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Actress Sai Pallavi Talks About How Women Are Always Defined By Their Relationships. And That Is Patriarchy

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Lately, I have been just observing the patriarchal mindsets of people when they act so nonchalant about implying that a woman must get married and be taken under the wing of a man. I lost my phone and as I sat to file a complaint, even there they insisted I tell them either my husband’s or dad’s name. Considering I have no husband and I couldn’t just put ‘Banana hammock’ as my middle name, I had to use my father’s. No, they didn’t ask for my mother’s name even though she is the one that birthed me. In fact, my recent interactions with two women my age, both independent and smart working professionals revealed a very problematic attitude about gender roles in our culture. Womens’ identities have been attached to their relationships and that is troublesome.

Yes, I am aware that patriarchy exists. But it makes me uncomfortable when young women just give their tired resignation to the norms and accept that this is how it is. One of them has been pushing me to get married as if without a husband I have no social status. Another woman who just got married has been telling me that these sexist things WILL happen and she just accepted it. When I told her I am scared of those things, she was confused and asked what am I even looking for in marriage?

Somehow a woman who knows what she brings to the table (not dinner while the men eat!) is seen as difficult to wed. A woman who knows she is a whole unit by herself and doesn’t need a man is perceived as one with too much pride. Honestly, at this point, if someone who acts like a sanskaar custodian calls me wife material, I will be hurt. Because for them, “wife material” means ‘willing to let go of her identity and to be known only her relationships’.

The world is unfair. Paava Kadhaigal is a Netflix Tamil anthology that throws light on the discrimination in our culture based on gender and caste. There are four films in the anthology and actress Sai Pallavi plays the lead in one them, Oor Iravu in which she plays the role of a pregnant woman who gets killed by her father for having eloped with a Dalit man.

The film’s plot is disturbing, to say the least. In fact, after Anushka Sharma’s NH10, this is the most bone-chilling story in recent times – scarier because it maybe fictional but these things happen in real life. Honour killings are quite prevalent in India and it must be such a sick feeling to battle fear and betrayal at the same time.

“I’m torn between the fact that I’m the child talking to my father but now there’s a baby inside me to whom I’m answerable. I cried so much…there’s this dialogue where I say that in the yoga class, they said that whatever the mom feels, the baby also feels. And that I’m now feeling scared and I don’t know how to tell my baby not to feel scared and that I’m there. That scene was too hard for me. I came there because I always wanted my family to take me in and when they did, I was betrayed. Not only did that hit hard, I have now put my baby in a spot. How did I trust them, why did I let my kid down? That conflict shook me,” Pallavi recalls in an interview with The News Minute.

Pallavi herself belongs to the Badaga community and she said that women who marry outside their community are given a harder time compared to the men who do the same. “When we talk about a girl marrying out of her community, it is made to look like she will marry that guy and take upon his community name and have those babies. So anytime a girl goes out of the community, it is frowned upon more than a guy doing so. If a girl marries out of her community, it means that she will take his name, fit into his community and their children will also belong to that community. It needn’t be that way; their children can grow up with both identities but it’s not seen like that,” she said.

Why is a woman treated like property? Right from the start, she is seen as a daughter who will have to do anything to not bring shame to the family. The family will then carefully export her to a family of their choice and from there on, she will have to take on to the man’s culture and lifestyle. She leaves her identity behind, often changes her name and surname and becomes a refurbished model of whatever product she is. Now she is someone’s wife, someone’s bahu, someone’s mother. All our lives, when are we seen as a whole unit by ourselves?

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In fact, in the film she maybe expected to feel guilty for her siblings suffering due to her decision of eloping with a Dalit guy. But the cruelty is done by her father. Why should she be apologetic about making her own life choices? “It’s not wrong because all of us will feel like that when we hurt someone intentionally or unintentionally. It’s her loved ones, her brother and sisters, who have to face the consequences for a decision that she took. But I personally didn’t want to put that bit of guilt there because my character is surprised that her dad would even do something like that. I’m unaware that he has done this and when I realise it, I tell him that I will take care of my sisters. It wasn’t something we put down on paper though,” Pallavi said. In the end, a daughter and a mother dies. Even while being at the receiving end of things, her character is feeling guilt and shame. “Yes, because she ran away a long time ago but it’s when she is going to have the Dalit man’s child that things happen. I feel sad that a woman should always be some man’s daughter, girlfriend, wife. Why can’t a woman exist as herself?” Pallavi expressed.

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