Thimiram, On Neestream, Is A Well-Written Film About How Society Normalizes Male Chauvinism

Director: Sivaram Mony

Cast: KK Sudhakaran, G Suresh Kumar, Ameya Mathew, Meera Nair

Thimiram starts with a little boy getting two pieces of fish while a little girl gets only one. The mother herself says that’s enough for the girl. As the boy lazes around, the girl does the chores. As he grows up, he becomes a voyeur. This is sort of like a flashback and we are then introduced to the seventy-year old Sudhakaran (KK Sudhakaran) who has a cataract problem. The camera is shown blurred — as though smeared with vaseline — in shots that are from his point of view, and we don’t see much. 

But old habits die hard; the fact that he has a cataract doesn’t change the way he behaves with women. He still goes behind the local sex worker, and a widow who runs a grocery store and he harasses women. He also hates his daughter-in-law (Meera Nair) because she failed to bring in any dowry; he disallows her from serving him food. He doesn’t like it when her slippers are at the top of the rack; he thinks women’s slippers should be at the bottom. The cataract becomes a metaphor for his blindness: his inability to see men and women as equal and treat them both the same. 

The other major character —also male — is Ram (Vishak Nair), Sudhakaran’s son. He is a struggling screenwriter but what stands out is his loyalty towards his father despite his obviously disgusting behaviour. That tells us a lot about Ram, who outwardly is a very decent man. Sudhakaran’s wife sweeps things under the carpet instead of shouting it out to the public. So, we get the picture of a society that has collectively enabled male chauvinists like Sudhakaran.

Thimiram, On Neestream, Is A Well-Written Film About How Society Normalizes Male Chauvinism

The major plus of the movie is the writing. Sudhakaran who has several issues is still not shown as an obvious monster. The monstrous behaviour is shown but he’s written as a very normal person with ordinary financial problems. He also has diabetic and cataract problems.  It’s difficult to understand how his sexual deviance develops because his peeping top behaviour also extends to men. 

But Sudhakaran has this mindset that it’s common for men to desire to touch women. He also believes that women are here to serve men. The women in this film are shown as really nice people. There’s an instance where his daughter-in-law gives him her bangle for an emergency in the household. The widow who runs the provision store doesn’t depend on any men. There’s a nurse who takes care of Sudhakar, but she doesn’t take any nonsense from him. And there are women like Sudhakaran’s wife who “sacrifice” — if that’s the word — their own world for the world of Sudhakaran. He stopped his wife from working after marriage because then she would become more dominant. 

At the same time, it feels like these messages are hammered in a bit too much. They were told in a much more subtle way in The Great Indian Kitchen. You could argue that this film is from the male’s point of view. What I liked was that they underplayed the drama for the most part. It makes it feel like almost all of the deplorable stuff that we see is “natural’ and not a special occurrence in society — right until the climax. The film shows that society has learnt to live with and accept creatures like Sudhakaran as if they were normal people and not extraordinary creatures.

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