20 years of Minnale: How does the Madhavan-Reema-Abbas romance hold up in a more woke era?

Kuzhali Manickavel
·3-min read

'Allegedly Problematic' is a monthly column by Kuzhali Manickavel, which takes a cheeky look at literary/cultural offerings from the past that would now be considered, well, problematic €" and asks, 'But are they really?'.

Read more from the series here.

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Greetings fam! It is a new year! And what better way to start things off than by yelling at something from a long time ago! Today, I want to talk about a movie from my youth-time in Chennai. Specifically, the study holidays of 2001. Fam, those were fun days. There was no water in my hostel. The drinking water made us thirsty. It was really, really, really, really hot. And during that time, one of the most coveted things in our hostel was the audio cassette from a movie called Minnale.

Minnale always seemed like a posh movie to me. I am also someone who thought Monisha En Monalisa was posh, so there is that. But in many ways, these two movies seemed to have a lot in common. They both had moustache-less heroes, they both had lots of English and they both featured computers, cell phones and foreign travel on airplanes. They were like James Bond movies except they were totally not like James Bond movies also.

We were all obsessed with Minnale; girls made unnecessarily elaborate plans to bunk college so they could see it. We choreographed Farewell Day dances to Minnale songs. Some of the bolder girls cut Madhavan's picture out of the newspaper and in a fit of reckless abandon, stuck it to the inside of their cupboard. I remember people talking about how, unlike so many other Tamil movies, this was a 'decent' movie. For instance, there was no unnecessary rape of women, as opposed to the necessary rape of women. Others claimed that Minnale was a decent movie because it featured educated people and little to no farm animals. Apart from all that, Minnale's music was bop and Vivek's comedy was Vivek's comedy. I mean, who wouldn't like a movie like this?? Antinational elements, that's who.

I don't remember anyone ever saying Minnale was problematic either. It seemed to be one of those progressive, liberal movies that were just a hop, skip and a jump away from being an outright feminist treatise in English. There was a good chance we would see things like men cooking or women riding Scootys in it. But we were modern girls. We had handbags. Some of us even had sunglasses. We were ready for this kind of cutting edge cinema.

Now I say all this as someone who hasn't actually watched Minnale. I know, right? I was definitely awash in all things Minnale at the time, but my cheap face could not bring itself to actually spend all my rupees to watch it. I feel like this was a movie about love failure? Or like a dude falling for a girl but something happens? I strongly feel it's something like that.

And so, the time has come for me to finally watch Minnale! I am a little excite fam. I am also securely clutching my pearls, just in case any untoward, problematic behaviour happens. I'm not sure it will though. Please read the next column anyway!

Kuzhali Manickavel is the author of the short story collections 'Insects Are Just like You and Me except Some of Them Have Wings' and 'Things We Found During the Autopsy', both available from Blaft Publications

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