In ‘Priya Prakash’ Era, Women ‘Aashiqs’ Are Taking the Lead

In a post-Harvey Weinstein era, women are teaching men the rules of romance, without appearing to be ‘predators.’

3 min read
Hindi Female
In a post-Harvey Weinstein era, women are teaching men the rules of romance, without appearing to be ‘predators.’

Actor Priya Varrier is the latest online celebrity to set the internet ablaze. Thousands have been enamoured by the 18-year-old actor’s ‘wink’ in a video that went viral practically overnight. Once you are done watching the video for the millionth time and the charm wears off, you wonder what exactly it is about the video that made the nation go gaga.

Across the landscape of cinema, male actors have become famous, if not infamous, for flirtatious winks, and during the Valentine’s week, Varrier has managed to become the darling of millions of hopeless romantics.

In the post-Harvey Weinstein era, the male aashiqs of yesteryear have been pretty much driven to extinction, with the emergence of a fluctuating and highly-political battle over what is the most ‘appropriate’ manner of courting a woman.


Role Reversal

The socio-political sphere is dominated by newer social parameters for men regarding speech, posture and gaze, with even a focus on non-verbal cues, which ended up clubbing actor/comedian Aziz Ansari with celebrities accused of sexual harassment.

While men are being sent back to ‘romance school,’ does the popularity of Priya Varrier’s wink mark the advent of the woman aashiq? As it sweeps across the hearts of thousands of men and women, does it show that the ‘modern man’ who shudders to offend a woman, and the modern woman who believes she is no less than a man, are in agreement that women should be the romantic leaders of the 21st century?

Is this the result of the combined effect of the gender sensitisation of men and the empowerment of women? Or is there a simpler explanation?


Levelling the Playing Field

Are the flirtatious cues of courtship now deemed crass when wielded by men, simply considered harmless and even innocent — if not bold when wielded by a woman? The gender politics of today do not view a woman winking at a man, whistling at a man and even asking for his phone number as a predator.

In fact, popular culture has mobilised it as an act of women embracing their sexuality and desire, an act of defiance against longstanding patriarchy and systems enforcing ‘lady-like’ behavior to be at par with the ‘old boys’ clubs.’

Take the example of cases in the United States where female teachers are caught having relationships with male students. The first question is never, “Is this abuse of power?”

It always is “how attractive is the teacher?”

Scour the internet and you will find countless articles with the standard title ‘Hot teachers who slept with their students.’


A Culture of Voyeurism

Another explanation could be the simplest one — voyeurism — as Priya Varrier’s memes suggest. A smiling and winking school girl, followed by smiling older male celebrities – ranging from politicians to cricketers to actors — such is the crass imagery the Internet is infamous for.

Is the excitement over an 18-year-old girl’s wink another avatar of a ‘saas-bahu soap’ actress donning a bikini? Is it seen no more than perverse excitement or titillation caused by the loss of (another’s) innocence?

(The writer is a senior news editor at CNN-News18. This is a personal blog and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same)

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