Published: 27th July 2020
Check out how this Coimbatore woman is introducing people to gender politics
Twenty three-year-old Sneha Belcin is bringing academic gender terminologies to the mainstream Tamil audience through her videos on Neelam's YouTube channel
Be wife, they said. Be embroiderer, be cook,
Be a quarreller with servants. Fit in. Oh,
Belong, cried the categorizers. Don't sit
On walls or peep in through our lace-draped windows.
These lines from Kamala Das’ An Introduction highlights how deep-rooted and prevalent patriarchy is in the society. The title of her most famous work aptly summarises what she aims to impart to her readers — an introduction into her world, into patriarchy and into the lives of women at that time. Using a very different medium — YouTube — Coimbatore’s Sneha Belcin seeks to do something similar. In her video series on Neelam’s YouTube channel, a subsidiary of Neelam Productions, she is talking about gender issues, feminism, patriarchy and a whole bunch of related terms which, she feels, remain restricted to the academic echelons and textbooks. Titled Munnurai, which is the Tamil word for introduction, Sneha speaks to the local audience in Tamil, seeking to introduce them to these complicated, academic terminologies.
Till now, Sneha has released nine videos on a myriad of topics — from male gaze to toxic masculinity, from mansplaining to misogyny — that aren’t really discussed openly in regular conversation. “The aim is to create awareness and get these topics out of textbooks and academic circles and into people’s everyday vocabulary and arguments,” says Sneha, adding, “That’s why we decided to call it Munnurai. It is aimed at introducing the Tamil audience to these issues and it is up to them how they deal with it.” The series began shooting in March and has been shot at Sneha’s house during the lockdown. Pitched by the Neelam channel, Munnurai has been planned as a series of 30 episodes, covering multiple topics. Neelam’s YouTube channel was founded by Director Pa Ranjith, who helmed films like Kaala and Kabali.
Speaking about how she got the position, Sneha says, “Someone suggested my name to the channel. I was working as a journalist at the time and wrote about feminism and gender issues. I think that is what led them to select me for these videos.” Sneha now works as a freelancer for several news websites. Regarding the shooting experience, the 23-year-old says, “We borrowed a professional camera from our friends and my husband shot the whole thing. While the first few videos were edited by Neelam, I worked on the other videos,” recalls Sneha who mostly uploads one episode per week. “To make my content more relatable, I cite examples from cinema and also from real-life situations. When I spoke about patriarchy, I referred to how the male child is given more preference over the female child in several households,” says Sneha, who is a Mass Media graduate from the University of Mumbai. Sneha, however, regrets using Hollywood-based examples in some of her videos. Like in the video about male gaze, she talks about how female superheroes in DC and Marvel movies are scantily clad to appeal to men. “I could have used Tamil cinema as an example but I found memes and other content readily available for Hollywood movies. It was just more accessible to me,” she says.