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Maadathy, An Unfairy Tale Review: It is a Problematic Tamil Film On Women’s Disempowerment




Maadathy, An Unfairy Tale (NeeStream)

Directed  by  Leena Manimekalai

Rating: ** ½

Maadathy, An Unfairy Tale: This is  a very disturbing  film.  Not  only because it features  two  reprehensible  rape sequences  (one of them  a gangrape  of a minor) but also because the  director  Leena Manimekalai’s  basic premise is  loosely  applicable to  social reality. She  wants us to feel a collective outrage  when her free-spirited  young  protagonist  Yosana (Ajmina Kasim) is brutalized.

Of course we do. But  the  underlining subtext of rebellion—that Yosana will roam  freely in  the dark jungles in  the night no matter what the  price—is  blinding in its naivete.

When  in  the jungle , self-preservation is only possible when  one follows the laws  of  the jungle. Yosana is  treated as some kind of  inviolable deity  for most  of the film. She is free to roam the jungles , explore her sexuality(there is  a beautiful  moment when she watches a man bathe nude   from  behind the rocks, a Ram Teri Ganga Maili in reverse), defy all the  norms of safety and wellbeing…only to  pay a heavy price  for  her  insistence  on  being a butterfly  among wolves.

Spirit crushed, Yosana is  now  elevated to deification,  miraculously replacing   the  face of the goddess  in a temple with  hers.

 In  the way the  narrative fuses  a  contemporary  fable of  men  using , deifying and  defiling women at will,  with the myth  of   the  empowered  goddess whose  power comes at a great  price, the  director seems  to  have  taken on  thematic thrusts that are far wider than the spectrum  offered  in the narrative.

What works are  the wonderful  visuals  of the  forest: primeval, pristine  , predatory,  throbbing with an  unharnessed energy, Yosana  romping in  the  forest  unheedful  of  the  dangers, is a  sturdy  if somewhat  over-intellectualized  metaphor  for  the  dangers that women face everyday.

What’s  tragically absent  is  a dependable voice  of  reason behind  the impassioned  cry  for female  empowerment that  runs across the narrative.The  end result is  an inconsistent  but important film.

 At times  the  visual and emotional content coalesce  effortlessly. At other times, the two elements  of  the storytelling seem  far distanced  from one another.  Also the  strange prologue where a  newly-married woman  on  the way  to the temple  with her  horny husband suddenly gets  her  period  , is  contrived and unconvincing.

There  was  no need to bracket Yosana’s story  with a prologue  and an epilogue. She  could stand on her own. Isn’t that what  the film is trying to prove?

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