Gender sensitivity has never been Tamil cinema’s cup of tea. Our movies have always portrayed the sexual minorities – homosexuals and transgender – in poor light, making them the butt of jokes. Narthaki seems to be the first attempt to address issues faced by the transgender by throwing some light on their life to shatter the myths and lack of knowledge surrounding their existence and lives. And for that matter, this attempt by ‘Punnagai Poo’ Geetha is worth paying attention to. It is designed to overcome prejudice towards transsexuals/transgender.
The movie doesn’t get preachy but since it’s not commercial cinema, it’s more or less close to real life in portrayal of characters. Thanks to the proper research and education, the director gets it right without succumbing to major glitches in the representation of the third gender. It also helps that a real transgender plays the role of one; a smart choice by director Vijayapadma. Despite that, the superfluous dramatics that occurs while dealing with these sensitive subjects, kind of, goes out of control.
The story happens in a village in Tanjore in the life of a Silambam teacher, who is an epitome for manhood, and his son who realizes he is slowly turning into a woman. But the teacher cannot grasp the fact that his son is probably a transsexual and with his limited knowledge, confirms that it’s entirely his son’s fault. So his life becomes miserable and there are attempts to turn him into a straight man.
Narthaki seeks to explain the gender inequalities prevalent in the society by presenting the close to real life picture of a man who is undergoing physical and mental transformations. He aspires to become a woman and follows his goal. So the movie takes us through the rituals such people undergo, seemingly in Mumbai for some weird reason. These scenes feed our inquisitiveness as much as they are hard to stomach.
In the performance front, Abhishek who plays the role of Kalki in her childhood, takes the cake. He is brilliant when he makes us notice his own changes in his body. When his father teaches him steps in silambam, it transpires into a step in bharathanatyam. And the teenager Aswin’s performance is noteworthy as well, as he breaks down to Leema who is out to seduce him to ‘make him a man’. The other characters played by VKR Raghu, Venkatesh, Vivin and Girish Karnad are appropriately portrayed.
GV Prakash’s music is another plus for Narthaki. Prakash seems to get into the skin of the story to discover the nuances while scoring for the movie. Two songs that linger even after you leave the theaters are Jai Jai Matha and Poovin Manam.
While director Vijayapadma and producer Punnagai Poo Geetha’s attempt is laudable, Narthaki suffers from maudlin scenes that are way too many. And the fact that they are suffused into the story line, probably to make you feel bad for the characters does not help much either. Nevertheless, it’s an attempt worth noticing since it provided answers for many questions among the general public that have very little information about the sexual minorities.
Verdict: An attempt that needs to be encouraged