Maadathy: An unfairy tale (2021) – A Piece of art with a haunting visual language!

We have several new age directors from the Tamil industry including Pa. Ranjith, and Mari Selvaraj who let their politics speak through their movies loud and clear. Leena Manimekalai’s Maadathy, for me, is right up there among the best of these new age tamil movies for its haunting and powerful visual language. Probably, it is a striking example of the importance of female gaze in a movie based on caste and gender discrimination.

Maadathy is the story about a young girl Yosana born in an “unseeable” subsection of a dalit community. She is a free spirited girl who refuses to restrict herself to the norms and boundaries set by the caste, while her mother Veni seems to know the hard realities of life as an unseeable and constantly worries for her daughter. A few moments into it, the movie unsettles you by showing what actually it is to be an unseeable and how their routine works. Soon we see that while men in this community are able to adjust even during the utmost oppression, it is the females who always are pushed to the extremes by the caste restrictions and atrocities.

Like in Sanal Kumar Shashidharan’s S Durga(2017), Maadathy shows the hypocrisy of men with precise metaphors. While on one side, they do everything to build a temple for their goddess to lift the curse on the community, on the other side they take pleasure in abusing women. When Karnan(2021) showed us how the deep routed caste system works most recently, Maadathy takes it to another level while focusing on the plights of women. Here comes the importance of female gaze and it is quite pleasing to see how Leena’s eyes capture the atrocities on women here.

Semmalar Annam is splendid as Yosana’s mother Veni while giving an emotionally impactful performance. Ajmina Kasim as adolescent Yosana is quite adorable in her role which makes the climax all the more severe and haunting.

Rafiq Ismail and Yavanika Sriram has Co-written Leena’s story. The dialogues and the visuals can both be disturbing at times. The haunting story of Yosana and the community which Leena herself calls “Dalits among Dalits” is brilliantly woven into the folklore of Maadathy, a rural Tamil diety. Though the visuals are quite fascinating with river, mountains, forest and living beings, the visual language always gives the uneasy feeling. As the title suggested, the makers have quite effectively created an ‘Unfairy’ tale!

Maadathy is a disturbing and affecting piece of work which grabs you by the throat from start till the end. A movie which has materialised through crowd funding, it has already earned several accolades in its film Festival runs and is now streaming on Neestream. A strong reminder why we need to support independent film making. Kudos to Leena Manimekalai and rest of the team!!

By sreenathjvm

I am a healthcare professional. An ardent movie lover. Writing about movies forever has been an obsession.

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