Lokesh Kanagaraj, who has lately crafted some of the finest action characters in LCU, falls short of delivering worthy women characters
A few days ago, Tamil actor Mansoor Ali Khan, who starred in Lokesh Kanagaraj’s Leo that is set to release on Netflix soon, made objectionable comments about his co-star Trisha Krishnan. The actor’s repulsive comments that include rape jokes and him hoping there that his character “had a bedroom scene” with the actress, have already drawn the ire of many on social media as well as the women in the film industry.
His statements also represent the visible imbalance in an industry that hails its male superstars, but don’t really credit their female counterparts. This rings true even for the much-celebrated franchise, the so-called Lokesh Cinematic Universe, that both Trisha and Mansoor are part of, unfortunately.
Even as Lokesh is lauded for creating fierce and formidable action heroes with a moral cause of fighting wars against dangerous drug cartels, there’s a worrying trend that some of its heroes might not be addressing.
In the violent world of LCU, where testosterone-driven action takes centre stage, there’s an aspect that seems to be left in the shadows - the women characters. There have hardly been any female characters in LCU, who are remembered as much as its male protagonists and antagonists.
Here’s why we think the director has failed the Bechdel test to represent women in his popular film franchise.
Potential female character meets her ultimate fate in less than five minutes
From Kaithi and Vikram to Leo, one could only think of the fierce yet terrific intros of the male leads. In Vikram, the sole prominent female character (Agent Tina) makes a brief appearance in the movie, lasting only five minutes. It is almost as if the female characters are killed off solely to push the narrative forward. Imagine introducing characters such as Agent Tina (Vasanthi) and Elisa Das (Madonna Sebastian), but for a five-minute onscreen appearance and killing them off?
As the Leo director creates a multi-starrer action franchise with characters like Vikram (Kamal Haasan), Agent Amar (Fahadh Faasil), Dilli (Karthi) and Leo Das (Vijay), it becomes evident that the female characters in Lokesh’s films often find themselves add ons of the narrative. The latest female member to meet this fate is Leo’s twin Elisa Das in Leo.
In the flashback sequences of the film, Elisa and Leo teaming up against their father was one of the most captivating plotlines everybody was looking forward to. Finally, just when we anticipated a possible emergence of a memorable female character amidst the male heroes, Lokesh shattered those expectations, only to disappoint us by killing her off for a bizarre plotline. The audience is left yearning to understand what makes her as important as her twin Leo.
Breaking down the loopholes with female characters in LCU
When we dive into the films under LCU - Kaithi, for instance - we do understand the reason for the lack of female presence in Lokesh’s film. In the Karthi starrer, one can easily argue that there wasn’t a need for a female protagonist and that the film did justice with the exciting characters itself. However, one could raise an objection as besides the occasional appearances of the parole officer or the college student, there is a huge void in the portrayal of female characters in the movie.
In Vikram, however, we get to see a few unforgettable female characters - such as Agent Tina (Vasanthi), Maya (Maya) and Gayathri. That said, even the memorable characters do offer any depth to the story. As much as Agent Tina’s identity revealing scene was truly an exciting scene to watch on the big screens, the fate of the character leaves yet another Lokesh Kanagraj female character underexplored. Gayathri, on the other hand, is hardly present, except for being introduced as Amar’s girlfriend. Although, it is said in the film that they knew each other from their childhood, her character meets her ultimate fate even before the audience could connect with her.
In Leo, Satya (Trisha) we get to see a female character who does not meet the usual fate as other female characters of the LCU franchise. However, her presence is nothing short of a soft, harmonic wife who has to wait till her son and husband arrive to save her from danger. Similarly, Priya Anand’s character goes by as a passing cloud, as she too meets the same fate as every cop wife (like Amar’s girlfriend, Gayathrie) of LCU. She has little to no significance in the film other than being introduced as the wife of Gautham Vasudevan Menon and her ultimate departure.
Can fan theories give hope for a change?
Now, most potential female characters of the LCU franchise are dead, with only Satya left behind. Although Sathya’s transformation story is under the wraps, there are several LCU theories going around stating her connection with Karthi and the Sathyamangalam orphanage, with many pointing that she could be part of Dilli’s agents. And if these fan theories are to be true, one can hope for a well-written female character in the upcoming sequels from Lokesh’s cinematic world.
As audiences eagerly anticipate the next sequels like Rolex and Kaithi 2, the hope lingers for Lokesh to create a storyline (not forced, definitely) where women are not merely fillers, but have worthy representation and contribute to the storyline, adding depth to their presence in the film.