost count after some time. In one scene, the hero asks the heroine, let me write it in Kannada, ‘nimappa moole cheepthana (does your father lick the bones)’?, this is extremely derogatory when used like this in Kannada. Be that as it may, these are just few examples from a 3 hour movie.

The worst part of it all is, nobody is talking about this, few women who came out from the theaters actually said, ‘Movie is super’, ‘Dance super’, ‘Action super’, and the worst of it all, ‘Love super’. These people need to be sensitized towards women issues. One might say, ‘watch a movie like a movie, why analyze it like this’, but here is the problem, a youth who came out from the theater said, “what happens in ‘real’ love is shown in such a nice way, our boss acting is super, the way he loves her is super”. The youth is impressionable, our society as a whole has lack of gender sensitization, in the middle of such tumultuous times, we should not be allowing such garbage to be spread in the society in the name of entertainment. Last few years, Kannada film industry has gone downhill, once upon a time the Kannada movie makers used to make nice art such as ‘Malgudi days’, these days the industry is ruled by rowdy elements and uneducated brutes who are regressive.

After journalist Chiru Bhat released his video, people sitting at Karnataka Film chamber of commerce were threatening him with violence, shouting at him saying he should issue an apology to the hero Dhruva Sarja. Freedom of expression, cultural sensitivity do not mean a thing in Karnataka film industry. Directors, producers directly threaten mere YouTubers for criticising the movies. If this continues one day whole nation will sing, ‘Kharabu Kannada films Kharabu, theater inda odogo odogu (Kannada films are bad, run, run away fast from the theaters)‘.

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