Opinions, Tamil Movies

The Loosu Ponnu Thesis

A Loosu Ponnu is a stock character that seems to dominate the Indian movie scene. I was of the opinion that the incidence of Loosu Ponnu characters has increased in the past few years but some people claim that our heroines have always been considerably Loosu. Loosu Ponnu literally means “Crazy Girl” but this stock character is always hyperactive and seems to lack the brain cells to make any sane judgments whatsoever.

Let me list a few characters that seem to qualify and then we shall see what unifies them.

Illustrative Examples

Savithri in Kai Koduttha Dheivam

Savithri in Kai Koduttha Dheivam The first example strangely does not glorify the Loosu Ponnu. It is dangerous to be a Loosu Ponnu and that is what the movie seems to highlight. She is described as “Paarvaiyilea Kumariyamma, Pazhakathilea Kuzhanthaiyamma, Aayirathil Orithiamma Nee”* and that is the absolute definition of a Loosu Ponnu. Their mental age is much lower than their real age. The story is as follows. Sivaji Ganesan and SSR are friends. There is a marriage proposal for Sivaji and SSR opposes it with all his might. The big reveal is that the bride Savitri has a reputation as a “Bad Girl”.

This in Indian Culture is euphemism for “Not a Virgin”. “Kicks puppies/kittens” or “Steals jewelry from friends” or “Does not pull strangers out of quicksand” are all acceptable actions in our culture. Not being a virgin or even having had a boyfriend is the greatest sin a woman can commit and this is what our “pure” Loosu Ponnu has a reputation for.

So how did such a pure girl come to have this reputation? Turns out she saw a man (M.R.Radha) attempting suicide. She stops him. He confesses to her that he feels this is a shorter route to die than die of hunger (as that is what he is undergoing at the moment). She offers him some money to have a meal. He glibly talks her into parting with her money every day. She thinks she is saving a life. However, his plan is sinister. He gradually starts taking money with an aura of entitlement. She does not see through it, she is too short-sighted and naïve to see his plan. He ensures that a few gossipy key characters see that she is jumping to his tunes and then one day approaches her with a proposal of marriage. If she does not marry him, he will spoil her Image. She says nobody will believe him as she is a nice person and the world happens to know this. He says (and it turns out he is right) that the world will prefer a dirty lie from a man than the truth from a woman. He proceeds to inform the aforementioned gossipy characters that she is of …mmm… bad character.

The story ends with her being shunned by one and all and finally she dies crying. There is some guff about SSR being her loving doting brother who hates her after her reputation is soiled. (Some brother.) I see this movie as a deconstruction of the Loosu Ponnu trope even before the trope became famous. Isn’t that weird? The movie is about how good sense and knowing what people are like is not optional for a woman, and how having childlike innocence just means you are the easiest picking for the creepiest of people around. And this holds true even if subsequent movies glorify the Loosu Ponnu.

Sridevi in Moondram Pirai

Balu Mahendra wanted to explore the child-woman. So before he proceeded to show her in sickening-sweet-baby-talking-hot-girl character, he gave her an appropriate bump in her head. Sridevi’s character during her sane times is subdued. You can see that in the song Vaanengum Thanga Vinmeengal. Also, this movie is not really a 2.5 hour excuse to make us see Sridevi acting like a baby. There is much more to this movie. However, that is beyond the scope of this post.

But this movie remains a prime example of a story of an elegant woman who is pretty much a child at heart for most of the movie. Also, the scene where she tells him that she was planning to run away from the brothel (while being clueless about what is going to do next or where she is going to go) is an extremely chilling reminder of how vulnerable child-women are to the whims of real adults.

Amala in Agni Natchathiram

I have often doubted whether Amala in Agni Natchathiram does indeed qualify as a Loosu Ponnu. I mean, she sticks a lighted cigarette in her jeans pocket and says things like “Oru Eli, Rendu Eli…Anjali” to introduce herself. Apart from a few niggles, she is alright. No?

I can’t think of an instance where she puts herself or anyone else in danger due to sheer brainlessness. I do not feel she exudes that all important vulnerability. With most Loosu Ponnus, we are not sure if they would have the sense to find their way back home when faced with a “Take Diversion” sign on the road. This cluelessness is missing in Amala.

Genelia in Santhosh Subramaniam

Somehow, Genelia is used as the most common example for this entire trope. Is it because her face seems to suit the character in an exceptional manner? When Genelia (character name: Hasini) wants to have ice cream in the middle of the night, she will summon Jayam Ravi with a mere “Accio Santhosh”, and he stands before her. Genelia believes that if you hit your head against someone else’s head, you must do it once more, else you risk sprouting horns. Hasini is the stuff of legends.

A quote from Baradwaj Rangan’s Review“In Santhosh Subramaniam, Jayam Ravi gets his date with the stunt coordinator when his girlfriend Hasini (Genelia) is harassed at her college by a bunch of rowdy students. Had our hero simply charged at them and reduced them to a heap of bruised bodies, this bit wouldn’t have grated so, but what makes things worse is the subsequent revelation that these supposed bad elements are Hasini’s friends, who didn’t mean anything by their teasing. (This is clearly some kind of college that exists only in the fantasies of horny adolescent males, where it’s entirely appropriate to comment lewdly on the delectable proportions of women-friends’ physical assets.) “

Abithakuchalambal in Sethu

She believes you can make peacock feathers spawn by keeping them inside your notebook. Sethu the college rowdy instantly falls for her. Further explanation unnecessary.

The Prankster Variation

A Loosu Ponnu is different from a prankster even if she shares a few of her characteristics with the clear cut Loosus. The reason I don’t consider a prankster a Loosu-Proper is because they do their daredevilry deliberately.

Usually the story highlights that their family life isn’t all that it should be. Amala in Karpoora Mullai is a bastard child who has lived in hostels all her life. Revathy in Arangetra Velai is actually using a Loosu persona deliberately to con people. Nirosha’s parents in Agni Natcharthiram are divorced. I am not sure about Madhubala in Azhagan. Does she have some issues too?

The Fatal Disease Variation

One day my uncle walked into the room when I was watching a Loosu Ponnu movie. In a couple of minutes he said, “Wow, what positive girlish enthusiasm! I am sure she will kick the bucket by the climax of this story”. I said “WHAT!” and he said that these hyper-excited enthu-cutlets** always had a fatal disease tucked away somewhere. He was right. Nadhiya in Poove Poochoodava is not particularly Loosu and I am pretty sure that it is Revathy he was talking about. Fatal disease movies trended in the late eighties and my memory is not all it should be. Girija of Geethanjali who prances around in the rain when sporting a deadly disease qualifies (IMO).

The Ones Who Are Naïve But Not Loosu

Naivety is not the same as being a Loosu. I don’t think anyone is too confused about this. But I will cite a few examples to clarify my stance.

Suhasini as Arukaani in Gopurangal Saivathillai is a naïve village belle. Some of her actions earn the disgust and wrath of her husband. But his prejudices and beautism (rather than her craziness) are the reasons for him dumping her. Curiously, the naïve village belle character (that is, the Arukaani stereotype) is often used in television soaps and milked for drama. These characters often break all Loosu records previously set by movies. Arukaanis of the television world are known to wash their husbands’ laptops and dry them in the sun; their evil mothers-in-law are known to be able to talk them into this. Go figure.

Meena as Solaiyamma in En Rasavin Manasile looks like a frightened colt and her character is not developed beyond this for most of the movie. Considering that they marry her off to Rajkiran, I am not surprised she is so frightened. She may not be a strong pudhumai penn+ as envisioned by Barathiyaar, but the extent of her naivety is not for show. It is an integral part of the movie.

What about Heera in Thiruda Thiruda? I do not recall much about her character. Does she qualify?

Sridevi in Jagadeka Veerudu Athiloka Sundari is a celestial being who does not know the ways of mortals. She acts clueless, and you would think she has every reason to act so. This conceit allows us to gape at Sridevi dressed up in the attire of Goddesses every so often, while also looking at her (almost permanent) vacuous, surprised expression. I have to admit that if there is one woman I am fine with being a Loosu, it is Sridevi. It is because she can turn around and look completely reassured and divine the next minute, and only some women can pull that off. The current breed of Loosu Ponnu cannot really achieve this.

My favorite example of Non-Loosu Naivety remains Sridevi as Mayilu in 16 Vayathinilea. She falls for a charming sweet talking doctor (veterinarian?), but she knows better than to let him take advantage of her. She is a naïve teenager who grows into a wise woman. It may seem that the movie punishes her for her initial choice, though that is just one way to look at this. It also explores the desire in a young teenaged girl.

Ditto Pagalil Oru Iravu. But, mmmmm, she just met the guy.

Examples From English Novels And Sitcoms

Please feel free to include examples from all languages and mediums. I shall stick to what I know.
The standard Mills and Boon heroine is not an intelligent creature. We will discuss these wonderful creatures and the men they choose as their soul mates in detail, sometime in the future in a separate thread. But there are two very important Loosus in the idealized girl romance genre. Surprisingly, they are not from the Mills and Boon or Harlequin Romance novels. They are Bella Swan and Anastasia Steele.

I have not read either book as I get short of breath with all the anger that is generated within me when I do try. These two women do not like to think sensibly, and any topic other than “the guy” is off-limits to them. I cannot describe just how annoying this is. Let us leave this here, shall we? Thanks.

Wodehouse uses more than a fair share of Loosus of both sexes and all age groups. You can sit and marvel at every Loosu he throws our way. We all know why Madeline Bassett walks away with the honors. She believes that (1) Stars are God’s daisy chains, (2) Rabbits are gnomes in attendance on the fairy queen, and (3) Every time a fairy blows its wee nose, a baby is born.

Are Luna Lovegood and Professor Trelawney of Potterverse not Loosus? They believe several strange things that Hermione Granger and Minerva McGonagall have no patience for.

Two and a Half Men is an excuse to show different types of women and how Charlie Harper gets to have …mm… relationships with pretty much all of them. Most All of them are Loosus. But the ones to come out on top are Rose and Kandi. American sitcoms are a veritable mine of Loosu Ponnus. As sitcoms are essentially about crazy people, this observation doesn’t surprise me. The men and children are no different in how crazy they are. I choose not to list all the Loosus I have seen. Moving on.

So Why Are So Many Of Our Heroines Loosu?

I can’t say for sure. But here are a few things that I have been thinking about.

Is gender reversal possible?

Are Loosu Ponnus similar to the Chinna Thambi type simpletons where the man is of a similar disposition? I think both Prabhu and Karthik have had their share of simpleton characters. Kamal’s Chappani character in 16 Vayathinilea qualifies too. However, please note the following:

  1. The men are not growing progressively Loosu with each passing movie.
  2. The number of movies featuring this kind of man had a slight increase after the success of Chinna Thambi and Kilakku Vaasal, but dwindled after a short period of time (or as we like to say these days, they weren’t trending for long).
  3. Have you heard of women going ga-ga over characters who are a variants of Mr.Bean? These simpleton movies may work because of a few reasons. I do not think women find these men inherently sexy.

Are men really that attracted to insanity?

Doesn’t the very thought depress you? As far as the men I know personally go, not even a single one has admitted to liking a Loosu Ponnu over a sane woman. But they often soften visibly when it comes to women making crazy decisions. I can see that they feel protective about the woman. Are men lying? Nope. Men do not lie to us when they say they like/warm up to one type of woman. This is largely unconscious. But this phenomenon exists (and persists). Here are a few more points to think over:

  1. Not all men are attracted to the same type of women. There are few men who are just as irritated about this trend as most women are.
  2. Why should any man be attracted to only one sort of woman? Isn’t this question more suited to a multiple choice format? Well, yes, I agree. However, with the exception of GVM, no hero and/or director is making his heroinesprogressively more elegant. Not many directors apart from KB portrayed their heroines as self-sufficient. The presence of such a large number of Loosu Ponnus in so many different flavours shows us that many men are attracted to such women.
  3. We are talking about emotional intelligence only and not I.Q, and definitely not about high educational qualifications that a woman may have. Let us refrain from conflating the two…for now.
  4. There are some women who consciously channel their inner child to tap into this potential. I tend to feel they are making a HUGE mistake. Men warm up only to cute, young Loosu Ponnus. As they grow older, real women whodo this consciously get a rude shock. With each passing year, the effect of their carefully cultivated charm seems to fail. I have seen the look on some men’s faces when they see middle aged women indulging in baby-speak.
  5. I have met more than a reasonable share of Loosu Ponnus, but I do not want to bring too many personal anecdotes into the fray. Suffice to say I am not a fan of the trope.
  6. Now, why would any man tell me to my face that he prefers child-like women? He must be able to see I am not a fan of this trait and would naturally play along with me. So men not admitting in my little private interviews is not apoint for or against the desirability of such women anyway.
  7. Moe and Dojikko are a few cross cultural examples to prove that this trope reigns in Japaneseculture too.

The science behind this

Since I do not want to bore you too much with the science behind this, let me highlight a few points.

  1. There is a concept termed neoteny in evolutionary science. This means that humans possess the look and certain characteristics of baby apes. The baby ape looks morehumanlike in the above picture, though the reverse is actually true. Humans are more baby-ape-like.
  2. We also have a longer childhood than most mammals. Other mammals spend about 10% of their lives as eager-to-learn young ones. We spend close to one-third of our lives just learning to be adults. This is because our brainhas that much to learn. Our brains retain a certain plasticity for longer. This is an important in order to ensure a constant learning curve. Neoteny has been our species’ ticket to fame. Even after about 21 years, some characteristics continue. Humans never outgrow the juvenile ape stage. Our skin remains relatively hairless.
  3. Women are even more neotenous than men. (This may not mean that the learning curve of women is in any way better than men, but what do I know? Haha.) When the male and female of any species are quite different from each other, sexual dimorphism is at play, this is very pronounced in birds like peacocks.Heightened neoteny is noticed in the female of our species. Secondary sexual characteristics like smoother babyish skin, a voice that is more similar to teenaged boys than grown men. This means that there has been a significant selection pressure during human evolution that made men prize juvenile characteristics in the women they chose to mate with. Sexual dimorphism in physical characteristics may have spilled over to behavioral characteristics, and selection pressure might have been significant here too.

KEY:

*Paarvaiyilea Kumariyamma, Pazhakathilea Kuzhanthaiyamma, Aayirathil Orithiamma Nee: A woman to look at/ A child to play with/ You, lady, are one in a thousand

**Enthu-cutlet: Hyper active/ overly enthusiastic (slang)

+Pudhumai penn: New age woman

Edited by Anu Srini

 

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49 thoughts on “The Loosu Ponnu Thesis”

  1. First, I like the new look. Far less cluttered. 🙂

    Oh, I thought ‘loosu ponnu’ meant someone with ‘loose morals’. *Smacks self* 🙂

    It is the manic-pixie characterisation, is it? Can’t stand it. Makes me want to punch someone somewhere. But apparently, men like it? Or so I was told, with authority, on another blog. I can’t see the attraction, unless it is because manic-pixies make men feel all manly or something. I hope some men comment.

    I somehow don’t see Sridevi in Moondram Pirai as the manic pixie. (On a side note, why is it that when directors want to show ‘childlike’ they make heroines act ‘childish’? I mean, girlish enthusiasm is all very well, but they all appear to have ‘5 paisa less’ somewhere.

    You’re perfectly right that manic-pixies are attractive only when they’re young and nubile. I can’t think of anything worse than having a middle-aged manic pixie clapping her hands girlishly at you every morning!

    Point to ponder: Are the ‘loosu ponnus’ the equivalent of ‘dumb blondes’?

    From Hindi – where I’ve personally wanted to murder these characters – Saira Banu in Shagird, Kareena Kapoor in most films but especially K3G, Sridevi in portions of the second half of Lamhe… I think the list is endless.

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  2. I like this theme! Hope your audience finds it more gender-neutral than the last one. Hehe.

    I notice several spacing glitches…not sure how they creeped in. Thought I got rid of all of those while editing in MS Word. :

    Should have mentioned this earlier – Great post!!!! I’d like to add that I don’t think Heera in Thiruda Thiruda is a Loosu Ponnu. Not even that naive, but okay, she’s got the village belle thing going for her.

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  3. Do you think the “loose ponnus” are mostly city girls? Cant remember a movie with a village heroine who was as annoying as “hasini” character.

    loved the write up.

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  4. With regard to childish male heros, maybe prabhu has acted more movies than other heros. Chinna thambi , aruvadai naal, one with saranya (not sure of the name) & my dear marthandan . May be because he looks bubbly and cute. I remember seeing a aravindawamy movie in which his name is “kuzandai”. Same character like chinna thambi type. But thanga mudiyala da saami. What about kamal’s swathi muthiyam role of a child man? So endearing. Latest movie that come to mind is “deiva thirumagal” of Vikram. Vijay did try one such role in kannukul nilavu .

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  5. Do others regard the koobsoorat Rekha and jab we met Kareena kapoor also as Loose? Or they are just bubbly?

    Do many like saroja devi’s child like voice? what we call konji konji persaradu.

    Phoebe and joey of friends . Are they too in some way female and male loose character or just funny.

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  6. Quick points:

    1. Love the post, especially the scientific explanation. As for more examples, I’ll think and get back.

    2. The picture of that baby ape doesn’t appear for me. Broken link or something? Does anyone else have this problem?

    3. A virtual interaction with a stranger recently reminded me a lot of Luna Lovegood-itis. I have seldom encountered that variety in real life and was genuinely amused. Is this confined to women, though? Just wondering. (Surprised, however, that this stranger was not really impervious to reason. So, that was a slightly good takeaway.)

    4. Finally, no more pink here! Hurrah! (Sorry.. Not at all dissing your colour sense, but I’ve quite a bit of aversion to pink, especially in its darker shades.) Maybe I’ll frequent this space more now. 🙂

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  7. Wow! What a post, Rahini. One of your best! I really enjoyed reading this. I think the biggest issue with a lot of writers and directors is that they don’t have a clue as to how young urban women behave. I feel that even the great KB made some characters say and do absolutely inane stuff. He probably introduced the ‘thuduku ponnu’ type to thamizh cinema. I could not stand most of his younger female characters (not the mature ones but more like Yuvarani in Jaathi Malli or Geetha’s sister in Azhagan) because they acted cute and were unbearable with all those mannerisms.
    Of all the heroines, I think Revathi was the most convincing thuduku ponnu ever. I mean, you can see so much of Revathi in Asin’s portrayal in Ghajini. I don’t know if Revathi in Oru Kaidhin Diary was a loosu ponnu but I thought she was cute without being annoying. I also liked her a lot in Punnagai Mannan. (Loved the way she would say, “Sabash Malini” after an argument with Kamal!)

    PS: I love the new theme. The pink never bothered me at all. But I think the new theme looks neater.

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  8. Thank you all.

    It is good that many like this theme. I design user interfaces professionally (or at least I did until last year) and as I am forced to choose subdued blue and grey themes or gray and dark red themes in my day job go for brighter themes in the blog. Moreover, I specifically and consciously choose girly themes as I believe that the men who come here should get over their embarrassment of hanging around girly blogs. This blog is going to remain resolutely feminine but will remain entertaining to the men(and boys). It is the equivalent of women refusing to go to tea shops alone.

    I am considered a sort of Idiot Savant in Interface designs and the only walk of life in which I behave in a compulsive obsessive manner. I count pixels and obsess over font, width of menu, gradients etc. and protect my stylesheets like a mother hen. Most of my teammates don’t touch the CSS code even if I am on leave. Coming to wordpress and being forced to choose between very few choices is like having my wings clipped and being forced to pick horoscope cards for peanuts. 😦 I would prefer womanly themes to girly ones and if you find any please suggest in the about section. Sunny themes that look like the outdoors of Blandings Castle will do too. I hope to change the theme every two/three months.

    Anu Srini and fellow editors: I am a bit unfamiliar with this editor and will correct the spacing problems today. Please send any editing comments you see with the heading —-editing comment—-. That will enable me to correct these problems without pulling the others from the topic at hand.

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  9. Great post. I would include that mother of all Loosu Ponnus: Loose Laila in pretty much any movie she has been in. There’s this episode of Koffee with DD where she shows us that she’s as much of a loosu ponnu IRL. 😝

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  10. *But there are two very important Loosus in the idealized girl romance genre. Surprisingly, they are not from the Mills and Boon or Harlequin Romance novels. They are Bella Swan and Anastasia Steele*

    Loved the post but I’m not sure I agree with this bit. I’ve read both 50 shades and Twilight and do not think that either heroine fits into the loosu ponnu stereotype as defined here, in that they neither of them are in the least whacko or even actually intellectually inferior. Though they both agree to things that stretch credulity for the sake of love they know what they are doing/getting into and both heroes are apologetic about their status of being so very different from the norm.

    I’m very irritated by the loosu ponnu whether it’s in a movie or real life and especially when it’s consciously cultivated. Revathy in the Malayalam movie Kilukkam would qualify, I think, though it turns out to be an act in the end.

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  11. I think perhaps that the trope is so popular because it makes (insecure) men feel intellectually superior and good about themselves (while the “feminazi” is hated because it makes them feel threatened and defensive)

    Mani Ratnam’s OKK Nithya Menon is a far cry from the Agninatchitharam Amla (Nirosha was a little loosu too, no?)

    Also I guess, all loosu ponnus are dumb blondes but all dumb blondes need not be loosu ponnus. Because the dumb blonde stereotype is only (a) stupid and ( b) hot but does not necessarily (c) act loony or (d) think herself cute because of the lunacy. While to qualify as a loosu ponnu a, b, c and d must all be satisfied 🙂

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  12. Tonks: They do qualify from the characterization I have heard. True, they decide consciously to put themselves in trouble because they are in love. They know they are doing dangerous stuff. And I have also heard that Bella is portrayed as a good student and gets good grades.Bella says she likes literature and in 50SOG Ana and Christian talk about their favorite music and at that time they mention some high sounding composer names. But when it comes to things they do and say, they don’t match up.

    There seem to be many passages were Bella forgets to breath, forgets where she is, etc. When a novel has a First Person Narrative, the Narrator should be shown to think clearly. People’s decision and the reason they give themselves (and us) as to why they make these decisions only can make people seem intelligent and clear thinking.

    Ana very regularly forgets to eat, and this is shown as glorification of Anorexia in some of the articles I have read.
    Bella finds herself wet and absentmindedly realizes that it is raining and she had not realized it. It is like seeing a Loosu from within, no? Even if we want to say that falling in love made her like that, she should be clear thinking before she meets Edward. I don’t think that happens. She is very clumsy and this is portrayed as a cute trait.

    I mean if you wrote Harry Potter from Trelawney’s perspective, you will write with a certain airheadedness. Isn’t that airheadedness present in Twilight? I want to clarify that I am including airheadedness in this category, not just hyperactivity. I am fine with hyperactive girls who do have emotional intelligence.

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  13. No, Rahini, Bella is not really characterised (in my opinion) as an airhead in the book. The movie unfortunately made her appear worse off than she was in the book. You’ll understand when you read it. She did fall very badly for the hero (and he for her), and that was probably her major weakness. For all its grammatical errors and clichés in the language, and for all the memes making fun of it, the core romance in Twilight especially the way they fall for each other is depicted quite well and that’s probably why it was so popular.

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  14. @tonks, I’m glad you put in Revathi from Kilukkam – she irritated the life out of me. 🙂

    @Rahini: I don’t think Nithya in OKK was anything like a ‘loosu ponnu’. I quite liked her there. Amala in AN, however! It’s basically the airheaded, cutesy, ‘look at me, I’m so smart and nice and innocent and wouldn’t you like to take me to your mother?’ types that I abhor. Ameesha Patel in Honeymoon Travels and Kaho Na Pyaar Hain was one such. (That woman irritates me just by appearing on screen.)

    To me, Luna didn’t qualify as ‘loosu’ because she honestly doesn’t care what others think of her. She’s vague and probably sees things (which, by the way is explained in the last HP), but she’s not putting on an act. She’s what she is, and she’s very comfortable in her own skin. I liked that characterisation!

    Also, tonks can chime in, on this. Doesn’t ‘loosu ponnu’ mean something entirely different in Malayalam? Someone of questionable moral character?

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  15. Anu Warrier: Mmm. Nithya in OKK definitely does not qualify. I don’t think I have included her in the list.

    “Loosu” is the tamil pronunciation of “Loose” which is a short form of “A nut loose in the head” which translates to “Pretty Crazy”. Luna’s characterization is officially called Cloudcuckoolander and it is one type of crazy, even if it is not a sexy type of crazy. A Loosu need not be an attention seeker.

    http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/Cloudcuckoolander

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  16. I agree with you about Luna, Anu. She was just adorable, in her fuzzy eccentricity.
    Loosu does mean whacko in Malayalam too as it does in Tamil (ara piri loose etc, oru screw loose etc). I think it’s mainly in English that “loose” means morally questionable.

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  17. Tonks and Anu,

    Regarding Luna, don’t you think what you are basically saying is “Now that is one girl who totally pulls of adorability in spite of the craziness for she seems so real and even relatable”, rather than “Now, that girl isn’t even crazy she is just different”

    I don’t think we should include “Did she pull it off” in the criteria but only “Is that normal?”.

    I think Wacko is one English word that is closest to this. You may totally love a wacko girl like a sister. But she continues to be a lovable wacko girl, right?

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  18. Nithya, even I was thinking about koobsoorat Rekha. I am not sure. I think Revathy played that part in Tamil. She is normal IMO. More effervescence than you normally see, but I don’t think she acts stupid and clueless. You can say there is method in her madness.

    Similarly, Saroja Devi’s voice may be on the cutesy side but it isn’t as if she mispronounces for effect, right? I think they had reasonable balance in SD’s period. They did not go overboard as Laila’s characterizations later did. Or maybe I just mean that I liked her better and am finding excuses. 😀

    Village girls do not come across as that crazy because they are usually portrayed as illterate and so they mispronouncing an English word or misunderstanding a situation seems natural and understandable. I am thinking about Ranjitha as a gypsy girl in Nadodi Thendral. She is exotic in her own way. And when such things are available, the filmmaker does not feel the need to make her particularly stupid or vacuous. But when they hold a Engineering Book in their hand, we expect a certain something. I think we get more offended if we see them as representatives of our own demographic. We think “Hello! we college girls weren’t like that, ok?”. I get more offended if a female corporate employee is shown as stupid than if a homemaker is shown as stupid. I may be annoyed but I won’t get a visceral reaction. I daresay a homemaker would be feeling more offended the other way around.

    Also, our filmmakers tend to show them as wise in other things. Sulakshana in Thambikku Entha Ooru is innocent and guileless. But she knows things that Rajini doesn’t. She can milk cows, she can tell the time without using clocks etc. They usually turn it into a “Illiterates know better than Literates” trope.

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  19. Rahini, see, I don’t think Luna is ‘adorable’. Certainly, she’s whimsical, and seen as ‘crazy’ until the reason for her behaviour comes to light. But she’s not trying to gain anyone’s attention. So no, I don’t see her as part of the ‘loosu ponnu’ brigade. For me, the loosu ponnu is the Amala of Agni Natchithram and the Malyalayam Ente Sooryaputhrikku; they do things to attract (usually male) attention. The hyperactive manic pixie mode. Or the ‘childlike’ (read slightly pathu paisa loose in Malayalam vernacular) ‘girlish’ (by which I mean the batting eyelashes/clapping hands/annoyances) roles. (Just think of P. *grin* – that!)

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  20. Anu, Here I am including Manic Pixie Dream Girl as only a subset of Loosu and not entirely synonymous.

    That holds good to Sridevi in Moondram Pirai too. She is not Pixie-like and there is sadness in what she is. But that does not disqualify her as she is not a sane person. I don’t think whether they are trying to gain attention or not is a factor I’d weigh in. In real life examples, I have had countless arguments as to whether some girls behavior is real cluelessness or a put-on façade. But in fiction, she may not be trying hard to gain attention at all. Savithri in the first example is truly guileless and does not suspect guile in other humans and is totally unaware of the mess that a horrible man can get her into. But she totally does NOT go about being cutesy to grab male attention.

    I really should have read this article and incorporated parts of this article in my post. I will have to do some research in this.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manic_Pixie_Dream_Girl

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  21. Oh come on, dear Tonks. I have read the first few chapters of Twilight until the part where he saves her from a car crash in the parking lot or something in Lightning Speed

    I don’t think I have to think exactly like a emo teenager or a shallow one to connect with a story. I was able to relate to Holden Caulfield of Catcher in the Rye or Scarlett O’Hara of Gone with the Wind though both of them are very different from me. The characters come across as silly teens, however the author seems to be clear and has the whole thing together.

    But connecting with Bella was close to impossible. She says that Mike is “taking on the qualities of a golden retriever”. He is no stalker and he just offers to show her the classroom she is supposed to go to. I am given to understand that she is later mighty pleased that Edward spends the nights staring at her when she is sleeping at night.

    Let us sample Chapter One alone

    “I couldn’t remember her name, so I smiled and nodded as she prattled about teachers and classes. I didn’t try to keep up.”

    Neither nice or intelligent.

    “There was always someone braver than the others who would introduce themselves and ask me questions about how I was liking Forks.”

    Why does anyone have to be brave to talk to Bella? What is so great about her being a city girl? What sort of an attitude is this? Why would I follow a story of a woman shallow enough to think this? An airheaded person’s brain is naturally not empty but just houses very different type of thoughts and emotions. And she is extremely beautist and I already have huge problems with beautism. It is natural that a horny teenage girl cuts more than just a little slack for a hot dude. I was not above such things either. But aren’t there limits?

    And come on, if this is how the first 3 chapters are, how can the other chapters be any better?

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  22. Nithya – Good point on how Prabhu suited that character. Take Chinna Thambi Periya Thambi for instance, Satyaraj brings in a sort of ruggedness to his naïve illiterate worker character and Prabhu brings in more of innocence into his character. But post Chinna Thambi, I felt he overdid that part in Senthamil Paatu. Maybe if we continue looking for innocent male characters we will have a sizable list too. Take Sabash Meena for instance, It is the hero who is innocent, not the heroine.

    All Friends characters may have their own brand of craziness and Phoebe’s beliefs and Joey’s IQ make us suspect that they are the craziest of the lot.

    Ah, Iswarya, Thanks for liking the scientific explanation. 😀
    You don’t personally know Loosu girls? Lucky you. Trust me, they are so difficult to handle and test my patience.

    Ram Murali: the biggest issue with a lot of writers and directors is that they don’t have a clue as to how young urban women behave

    Yesterday I saw a movie called Kanithan. OMG. Apart from being a clueless loosu, she seems so shallow. I wonder what sort of respect a man can have for the women around him if he can write that sort of female character. I find that this shallowness is increasing with these movies.

    Bhavani: A friend of mine pinged me about Laila being the best example ever. I quite agree.

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  23. Rahini – I am yet to watch Kanithan.
    But I see what you meant when you wrote, “I wonder what sort of respect a man can have for the women around him if he can write that sort of female character.” –> I think that’s why Mani Ratnam and Gautam Menon command a lot of respect in the A centres as they call them in Kollywood. They probably have had lots of meaningful conversations with the kind of women that they want to bring to screen. And, I think shows in the characterizations, clothes, dialogues, etc.

    Also, you mentioned “Senthamizh Paatu.” Gosh…I watched this movie a couple of years ago on Sun TV I think…what an INTOLERABLE movie…Prabhu kooda paraville coz he always is likeable…But Sukanya…yabba…to paraphrase Roger Ebert’s famous quote…”To call her a loosu poonu would be an insult to loosu, ponnu and the space in between the two words!”

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  24. My idea of Loosu ponnu (which is close to Amla in Agninatchitharam) has been similar to what Anu just said. ‘Giddy, chatter boxy, (?pretend) stupid, (?pretend) crazy’. And nope, try as I might, Bella (or Anastasia for that matter) does not qualify in my mind as satisfying those traits. But perhaps I’ve been getting the definition of Loosu ponnu wrong? Because the wiki link you posted is interesting and says, “The title character of Annie Hall is often called a MPDG but also arguably not one, as she has her own goals independent of the male lead”. If THAT were to be taken as a criterion, then probably yes, Bella qualifies.

    Ram Murali : Mani Ratnam however gave us two loosu ponnus in Agninatchitaram 🙂

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  25. Tonks – I agree 🙂 but if you were to calculate a Normal Ponnu : Loosu Ponnu ratio for Directors based on the female characters in their movies, I can guarantee that Mani will be near the top! P Vasu would probably be at the bottom of the list since 1 Senthamizh Paatu Sukanya = 100 loosu ponnu characters! If you add Sukanya from his “Udan Pirappu” you have to assure him a place at the bottom of the pile!

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  26. Rahini: Laila struck me too as the definitive example of LP. And then, I happened to watch this movie with Jai and Swathi Reddy in it (‘Vadakari,’ I guess), on TV. Gosh! This woman threatens suicide at the drop of a hat and acts all damsel-in-distress-y (in a supposedly ‘cute’ way) and I was wondering whether hurling the remote at the TV is an option when you’re a guest somewhere! Worse of all, the hero always tries to keep her ‘protected’ from the reality of the problems he is facing, including the fact that he is chased by the girl’s own brother, who’s a murderous scamster.. And there is this scene in the movie where he gets annoyed with her threats to the point that he swears he’s going to let her die, when he hears that she’s waiting at a railway station, planning to jump in front of the next speeding train unless he turns up there. I’d like to see movie where they really kill off one of those!

    In real life, I’ve had a couple of students of the LP kind, but I used to cruelly make fun of them that they avoided such antics with me. One of them, I even used to call Genelia right up to her face 😀 (Bad teacher, I know..) 🙂

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  27. Rahini: I happened to watch a Tamil movie called 555 (‘ainthu ainthu ainthu’) yesterday. It features the loose-est heroine I have seen yet.

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  28. Wait, so “loosu ponnu” means “crazy woman”, not woman with “loose” morals? Oh. Gotta say, I’d much prefer a treatise on the latter instead of the former. I don’t suppose you’d consider that as a topic for a future post? 🙂

    Anyway, I read the entire post a couple of times and based upon my understanding of what I read, I don’t think Sridevi in “Moondram Pirai” qualifies as a loosu ponnu. Sri’s character in the film isn’t a grown woman “acting” like a child but rather a grown woman who’s actually regressed to a childhood state thanks to a bump on the head. Real mental trauma shouldn’t be held against a gal. 🙂

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  29. Thank you all for such terrific compliments.

    Shalini: One thing I want to clarify is that I do not consider this concept a derogatory term nor do I imply that they are attention seekers.

    In real life, if I meet a 25 year old woman who behaves in a way more suitable for a 15 year old, I would consider it attention seeking. Very often I have seen sly backhanded compliments being doled out by these innocent wide eyed darlings and more often than not these veiled insults and sweet nothings will happen in front of a male audience. They are like that by design.

    But in reel, these women may well be sincere. They do believe in weird superstitions and really don’t understand double meaning jokes and are really too trusting. You have to notice that They are not real with real childhood experiences and More often than not they come out of male fantasies and have only one dimension. Many writers don’t even bother to reflect why his adult heroine is baby talking.

    I included two or three crazy women who were birthed in female imaginations. These characters’s inclusion is already contested. Tonks feels that bella doesn’t qualify and Anu doesn’t feel Luna qualifies. They admittedly have more texture than a character that came out of p.vasu’s imagination.
    ..to be continued…

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  30. Moondram Pirai Sridevi or even Sridevi as athiloka sundari did have their reasons to wear that clueless look on their face.

    But I have included them for one main reason. They are also characters who exist to make the male audience feel protective about the said characters. A sort of feeling that roughly translates to “what would she do without me”

    This feeling is entirely absent in luna’s characterisation. If there is a real Luna out in this world, the men are more likely to feel, “hey look at that crackpot” not “let me go out and save that dear”

    I do not mean this as an insult to men. I am talking about a certain sort of least common denominator. You can see that in the way Ron usually treats Luna. Ron plays a sort of “everyman ” character in these aspects.

    I am sorry, am I taking knowledge of potterverse too much for granted?

    Liked by 1 person

  31. I love it when you Potter-speak Rahini. Please continue doing so occasionally.
    Btw, I can say with a fair amount of certainty that there is absolutely no known medical condition that sends one to a five year old state mentally with one bump on the head and brings you back to normal with another shock. That’s more like magical realism 🙂

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  32. Just watched my first GVM movie yesterday (yennai arindhaal) and wow, it’s refreshing to see smart, unapologetically intelligent, modern women seen respected in Tamil movies. I am going to see every single one of his other (non- cop) movies: I do not think I can stomach another cop movie even for such awesome heroines.

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  33. Tonks: You really should watch Neethanea en pon vasantham.

    Vinnaithaani Varuvaaya is pretty good and though I am not an admirer of the character Jessie, I can see why so many people like that movie so much.

    Liked by 1 person

  34. Watched “Moondram pirai” today for the first time since childhood. Sreedevi’s loosu-ponnu-ness is medical so perhaps does not count, but two things struck me :

    1) Despite her mental age of five, it’s incredible that Kamal’s character falls for Sreedevi, brings her home and feels that “this is the one for me”

    2) Silk Smitha despite her adult seduction attempts, prattles throughout the movie like a small child (with lisping and baby talk) and is a pretend dumb-blonde.

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  35. Hmm. I don’t quite see why it being a medical condition disqualifies her. I mean what I am basically going for is this. “is she meant to make us go all awwww?” However most of you seem to see it as “is she stupid and annoying?”

    Which is probably why most don’t see luna as a loose. Is she stupid and annoying!? Well no. Is she looney? Definitely. 🙂

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  36. HEY rahini, so you finally put up your loosu ponnu thesis eh?. it just so happens that i was watching jagadeka veerudu athiloka sundari recently and i wondered whether sridevi’s indraja isnt a wonderful loosu ponnu. but sridevi is such a terrific actress, such a divine luminous presence – she is at the height of her beauty at the time of this film- that it is a sin to club her with the likes of genelia and Hansika.Also the character is more the fish out of water type than loosu ponnu as opposed to cases of the loosu ponnu stereotype where more often than not, it is the actress who plays the character who is fish out of water . . i would say sridevi plays the character pitch perfect for what it is and perhaps she plays it just too well. above all the fact that both the film and the character is a fantasy exempts this from the loosu ponnu domain, imo
    Reg:moondram pirai,well it is a fantasy of a different kind. i think people are trying to reading too much in to the cause of sridevi’s mental illness. it is not be read so literally.it is just a movie conceit for the director to live out his own fantasy. i believe it was based on Balumahendra’s own relationship with shobha, who was supposedly quite a real life loosu ponnu.

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  37. Hi Rahini. My first time commenting here 🙂
    Really enjoyed reading your thesis. Fantastic topic I must say. And I am kind of a potterhead too so I find it interesting you have chosen to bring in Luna here. I am sort of with Anu and Tonks on this. To take your words, “A sort of feeling that roughly translates to “what would she do without me” – now I only have a slightly different perspective on this in that in my opinion, the ( typical Tamil) loosu ponnu would think “What I am going to do without him” or “Oh help me – I need saving.” They exude that kind of vibe. Also, the loosu ponnus aren’t typically unorthodox; they just don’t act their age mostly. They also mostly have sane parents. Also, they quite like to attract attention or somehow find themselves the centre of attraction. Luna is the exact opposite in all these regards I think – she is quite clever and has an open mind with weird unorthodox ideas inherited mostly from her parents. She also most importantly is quite self-sufficient and doesn’t expect anyone to do anything for her. She knows she is kind of a social outcast and she handles it quite admirably. Kind of like an old soul trapped within a child really and not the other way around. So whilst she may share some qualities with a loosu ponnu like being of a trusting nature, and believing in weird things, her overall personality I feel doesn’t quite qualify her a loosu ponnu. Plus, she is still a child really. When she grows up, she might turn out to be like Mr.Weasley, who is quite normal in every way but quite unexpectedly for a wizard, has this weird fascination with everything to do with muggles. 🙂

    On reel LPs, I am pretty sure Jyothika acted like that in some movies no? Like in Dhool. And Tamannah too. In most of her movies I must say.

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  38. MANK: Very true. I think Sridevi’s strong point was that she was able to pull off both looks. Like will be totally helpless and when she comes within the rings divine radius, the magic will rub off on her and she will behave in a reassured way once again. I especially like the part where the villain realizes this and remarks that the man (Chiranjeevi) has extraordinary powers but it is the woman(Sridevi) who has superhuman powers. If a regular loosu ponnu like Laila played that part, she would never be able to pull off that scene were the villain feels taken aback by her divine powers(IMO).

    it is just a movie conceit for the director to live out his own fantasy

    Well that is what the entire Loosu Ponnu trope is all about, IMO. Vulnerability. A woman who is guileless and cheerful and can lift your spirit. Whether the movie says it is a mental illness or character quirk is up to the filmmaker. I think the final feeling of “Aww. Poor thing” is what most makers are looking for. There is this movie Vanna Vanna Pookal(directed by Balu Mahendra) in which Prashant saves Vinothini from an attempt at suicide. She had run away from her family as they wanted to save from a fatal disease and she believed that her family was not rich enough to foot such huge bills. He does not know this and when he wants to marry her she disappears from his life too. I watched this movie several years ago but I don’t think Vinothini comes across as a Loosu. She comes across as a secretive person who does not like to be asked questions. She is a nymph who will give happiness with no thoughts about herself but will disappear if you tried to pin her down. But the song “kannamma…kadhal yennum kavidhai solladi” shows that Balu Mahendra does have a thing for the child woman.

    kannamma…kadhal yennum kavidhai solladi
    unn pillaith thamizhil
    kannamma…kadhal yennum kavidhai solladi
    undhan killai mozhinile…
    ullam kollai adippadhum yen
    thullith thulli varum nadaiyil
    manam mella thudippadhum yen
    unnaik kana vendum kooda vendum
    varayo…varayo…

    There will be variations and the variations are what I am interested in. For it is the variations that show us where the Common Factors of these characterizations are and from there we can begin to make sense of it all.

    We find this trope in which a man enjoys a childlike playfulness in his wife in bed is hinted upon in song lyrics.

    Pazhagumbozhuthu Kumariyaagi Ennai Velvaay Penne
    Padukkai Araiyil Kuzhanthaiyaagi Ennaik Kolvaay Kanne

    – Kadhal Sadugudu in Alaipaythey

    Katilidum Vayathil Thøtilida Šønnaal Šariyaa Šariyaa?
    Katilil Iruvarum Kuzhanthaigal Aanaal Pizhaiyaa Pizhaiyaa?

    – Kaathrey un Vaasal in Rythm

    All this points to the same thing. Desirability of Childlike playfulness in a sexually mature and physically attractive woman.

    I also find this in the curious fact that MOST people are fine with a man being 10-15 years older than a woman he has a relationship with or flirts with.
    But even a much smaller age gap squicks them out if the woman is older. Some people can not even get over the feeling if the gap is a matter of a few months.
    This seems to come from a belief that a mature man and an immature woman are a great pair. Men should look for a woman who does not know as much as he does and so she would obey and respect him.
    Women for their part look for maturity in their men. This is believed to be the stable equilibrium. Of course, I am just extrapolating here.

    This belief is what is reflected in these characterizations where male writers shape the heroine with characteristics they find sexually attractive and we are stuck with Loosus. We can’t make the girls indefinitely younger. That is illegal. So they tweak the maturity factor.

    What happens when women create male characters that they find sexually very attractive? That is another fun topic. We will discuss that sometime soon. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  39. Sameoldnewbie: Welcome. 😀

    I agreed with everything you say about Luna.

    now I only have a slightly different perspective on this in that in my opinion, the ( typical Tamil) loosu ponnu would think “What I am going to do without him” or “Oh help me – I need saving.” They exude that kind of vibe.

    I think that “Chennaiyila pudhu ponnu” girl showed that “I need saving” vulnerablity.

    For the uninitiated, the above song plays when a village girl goes to attend an interview and her cousin who was going to escort her to the venue has to leave Chennai unexpectedly. She asks for directions to a handsome stranger who feels strangely obliged to take her to the venue. He first tries to just explain to her how to get there. But she looks so lost that he escorts her around Chennai.

    However, it do not think Loosus are trusting and exude the “Please help me” look. If anything they may claim to know everything and walk straight into traps and have to be saved by the hero. So a damsel in distress trope and taming the shrew trope can happen in the same scene, IMO.

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  40. *What happens when women create male characters that they find sexually very attractive? That is another fun topic. We will discuss that sometime soon. *

    Hey that’s a good idea. but there very few women filmmakers, no?. so that wouldnt be much of a discusion, or else we will have to depend on women writers and their alluring creations – Heathcliff,Frankenstein,howard Roark,…..

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  41. Agree with you Rahini in that there are different types of LPs, including some who don’t necessarily believe they need any helping at all. Nayantara in ‘Naanum Rowdy Dhan’ sort of falls within this bracket no? Her LP characterisation in that movie is probably one of the few that I have found palatable (and likeable too).

    Liked by 1 person

  42. MANK: Naturally we may have to dip into books. But trust me, I am not going to go on and on about brooding men who are apparently up to no good. They give me the creeps. Ok we may have to discuss about them, but I am no fan of the bitter, haunted men like Heathcliff.

    Samoldnewbie: Ah, Nayanthara in Naanum Rowdy Dhaan is beautiful and REALLY vulnerable and yes a loosu. As the discussion goes on, I am able to see that this post is more about vulnerability and less about craziness. I was reading I’m sorry for coining the phrase “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” by Nathan Rabin. He says “I understand how someone could read the A.V. Club list of Manic Pixie Dream Girls and be offended by the assertion that a character they deeply love and have an enduring affection for, whether it’s Diane Keaton’s Annie Hall or Katharine Hepburn in “Bringing Up Baby,” is nothing more than a representation of a sexist trope or some sad dude’s regressive fantasy.” We maybe trying to make sense of a phenomenon that seems to color every other female character in Indian movies these days. But in it’s own way it has become reductive. Maybe I am doing the same to Loosu Ponnu too.

    However, what I am saying here is not “There is nothing more to her than being a man’s fantasy” but “Hey! Look at the common thread that runs though these interesting characters, shall we find out why childlike heroines are dime a dozen these days?” There is nothing actually nothing so reductive about saying a character fits the trope. And I am certainly not trying to policy the fantasies men (or women) have. I am merely trying to throw a little bit of light there. Fantasies are complicated and any attempt to make sense of it will naturally be a little messy. At the end of it, all I am hoping is that we have fun unravelling the world of fantasies.

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  43. Hi Rahini & others, joining a bit late in the party. The ‘loosu ponnu’ character is indeed annoying. But, I found this episode of 30 Rock made me question my own biases when I judge this trope:

    http://jezebel.com/5769917/joan-of-snark-30-rock-parodies-jezebel

    Most of us, of course, recognise that women use their sexuality in different ways and the ‘loosu ponnu’ performance is one way by which they respond to social expectations, and we wish they wouldn’t give in to such societal pressure. But, along with it all, of course, comes an inadvertent judgement and irritation with the person putting on the performance. I wondered if that’s just our own biases on what is an appropriate use of female sexuality or even different aspects of feminity.

    Of course, there is also the question of whether being clueless & vulnerable is really an option for women. As long as the ‘loosu ponnu’ thing is only a facade and underneath, the woman is capable of making sound judgements then you don’t have to fear for her safety. But, what if the ‘loosu ponnu’ is what she really is? Will she then be really okay? or would she be okay only because men feel protective of her? is that so wrong? too many questions…gaaaaah!

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  44. Neena: I personally have a lot of problem with male writers conjuring up these characters and deeming them desirable.

    As for real life characteristics, well I usually try to imagine real situations where the tables are turned and see if I judge that too. Take an example, a backbencher boy is very bad in Chemistry. He hardly takes notes. He relies on a front-bencher girl who is nerdy and gives him notes and helps in the practicals. That girl’s notes is shared by the other boys too.

    Now turn the tables. A boy is particularly good in Java. His female friend who is very fashionable and good in dance is extremely bad in programming languages. He helps her. She learns Java programs by heart. She can’t write code. She shares his programs with other girls all of them learn it by heart.

    Nobody judges the boys in this as stupid. Their interest is in Cricket. Their interest is in Ajith movies. Boys will be boys. But a similar set of girls who want to discuss cure for acne or natural moisturizers for dry skin are judged as stupid and vain. That is just misogyny if you think about it.

    And there is judgmentality in assuming that in both cases boys are taking advantage of the girls. Some people think that the nerdy girl is taken for a ride because the boy is nice to her just for her notes. She is somehow seen as a victim by some people. They also think that the second girl is letting down the sorority. She should learn to write her own code and not expect male help lest the boy take advantage of her. But we didn’t judge the boys who got female help. And what is this “taking advantage” that I hear about so often anyway.

    I guess we should accept that our way is not the only way. And I admit only a deliberate conscious attempt on our part will help us there.

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