90ML: Little finesse, but a film that needs to be protected nevertheless

The trailer of 90ML had caused quite some furore on social media (for what it’s worth). People were mostly upset about the ‘crass innuendoes’, of all the ‘debauchery’. It’s hard not to notice that many of those outraging didn’t seem to have found our recent trend of brodeo adult comedies (perhaps I should use that last word in single quotes) too problematic. This isn’t as much an exercise in whataboutery as it is about wondering why the reactions are as polarised. Are the protesters angry about the intoxication and innuendoes on screen, or are they angry about women being shown to partake? The latter makes me want to defend this film, to rally for it. The more audience in my theatre insulted those women on screen for doing what men on screen have done for decades, the more I felt protective about Azhagiya Asura’s 90ML. The film’s arguing that women be free to lead their lives, make their choices, and without judgment. Does this mean mistaken choices too? Damn right, it does. Does 90ML feel a bit too simplistically propagandist? Does it seem a bit too far-fetched that a group of women, who have never tried alcohol before, go as wild on their first night together? Yes, and yes, but its faults don’t concern any danger it poses to society. 90ML, its title notwithstanding, isn’t about women being lured into alcoholism; these women only meet once every few months, after all. All the outraging makes you wonder how our society would react should we make a woman the protagonist in a film like Dev D90ML isn’t great cinema, sure, but it’s still far better than some of our recent adult comedies, if only because you see it from the perspective of women.

Director: Azhagiya Asura

Cast: Oviyaa, Anson Paul, Masoom Shankar, Monisha Ram, Shree Gopika, Bommu Lakshmi

It’s a film about a woman of action, quite appropriately named Rita (in keeping with the 1970 film, Revolver Reeta, I imagine). It’s the sort of name we have typically given dispensable, negative female characters in cinema whose job has been mainly to titillate. In the 1970 film, a woman seeks revenge against a group of men who murder her family; here too, it’s about a woman who charges at men, specifically those who won’t let her — or other women — live the way they want. Refreshingly, she’s got no traumatic past that’s made her this way. The shaping of her character is quite in keeping with the strengths of the Bigg Boss Oviyaa we became familiar with and liked (her Bigg Boss punchline doesn’t work though). Rita speaks her mind, and laughs uninhibitedly, and Oviyaa doesn’t really get too exposed in the emotional scenes either, because there’s not a great deal of them. She’s generally dealing with other people’s sob stories, and sometimes, wants nothing more than to escape them. Sometimes, she’s leading them on to fight a group of gangsters. It rings artificial, and their victory rings even more so, but the director’s going for a metaphor.  The audience jeered, and that made me not mind the scene so much.

For the remainder of this review (and there’s a lot more left, I assure you), please visit https://www.cinemaexpress.com/reviews/tamil/2019/mar/01/90ml-review-oviyaa-str-simbu-anita-udeep-10332.html


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