I feel quite like an hypocrite when I claim to talk for how women feel indignant about the way they’ve been treated and continued to be treated today everywhere around us. I feel so; because I’m a by-product of the very same society that indulges in the continued denial of their truest identity which if you analyze closely has always been through the male gaze. I will never truly & completely know how women feel. I only know what I’ve been told.
When I was around 6yrs old, my father got us this Malayalam film Manichitrathazhu [The Ornate Lock 1993] on a VHS tape. Somehow everything you see when you’re so little leaves you with ten times the effect it was intended for. I never saw this film again till I’d stepped into adulthood. But I always remembered this film and one particular scene from it.
The film is a psychological thriller about a young married couple [Shobana & Suresh Gopi] who shift base to stay at his ancestral home. The past events & secrets of the age-old house unfolds and it turns into a gripping narrative about a vengeful soul of a Bharatnatyam dancer Nagavalli who lived in that same house, years ago. Towards the end of the film, Dr. Sunny [Mohanlal] tells Nakulan [Suresh] that Ganga [Shobana] must stay at home during a particular pre-planned outing.
When Nakulan conveys this to Ganga, something changes within her and the alter ego of Nagavalli makes its first public appearance through her. This is that scene which stayed engraved in my mind from childhood. Shobana does a brilliant job of smoothly transcending the character of Ganga to Nagavalli. Her quiet demure changes to a volatile being and she starts talking in a flawless Tamizh and she asks, ‘Vidamatten?’ which basically means ‘I can’t leave?’
Vidamatten T-shirt concept is about the woman questioning the boundaries drawn around her. How she’s had, had enough of being told to do when and where she can go. How her life is someone else’s prerogative. But my intention isn’t to associate a woman who is finally had it enough to a vengeful-soul residing in a woman who is having a mental breakdown.
But the imagery that Shobana depicts through her body language, I couldn’t depart from it. It is an anguish filled woman rejecting any and all oppression imposed on her. I’ve only seen that once before in my life and she looked pretty much the same.
The style was intended to be kept along the lines of Obama’s Hope Poster. But as I worked on this piece, it evolved into something on its own though it still might look somewhat similar.
Keeping the Tamizh text ‘Vidamatten?’ is something I owe to the film, Shobana & that scene. If Kolaveri Di made it to Australia & US then language barrier will never be the reason for the ‘Vidamatten?’ to not connect with the people.
I hope this image stays in the minds of the people who get a chance to see this film. For if you do, you’ll understand why Shobana received the National Award for Best Actress for portraying Ganga.
"I did this particular concept which I am so unsure about it's reception with the crowd, for one simple reason. I feel, as a man it is my responsibility to improve myself and as an artist it is my obligation to help the society correct it's course when it falters."