It isn’t Pride Month, yet we have new a queer music video doing the rounds – what a pleasant surprise! Better still, this features a lesbian storyline, probably the first of its kind for the Tamil audience! Hence it was only natural for me to watch it with trepidation, given my experience with being queer-baited. Fortunately, I wasn’t entirely disappointed.
Magizhini which roughly translates to “happy woman” in Tamil is a music video penned by Madhan Karky and composed by Govinda Vasantha (of ’96 fame) starring Gouri Kishan and Anagha. It talks about the celebration of the lesbian spectrum, coming out struggles and acceptance, and reclaiming space and visibility in a society that has long ostracized queer identities (Editor’s Note: One wonders why the lyricist and music director weren’t queer folx or women as well, nonetheless!). This has been beautifully presented through poignant lyrics and visually-appealing aesthetics that go hand-in-hand throughout the entire 6 ½ minutes.
The video starts on a sombre note as two older people anxiously wait. The video then cuts to one of the protagonists glumly staring at herself in the mirror backstage only to be joined by her partner who lays a supporting hand on her shoulder while mirroring the former’s emotion. We are then taken to the past to see how the protagonists met and their journey since.
In the flashback, the two women are assigned as dance partners through a random lottery pick and this subtly hints that sexuality is not a choice and who we get attracted or fall in love with is pre-destined. While the women enjoy their budding relationship, like any queer person in these times of erasure, they begin to second-guess themselves and look for resources to assure them that they are more people out there with similar lived experiences and what they are feeling isn’t “unnatural”. The lyrics also emote this by showing elements of nature as characters that applaud and dance along with the women.
What stands out in the portrayal of their WLW romance is that the directors have kept it free from the male gaze, without fetishizing the actors. My aro-ace colleague Pavithra too felt that the intimate interactions have been handled with subtlety – for instance, the actors aren’t shown kissing (except one another’s hands, affectionately) – and it was refreshing to watch the organic nature of their relationship. This deserves credit because lesbian romance has often been hyper-sexualized on-screen.
Coming out is no easy process and for queer women, it intersects with other hurdles associated with their gender. One of the main challenges is alienation or even abuse by family, often leading them to leave their homes and fend for themselves. The very patriarchal society which prohibits women’s freedom and independence forces her to face the demons it has created. The video doesn’t miss the opportunity to highlight this. Without a doubt, this part of the song evokes strong emotion among its queer viewers.
The song climaxes with a powerful dance performance by the two women exuding pride and courage about who they are and who they are with; the sentiments are inscribed in their every move and expression, with the world watching them on stage. It ends on a hopeful note that change is slow but sure by depicting that though the parents are still reluctant, they have accepted their daughter back into the household. The viewers cling to hope as they see the two protagonists ride away on their journey together, into the metaphorical sunset.
Despite this being a beautifully put-together piece of art, this was a missed opportunity yet again to platform artists from the queer community. With enough backing on the creative and promotional front, there sure could have been room for casting a queer person as atleast one of the lead actors. Also, the video caters to a certain class-caste position – from Bharatnatyam to the skin tone of the dancers – with its associated privileges that has a huge influence on the dialogue around queer issues. While the lyrics have stood out elegantly for most of the song, lines such as Jaadhi Madha Niram Kadandha Ikkaadhal (roughly translate to love does not see caste, community or skin colour)and Kaalam Nammai Ondru Serthadhae Andha Azhagu Nodi Yendhan Vazhkai Muzhumaiyaanadhadi (when stars align and help us meet ‘the one’, then fulfilment is in spending our lives together), like rightly pointed out by Pavithra,it sort of confines queer relationships into the heteronormative narratives caste, religion and skin colour being the only barriers in human interaction and that finding a partner being the ultimate life purpose. Lastly, though I appreciate the intention behind captioning this video with “Not Our Fault” to make it seem that sexuality is not a choice, but it seemed patronizing to me as it’s 2021 and the queer community is not looking for sympathy. Rather, we would appreciate greater visibility and space on the main stage.
With Magizhini garnering over 1M views within two days of its release and the response being largely favourable, this indeed is a positive sign of changing public perspective that can get the conversation flowing around feminist issues in a society that is still quick to moral police while curtailing freedom &individuality.