Tamil movie raises ire after insensitive dialogue

EASY to woo. Party goers who like clubs, lipstick and perfume.

These sweeping comments about Singapore women made in Tamil movie Kan Pesum Varthaigal (roughly translated as Words That The Eyes Speak) raised the ire of some Vasantham viewers after it was aired on the TV channel last Friday.

Viewers took offence with the dialogue between two male characters, saying it was demeaning towards local women.

The pair said that Singapore women were "easy to woo" since they like lipstick and perfume, and like going to parties and clubs, before going on to say girls from India "like to go to the temple", "like flowers" and "adorning the holy saffron".

Local stand-up comedienne Sharul Channa, 27, slammed the script and its implied stereotypes.

"Just because we like lipsticks and perfume, we are loose women? It's worse because not only are our local women stereotyped, so are women in India," she said.

But Miss Channa refused to get mad.


"This allows for a platform for discussion to set things straight. All Indian women are beautiful and a good balance of traditional and modern and they should be aware of that," she said, adding that the film's scriptwriter has "clearly never been to a temple in Singapore, maybe only clubs".

Viewer G. Shanker, 44, who is in the manpower supply industry, stood up for local women and said that the dialogue "portrayed Singapore women as cheap".

He added that the matter should be referred to the Media Development Authority (MDA).

Kan Pesum Varthaigal is a 2013 directorial debut by Indian director R. Balaji. The script was a collaboration between Mr Balaji and producer R. Saravana Kumar.

In the film, Mahesh (played by Indian actor-host Mirchi Senthil) tries to change his irresponsible ways and searches for a job in Singapore following his father's suicide attempt.

Most of the filming took place in Singapore and featured familiar spots like Orchard Road, Clarke Quay and Little India.

It also stars Vasantham artists Vishnu M. Anandh, Kathiravan Kadavelu, James Durairaj and the late Kanniga Philips.

MediaCorp Vasantham apologised in a Facebook post last Saturday for "the offensive dialogues" in the movie and said it was "looking into the matter".

Its programming director Thilagaraja Manickam told The New Paper in a statement: "Unfortunately, it had a scene with dialogue that carried derogatory references to women. We apologise for the tasteless humour which several viewers, understandably, found offensive. On hindsight, we should have edited the offensive scene for general viewing."

MDA does not pre-vet free-to-air content on TV, but broadcasters have to ensure their content meet community standards and are in line with the Free-to-Air TV Programme Code.

An MDA spokesman said it is "aware of public feedback on the programme and we are looking into the matter".


This article was first published on August 15, 2014.
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