Heroes are perfect. Heroes are saviours. Heroes are unblemished.
Such a hero, unfortunately, doesn’t exist.
In the above context of highlighting the grey areas of humanity, I am not seeking to justify the actions of Kevin Spacey or Harvey Weinstein or a dozen other people accused of socially obnoxious behaviour. The aim is limited to analyse the impact of a real-life deed on the reel life screen. The aim is not to convince you to realign your moral standpoint. The aim is to point out the gullibility of the subjective nature of human morality on various issues. In the process, there is a huge probability of increased disagreement. Chances suggest that there could even be a vehement condemnation of my expositions.
Verbal Kint masterfully deceives the cop in a very delightful fashion exactly the same way in which Kevin Spacey has deceived us over the years. But then, upon deep introspection, do you believe that it is necessary to juxtapose the personality of Kevin Spacey and Verbal Kint, or say John Doe (Se7en), or Lester Burnham (American Beauty)? Is it even sane to compare the characters on a level pedestal especially when we are hell-bent on distinguishing the reel life from the real life in quite a number of scenarios that are offered to us?
In fact, there is no clarity in our linkages to cinema and reality. It is more a matter of personal convenience. We wish to see feminism in period dramas featuring kings simply because of the fact that we are exposed to feminism today. We glorify heroes who spew tantrums at the regressive mechanisms of the government, unmindful of the fact that the movie was terrible otherwise. A woman who abhors her husband’s chauvinistic nature continues to hold on to the relationship for the sake of her child. Yet, an abusive relationship on screen is a problem for her. It is a page from the textbooks of retrogression. It is immaterial that she has accepted it as her contemporary reality. We turn to cinema to offer solutions to contemporary problems. An employee who hates his job wants to witness the success story of a person who quits his job to travel the world. A portrayal of the reality where the EMI bill beckons is unacceptable. An escapism of sorts?
Yet, when the cinema goes overboard, we despise the movie. We criticize the lack of reality. Or rather, it is better to say that we condemn the lack of our perceived reality. The canvas is looked upon as a reflection of the utopian existence we have imagined. Any digression is unacceptable.
Great filmmakers have obviated the need to fit into the utopian vision of the masses. They seek to tell their unfiltered story and in the process, they cement their position as visionaries. Mani Rathnam made a very beautiful statement in response to why Kannathil Muthamittal didn’t propose a solution to the plight of Tamils. He said that his story was about the union of the girl with her mother. The issue is only the premise of his story. The issue isn’t the subject matter of his story.
The hope to see our perceived vision on-screen slowly seeps its way off-screen. We wish to see actors who are messiahs. Actors who seek to stand up for the public. Actors who act as wheelchairs to our disabilities. The seepage is so deep that the real-life personality of the actor is onus enough to substitute for his on-screen disability. There are so many actors that I don’t want to name who are needlessly glorified despite incorrigible movies simply because of the fact that he or she is an off-screen darling. If you find yourself nodding to this statement, the truth must be clear to you. There is a very strong boundary separating an on-screen hero from an off-screen one. It is time we build firm walls to distinguish the same.
One more issue I would like to highlight is the increased subjectivity in the weights we give to off-screen heroism or villainy. We look down upon someone with disdain when he says that he boycotts Kamal Hassan movies because Kamal is an atheist. We ask him to grow up and learn to admire the actor in Kamal Hassan. Yet, today we find ourselves despising and boycotting Kevin Spacey. The maturity that we once preached has deserted us in the time of need. We should either develop the maturity to keep the real life personality aside or inculcate a higher level of acceptance for difference of opinions when it comes to morality.
The above irony reminds me of a legendary statement by Sivaji Ganesan in Devar Magan.
“Iniku Inga Kevin spacey aa edhukira payalugalaam yaaru?