Director: Mohan G
Cast: K Selvaraghavan, Nataraja Subramanian, Radha Ravi
When you imagine Mohan G and Selvaraghavan joining hands for a film, you don’t exactly expect a war cry for women’s rights or civil liberties. Bakasuran, obviously, is neither, despite decidedly being a film about violence against women.
Mohan G’s Bakasuran is one part revenge drama, one part investigative thriller, with a heady dollop of exposition and lecturing. Bimarasu (Selvaraghavan) opens the film violently murdering a seemingly lecherous man. He stomps on the man’s crotch and splits his legs so wide, his pants tear. As if Mohan G doesn’t trust your imagination, he shows you the pants tear in the middle. More such murders follow.
On a parallel track, Arul Varman (Nataraja Subramanian), an ex-serviceman is investigating the suicide of his niece. He discovers a sexual abuse and forced prostitution ring, which brings him to cross paths with Bimarasu. And then how the two men perpetuate and celebrate murderous violence makes the rest of the film.
Like the entirety of Mohan G’s work, politically, Bakasuran is a regressive film with the pretence of progressiveness. For instance, all women with bare minimum scenes either disappear or die very soon. Their mothers just wail. An inspector (an earnest Devadarshini) is transferred. The film doesn’t want any of these women to have even a sense of curiosity to discover the world around them, forget agency. Mohan G decides what ‘ozhungu’ (rightness) means and the women are expected to follow. Else, they die. An adult is so scared of a short video of her kissing her boyfriend being leaked that she falls into blackmail and kills herself later.
Yet, the film wants us to believe that all parents unilaterally want good for their children. That being transparent with parents about sexual harassment at workplace/university won’t cut short their dreams (though that’s exactly what happens in the film). As audience, you’re just expected to be glad that the father didn’t kill the daughter to protect his honour!
Without empathy for women’s lived experiences — and with an unnatural focus on the maanam of women, family, community and culture — Bakasuran is painfully acrid. To say nothing of the titillating item song! The entire film plays like a mad king violently establishing his new order. Even beyond the women’s angle, the film’s politics are clear as day.
The good people are believers, complete with rudraksha necklaces, saffron outfits and vibuthi (sacred ash), for good measure. One pimp is a fraud Hindu, who admits to wearing kunkumam only for show. The rationalist is a hypocrite. And the other pimp is a sleeveless-bloused, sunglass-wearing, smoking woman with short coloured hair. The only thing left is to call her Rita or something! At one point, Bimarasu claims that people in Pondicherry and Chennai live like Westerners, so his daughter should study closer to the village. Then, of course, there is the Mahabharata angle, but by now, I’m bored.
More than being inept, Bakasuran is harmful because it is clearly a message padam. Throughout the film, there’s exposition. In the end, there is a direct advice for parents to increase surveillance on their children — read: daughters — to protect them from sexual harassment.
The problem is that this message is victim-blaming, regressive and patriarchal. It only works to further lock up women in the name of honour and pride, relegating them to second-class citizens. And it uses society’s most potent weapon to achieve this goal: Family.
Mohan G is many things, but no one can blame him of being discreet. Because just for those of us who were wondering who the Bakasuran here is, he explains in the epilogue. It would be unprofessional of me to give away such a huge spoiler here. You'll have to watch the movie yourself. I'm sorry in advance if you do.