22 Female, Kottayam is a movie with a spine. Among the bold new movies of Malayalam cinema, it shows things that people would generally not like to see, what movie makers traditionally would refuse to show. It is a small but radically different movie, made with lots of sincerity and heart with a small star cast churning out stellar performances propping up the strong story. You should watch this not because it is a cinematic masterpiece but because it tells a story that has essence, love, tears and has a fresh treatment to it which many contemporary film makers who are stuck in the rut of decades-old formula cinemas cannot get themselves to go along with. Another of those WIN movies which focus on societal issues, rather than megalomania.
|Directed By: Aashiq Abu
|Starring: Rima Kallingal, Fahad Fazil, Pratap Pothen
|Release date: 13 April 2012
|Running Time: 2 hours, 37 minutes
|Produced by: O.GEE Sunil
Why you should watch it
- Never-before theme
- Performance of a Lifetime by Rima Kallingal
- Real-life and plausible story and characters
- Bold, inspired and radical execution
Why you should not watch it
- You should really watch it.
- Technical niggles, loose direction
- Some unexplained plot holes
My Verdict and Rating – 3 and a half out of 5
What and Who is 22 Female Kottayam?
The movie tells us the story of Tessa, a 22 year old Malayalee nurse living and working in Bangalore. Among other things, it shows life in the city, men and women of today who have no hangups and it’s dangers. But the movie is at it’s core an ode to womanhood, a story of innocence, suffering, deceit, betrayal, drama and revenge, throwing light upon a series of women related crimes, of gullible women who fall into the trap of false promises and are then abandoned to rot. It brutally depicts the inhuman pitfalls and dangers that lurk behind the well-polished, shiny facade of the city, how it will strike you down if you ever left down your guard but will also make you bold to fight back. The movie sends out the signal quite blatantly that those who commit ghastly crimes on women, should be aware that they will have to pay the price for it. And rightly so. The climax should be made law.
There are thousands of Malayalee nurses in Bangalore and in other Indian cities, most of them dreaming about going and settling abroad. 22 F KTM can be any if them, any one of them can be Tessa, and what happens to her could happen to anyone. She can be any of the victims of crimes on women, ranging from unauthorized photography, groping and molestation, domestic abuse to rape and murder. The movie follows a series of shocking and heart rending incidents that happen to her over the course of a couple of months.
Those who grew up during the Yahoo! Chat room boom in the nascent stages of internet growth in India, know this adage as the ASL (Age, Sex, Location), or how a person requests an introduction. Only apt that this is the title, given the theme of the movie.
What Happens in Bangalore? The Story.
Tessa K. Abraham is 22 years old and hails from Kottayam, Kerala, and works as a nurse in Bangalore. She loves her profession and has absolute devotion for it. Like all good Mallu girls, her only goal is to emigrate to Canada and works single mindedly at getting a Visa, keeping aloof of the pleasures that the city has to offer. Her background is sort of grey, with her younger sister Tissa depicted as her only relative. She stays in a posh and spacious apartment with two other girls, both of who are nurses, all working in the same hospital. One of her roommates has an illicit relationship with an Audi-driving middle aged married man, while the other seemingly has only food on her mind and is tired of the entire nursing thing. She meets Cyril Mathew who runs some sort of a consultancy that specializes in these things. Through him she gets to know a guy named Mr. Hedge. After meeting for many times for the Visa, they grow closer and Cyril starts showing affection towards Tessa, and probably sensing him as genuine, she reciprocates his feelings and falls in love with him. They get intimate and she later moves in with him. Tessa believes she has found her man, and thinks of him as her everything. Together they paint the town red, till that day when a Pub brawl happens and Cyril badly beats up the son of a the leader of a local quasi-political outfit. Mr. Hegde intervenes to resolve the issue and Cyril is forced to go in hiding for a couple of days. That is when things take a tragic turn, shattering Tessa’s life, when she realizes that things are not going as how she planned and wanted it to be…
Some Thoughts on the Movie (Review)
The movie is bold, drops all pretensions and calls all spades as spades with No Bullshit, as the tagline suggests. It shows brutal truths, take it if you can. Rima Kallingal lives as Tessa, her screen presence overshadowing everything else. She IS the movie, the movie lives because of her. It seems the director had his mind somewhere else for much of the first half of the movie, as it is a bit of halt, jerk and go, as the screenplay struggles to find footing. It spends too much time on long drawn out sequences trying to establish the Chemistry between Cyril and Tessa, Tessa and her roommates and sister, showing Bangalore locale visuals and so on. But all that goes away in the second half, when the screenplay picks up and the movie chugs along nicely, gripping you and literally tying you to your seats with totally unexpected twists and turns, quite a number of them.
The humor and comedy is impeccable, woven into the screenplay, executed by ordinary characters with elan with quite a number of memorable dialogues. The climax is absolutely stunning. When she says “male organ” with a face cast in plastic and spits out the venomous “not any more”, the thunderous applause that rocked the small 350 seater theater said it all. One of the best things I liked about the movie is the small cast of only 6 important characters giving a lot of space for them to develop and the viewers to concentrate on them. And as always, Avial rocks!
22 F Ktm lashes out against the societal view of the woman as a commodity. The movie shows all those irreverent and outspoken girls, breaking the puritan movie-mold of Sati-Savitri-Shalini females. Even though people talk about moral pulchritude, it is a given that there are some codes of Victorian cultural conduct ill-defined by previous generations have been broken by the ones of today. That is a fact, you can deny all that you want, but it exists. And that is boldly shown on screen here. Much has been said about the lives of youngsters in the City, but coming to think of it, you cannot force your moral codes and values on someone else, no matter how flawed the others’ might be, and because you never know the entire story.
Coming to the shortfalls. If only Aashiq Abu had given some more serious attention to detail, this movie could have been perfect. Having seen how nurses are paid live in the (erstwhile) Garden City, there is no way that these girls can afford that kind of lifestyle comprising of KFC, Kallada and the designer apartment they are staying in, which can easily come to around Rs.20,000 in rent per month, even in a not-so-posh locality. Also, 22 is tad a bit less an age for a nurse with couple of years of experience. It also shows that she cannot be a B.Sc. nurse by any chance, which lowers her chances for a Canada visa. A glitch that I notices was: When Hegde hands Tessa his phone with Cyril on call, the Android is clearly seen with the idle home page, icons and all. Also, Tessa’s Kottayam slang is poor. The movie could have been made a bit more gripping and paced, yes. But none of these takes away the sincerity and heart with which the movie has been made.
Rima Kallingal as Tessa – All what is said above would have come to naught if it were not for her as Tessa. Rima delivers the performance of a lifetime, her makeover was stunning, acting spellbinding. From cheery to romantic to helpless to breaking down to angst and fear and in the end that cold, expressionless face – She has delivered a spectrum of “bhavams” seamlessly. She is the movie, the movie is her. An absolute tour-de-force of a performance! My favorite being the scene where she shows her helplessness, moving the fingers of her hand looking at Cyril, tears streaming down her face.
Fahad Fazil as Cyril – Fahad is, maybe, another hidden gem that has just been uncovered, he has come a long, long way from the disaster that was “Kayyethum Doorathu”, his debut 12 years ago, and now he has arrived! He effortlessly delivers throughout most of the movie, but it seems like he overdid it a bit in some scenes.
Pratap Pothen as Hegde – The rich landlord, rapist and insomniac delivers his role effortlessly, changing from a decent faced, mild mannered man to a raging rapist in a matter of seconds.
Satthar as DK – The millionaire “romantic” womanizer who says nothing comes for free and says he does not want to take anything by force, but prefers to wait till it is given to him whole heartedly. He prefers his women to come to him.
Subeida – I don’t know her real name, but she delivers the punch as the female rowdy prison inmate, full of courage and conviction. Her dialogue: “We women are born with the weapon – it is our greatest strength and greatest weakness” will remain in everyone’s minds for a long time.
The Judge, Jury and Prosecutor
I would not judge Tessa, I am no one to do so. There may be people who do, saying “Ohh, she should have been careful according to the leaf-and-thorn theory and so on. Yes, there are quite a number of people out there who carry the opinion that the man is entitled to have sex with as many women as he pleases and do whatever he wants with them once he gets tired of them. The climax is a message for them. It is another story entirely of the woman is aware of the pitfalls and dangers, but still you cannot judge anyone from your moral high ground. I know of many great f**ckers who insisted on their wives to be Virgins. I cannot judge Tessa, whatever and whoever it maybe, no woman deserves to undergo what she did. The heart rending visual of the teary, bewildered and helpless face of a girl who has nobody, who has lost everything many times over, cheated and abandoned by those she trusted and considered her everything and pushed into the gutter to rot all alone without any help, is enough not to judge her.
When movie makers stop showing molded films catering to egos, whims, fancies, hypocrisy and puritanism instead of the real world, that is when real cinema will be born. Kudos to Aashiq Abu, Rima Kallingal and everyone else involved for making this movie, a sincere and bold attempt, showing something that not everyone would want to see. The standing ovation given by the capacity audience in Kottayam Asha, mostly comprising of 20-somethings, said that the attempt had succeeded! All those geriatric youth-controlling rule makers of the World should visit one of these theaters to realize what the real pulse of the generation is. But hey, watching movies is a sin too, no?
And the ‘K’ in Tessa K. Abraham stands for Kurishuparambil. Go watch it, now!
(P.S. This was my 99th Post :))