‘I am my Own Hero’
In a quiet train station in Chennai, the golden couple of old Tamil cinema, Sivaji and Padmini, emerge out of an ocean of jasmine flowers.
Adorned with all the markings of a warrior, Sivaji moves towards her, ready to save her, and sweep her away into his arms.
But today, Padmini, is no damsel in distress. Dressed in vines and petals, she gently pushes back and assures him: “I am my own hero”.
We are only too familiar with the archetypes that dominate Indian cinema -- the infallible hero, the coy virginal goddess, ‘the chase’, a scene where he must save her (usually from other men threatening to outrage her modesty), the fetishising of rape. Usually, the love story finds its resolution in a strange dynamic between the questions of possession and consent.
The Chennai wall was am artistic collaboration between cinema-hoarding painter M.P.Dakshna and Shilo Shiv Suleman of the Fearless Collective, for Street Art Chennai. It was conceptualized through a workshop on Gender and Consent in Tamil cinema, conducted by the Fearless team with a cross section of people across Chennai. Through the workshop, the posters produced and this final mural, we hoped to use iconic cinematic imagery to retell the stories, recast the roles, and reclaim the streets.
Special thanks: to Dakshna and his team for the collaboration, Gayatri Nair who assisted me and was my hero for the week, Aarthi Parthasarathy and Aruna Chandrashekar for co-hosting the workshop, Georg for patiently handling all logistics in the context, Axel Void for endless advice and care, Geetha and Samyuktha, Helmut and the Goethe Institut, Shyaam, Kaushik for this photograph and all the friends who came to the workshop, and helped with painting, translations and more.