Indian cinema is increasingly letting their heroes and heroines ride roughshod over what’s legal and lawful, and this seems to be apparent in recent Malayalam and Tamil films.
While the popular hit from Kerala, the movie Drishyam, allowed murderers to free with the movie’s publicity material even touting it as a family entertainer, 22 Female Kottayam, also in the same language, looks the other way when its protagonist kills a man with the help of a cobra and castrates another.
Admittedly, in both movies, women, who were the culprits, had been wronged in the first place. But is it right to take law into one’s hands — and this is a particularly worrying aspect in 22 Female Kottayam, whose Tamil remake releases on January 24.
Titled Malini 22 Palayamkkotai, the film also made in Telugu version, is been acted by Sripriya, better known as an actress who is frequently paired with southern cinema’s two most admired men, Rajnikanth and Kamal Hassan.
While the Malayalam and Tamil editions are more or less similar, Aashiq Abu’s 22 Female Kottayam has tighter scripting and better performances. Fahad Fasil, playing the role of a villainous lover, is several notches higher than his Tamil counterpart, Krish Sathar. And so is Rima Kallingal, compared with Nithya Menon in Malini 22 Palayamkkotai.
Sripriya’s work – in all fairness to her – looks a little different from the original, with the sequence of scenes, for instance, placed with greater imagination than Abu’s creation. Also, I quite liked the way Sripriya ends her movie with a frame freezing on Menon’s Malini walking into the Chennai airport. Many directors tend to mess up their climaxes, not calling cut when they should.
Malini 22 Palayamkkotai rolls into a very current fear that is gripping India in almost endemic proportions — rape and molestation. Not that the subject is novel. It has played out time and again in Indian cinema, but what is being seen as somewhat novel is the fact that boyfriends or lovers are turning into lecherous predators, who, driven by greed, are even willing to sell their beloved.
In Sripriya’s film, Malini is a nurse, all set to fly to Canada on a work visa when she is drawn to her handsome, young travel agent, Varun (Sathar). Unfortunately, for Malini (who seems a trifle too naïve to be living in modern India), Varun pimps for his boss, Prakash (Naresh) — whose carnal instincts force him to rape even unconscious women. He ravishes Malini, not once, but twice, the second instance being not so convincing.
Malini 22 Palayamkkotai then swerves into the fast lane of revenge, hatched inside a prison and aided and abetted by a convict. Ingenious ways are thought of to teach a hard lesson to the perpetrators of crime, and a couple of ethical and moral questions pop up here. But, of course.
Sripriya’s efforts are mostly seamless, and some of her characters, like Santhanam (Kota Sreenivas Rao), a terminally ill patient cared for by Malini, pep up the narrative – though, as usual, songs (one sung by Menon herself), are, at best, speed-beakers.