Akhila Vasan made sure I saw this film. Akhila works for an NGO called the FRHS and has been involved in primarily research studies with young people on gender, sexuality and popular media. Akhila has been part of Blank Noise since 2005/2006
She writes about Prema Loka, a film made in the late 80's:
Prema Loka was a huge hit and inspired many a real life love stories. It was perhaps the first time that an actress was ‘imported’ from the Bombay film industry who wore ‘bold dresses’ with a kind of casual nonchalance.
This was a time when there was a crucial change in mainstream ‘good and chaste’ heroine and ‘club- dancing’ vamp morphed into one in mainstream movies. The female lead now was both the vamp and the ‘good’ woman - she wriggled and writhed on the dance floor on some pretext while being the ideal ‘bahu’ or the wifely material on the other.
Prema Loka became popular for its several nearly explicit kissing scenes. However it is the songs that continue to hold sway over the public even today. With this film, ‘crazy star’ Ravichandran created a niche for himself as someone who made ‘sexy films’.
In this clip the heroine is introduced to the audience for the first time. And it is not surprising that she is reduced to several body parts- hips, lips, breasts….. the lyrics of the song is a description of these various body parts, comparing them to different things- vegetables, fruits - much like the food list here on the blog- a girl like nimbu, lips like tondehannu, breasts like balloon… legs like bale dindu (banana stem)… something that is to be consumed…. And that is what the camera does… titillate and tantalise them with close- up visuals of the woman’s breast, lips, waist and hips.
The men in the song say they are happy to give away things for free to the woman….. because they have already got their money’s worth of ‘free show’.
The song is replete with sexual innuendo…. The first line of the song goes somewhat like this:
Here comes a girl looking like a lemon, hey baalu ……
By ‘Baalu’ one is supposedly referring to one of the men there but the visual shows a man squeezing balloons and in Kannada the English word ‘ball’ is pronounced as ‘baalu’.
We showed this clip to a group of young college –going men and women in a peri- urban town. Girls were outraged that a girl could walk around a local market dressed like that. And they were quick to distance themselves from her and turn her into the ‘other’- she was the typical rich, spoilt girl from a place like Bangalore where such things are ‘common’… she was the kind who likes to attract boys’ attention…. With a bad reputation…. She was also a threat to girls like themselves….
Boys’ response also focussed on the girl and made her responsible for the kind of attention she was attracting in the clip:
‘What do you expect if you wear tundu batte (tattered clothes) like that?’
‘She wants boys to tease her. That is why she is dressed like that?’
Some even unabashedly shared what they felt like:
‘I feel like raping her with my eyes’