Is tamil cinema ready for a 22 Female Kottayam?, 22 Female Kottayam


22 Female Kottayam
Written by Abhilash Kumar and Shyam Pushkaran and Directed by Aashiq Abu
Language - Malayalam
Year - 2012
Rape revenge story

There are films that leave us as we are watching them and there are films that stay with us for a couple of hours after we leave the hall and still there are films that cast a huge spell and draw us completely into their world and fail to leave their grip on us for a long long time. 22 Female Kottayam in Malayalam directed by Aashiq Abu falls under the last category.

22FK is about a young nurse Tessa K Abraham (Rima Kallingal) aged 22 from Kottayam who is working in a Bangalore hospital but has her aspirations to go to Canada to pursue her career. She is being helped by Visa consultant Cyril (Fahaad Faasil) with whom she falls in love. When things go seemingly in the right direction, there comes a cruel blow in the form of Hegde (Prathap Pothan), Cyril’s boss, who brutally rapes Tessa.

From this point onwards, it is almost like death knell for the young woman who becomes a victim of larger scheme of things, gets manipulated for drug possession and lands in jail. It is more than a shock for Tessa when she realizes who is behind her framing. 22FK is about how she handles her life after this and avenges her detractors.

Director Aashiq Abu tells his story with an authority and style that keeps you engaged till the end credits. Tarantino’s influence on the director is palpable in quite a few scenes. Aashiq does not give a cushioning time for two events at the extreme ends of spectrum to happen and the transition is too sharp and steep that you are jolted thoroughly.

Hegde casually enters Tessa’s house with an information about Cyril’s whereabouts and as bluntly as that bombards her (and the audience too) with a ‘Can I have sex with you’. When did you last see such spiky, mood change without an iota of caution or preparedness? In a similar span, when Cyril and Tessa are relaxing after a drive, she abruptly tells him without any prologue that she is not a virgin. There is no indication that it is going to come to us. One would have to really rake up one’s brains if such honest abrupt candor was witnessed anywhere in our films.   

The initial half of the film is like a beautiful romantic poetry that shows the gradual blooming of love between Tessa and Cyril. For all those romantics, the film during this part is such a soft caress, an enjoyable one at that. Their romance happens slowly and steadily with the exchange of texts with Bangalore lights and soft music as company. The scene that actually acts as the catalyst to their romance is the one at the hotel where Tessa drinks with Cyril.

This scene apart from triggering their love is also totally devoid of the hypocrisies we generally associate our films with. When Cyril asks Tessa if she drinks, she uninhibitedly replies that she is after all a Christian from Kottayam who is accustomed to having a drink cabinet next to dining table. For audience who is used to seeing women on screen, being portrayed as the epitome of all things virtuous, this one was a fresh breather. There are no moral judgments passed! A couple is having a good evening and that’s all about it.

The strength of Tessa is demonstrated immediately after this scene when she single handedly drops the much sloshed Cyril at his house late in the night in an auto. Please bear in mind that Tessa has also had equal rounds but still continues to be somber enough!

Although live-in relationships are not something that would evoke surprise in urban milieu, our films are yet to showcase them in a non-judgmental form. But 22FK does it very casually, very aesthetically. 

One cannot brand 22FK as sexist because not all the men in the film are bad and cruel. There is this old man Ravi as Tessa’s patient in the hospital who shares a very endearing bonhomie with her. He is incessantly but harmlessly wooing Tessa with his share of property that is ready to be bequeathed to her. It is certainly one of those cute moments when he closes his eyes with his hands with a child like glee, when Tessa is busy texting Cyril. Certainly an adorable moment!

It is also interesting to note that a hero like Fahaad Faasil has agreed to play the role of Cyril that has a clear dark shade and also one which is second in importance to the heroine. That said Fahaad definitely holds his fort in the film.

Of course, there are a few foibles that Aashiq could have avoided. Even though the film is well made, it has quite a few western inspirations. The jail segments are reminders of Sidney Sheldon’s ‘If tomorrow comes’. And if the revenge had been done on a more intelligent scale, it would have clearly fallen in line with the earlier tonality of the film. For instance, using a snake to kill someone appears a tad archaic. There could have been smarter ways. And for any crime to go undetected, leaving a negligible trail or no trail is the key word. But Tessa leaves a long trail especially in killing Hegde. This could have been taken care of.

And when somebody is convicted of offences pertaining to possession of narcotics, leaving a country and that too within a short span is something unrealistic. However, looking at 22FK in a broader sense, these shortfalls can be brushed aside.   

Women-centric films are not new to our celluloid although the number may not be high due to economics involved. All the same, such films definitely deserve a deafening applause! And thank you Aashiq Abu for giving us a well made film with a bold plot with a woman helming the affairs and that too showcasing the woman more for her inner reserve than for her outer skin!

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