Published: 31st October 2019
Slow Clap: Why every woman needs to take notes from Vijay's f-lockbuster
Women will tear up. Men will gear up. But Bigil will just make you hang up. What more do you need to understand women's lib?
Just before Bigil's credits began to roll there was this very emphatic text slide that flashed 'Dedicated to all women'. It was meant to be one of those moments. The kind where men smiled compassionately, women teared up unabashedly and people stood around the theatre wondering if PVR was going to play the national anthem again.
If this isn't How To Respect Womenkind 101, then I honestly don't know what is. Seriously. How much more can Atlee do? Does he have to make SRK play a woman in his next movie to prove to you that
a) he didn't watch Mrs Doubtfire
b) women >>> respect
c) haters gonna hate, meme makers gonna meme
The facts are, of course, indisputable. Bigil is so much about women's lib that for every ten posters of Vijay, there was a bare minimum of one where the women's football team he coaches gets to stand behind him. In shorts. Red shorts. How much more women's lib can it get? Honestly, when you think of the people calling it a sham of a movie that glorified Vijay, are they even stretching their brains to look beyond him and his (foot)balls?
Secondly, and more importantly, the very fact that Vijay was the saviour-cum-coach-cum-godfather-cum-secret santa-cum-anna character to a football team full of girls shows that they made a choice. They chose women. Over men. Men's football, that is. Which is any day more popular. Not cricket-popular, but at least people take free passes and fill up stadiums when the ISL is on. They may have picked cricket, which people actually pay to watch in India, but that dratted Arunraja Kamaraj went and made Kanaa and too many people saw it in the four weeks it stayed in theatres. So, yeah. Football it was.
People may say that Vijay is shown as superior when he singlehandedly scores three goals against his ten member team — there's even a part of this testosterone-filled exercise when he does it with his eyes covered. Twitterati have found a suspiciously similar video online, which leads me to believe someone leaked that scene from the Bigil sets and some shady Hollywood director copied it quickly — but that is far from the truth. By showing that he was superior in ability to his entire team he was merely proving to the girls that even if you're Messi, your guru is God. And trying to beat him is against the tenets of Indian parampara. It also teaches you that the path to failure is preceded by crushingly, humiliating failure. If that doesn't fire up a woman to rise like a broken back Bruce Wayne in a deep hole, nothing will.
There's also been a lot of unfair criticism of Vijay for body-shaming a rather large member of his team into getting so angry she knocks the opposition flat and brings her team back from the VFX enhanced green abyss. This is what I have to say to all those haters. Life is always better when you score. Think carefully. Didn't the girl look more happy than she had through the three-hour-long saga? You see it now, don't you? Also, if you score and it's the good stuff, the body shaming will float right over you anyway.
And just in case you're not convinced that Vijay is indeed that best thing that happened to women's football in India, here's the clincher: When you have a star player who's been married off (to an IIT graduate who looks like he's had too much Narasu's Coffee) and is confined to the house because women in their household only make filter coffee and wear saris, Vijay doesn't go all out and beat the man into sending his wife to the ground in shorts. He does the respectable thing. He uses dialogue. He uses diplomacy. He uses AR Rahman's background score. He uses Nayanthara. He uses glycerine sans mascara. He tires Mr IIT out into bringing his wife to the football ground. If that's not the way to show how much you respect women — by pleading with their family to allow them to kick a ball or two — I don't know what is.
If you still don't believe me and think that there's too much Vijay in Bigil, then all I can tell you is this: Your mother is a woman too. What does that have to do with anything? No clue. But every time someone uses it in Indian cinema, hardened villains melt into puddles of jelly and various versions of 'maa' emanate from the beings. Always works.
Post script: The woman I had dragged to the theatre to watch it at 9 am in the morning didn't look pleased, despite that lovely dedication and the patriotic music. She looked like someone who'd endured three hours in an iron maiden. Sigh.
(The writer has never played football nor has he made a film with Vijay. With the way things are going it is highly unlikely that he will do either in this life. Or the next. He also thinks they should make Bigil a trilogy and allow Vijay to coach a team of struggling lemon and spoon players. Sylvester Stallone will no doubt want a piece of that action soon)