Feminist Malayalam films: Cinema in Kerala has always been ahead of its time. Recently we have strong on-screen female characters who are leading lives on their own terms. Breaking the stereotype of a “good Indian woman”, the Malayalam film industry has taken the lead with films like 22 Female Kottayam, Kalimannu, Sara’s among others.
These movies portrayed women who are ambitious, not driven by a man, sexually emancipated and have a voice of their own. Today, we look at some of the many such feminist Malayalam films of all time.
25 feminist Malayalam films which are a must watch for every woman
1. Udharanam Sujatha
A remake of the Hindi movie Nil Battey Sannata, it is the story of a single mother who works hard to provide her daughter with a secure future. She wants her to overcome all socio-economic limitations and find a significant place in the society.
Uyare is the story of an aspiring pilot and an acid attack survivor, Pallavi Raveendran. The narrative gives us an insight into her struggles and how she kept her spirits alive despite going partially blind in one eye after the accident.
3. How old are you?
The movie centres around a homemaker who had to sacrifice her dreams for her family. Marking Manju Warrier in the lead role, it raises the question if there is any ‘expiry date’ for a woman’s dreams.
4. 22 Female Kottayam
A rape revenge thriller, 22 Female Kottayam is the story of a nursing student, Tessa, who is raped by her partner’s Cyril’s boss. She takes no action initially and has to deal with sexual harassment once again. As the movie unfolds, she realises that Cyril is a pimp and was involved in the act. She is even sent to jail on false accusations and sets out to take her revenge against her tormentors on being released.
5. Zachariyayude Garbhinikal
Five women come to a male gynaecologist with unconventional pregnancies. Told from the perspective of the doctor, it narrates the ups and downs women go through during the process of bearing a child.
A Muslim girl Razia wants to sing the Adhan (Islamic summons to prayer) but being a woman, it seems to be a far fetched dream. The movie, therefore is about the protagonist’s struggle against gender bias and her right to choose.
7. Naalu Pennungal
Naalu Pennungal is an anthology narrating the stories of four women from different walks of life. It introduces us to a virgin woman whose husband abandons her, a prostitute, a childless housewife and a spinster. The stories are driven by the common themes of self-respect and self-assertion.
An aspiring actor gets married to a taxi driver and goes for artificial insemination after his death to have his child. This movie conveys the message that there are different ways for embracing motherhood and there’s nothing to be ashamed about any of them.
9. 5 Sundarikkal
Unexpected incidents in the lives of five women change their lives in this anthology of five short films Sethulakshmi, Isha, Gauri, Kullante Bharya and Aami. The movie was critically acclaimed for its experimental and bold content.
10. Trivandram Lodge
Dhwani is a woman desirous of living a sexually progressive life. The moment she enters the Trivandram lodge, the lives of the other members living there go into a state of nervous excitement. The plot of the movie revolves around her study of the inmates.
Unnimaya, a 17-year-old girl is ostracised by the society after her old husband dies. She then falls in love with a Kathakali artist, Madhavan. Problems begin to arise when she becomes pregnant. But the young girl stands up against the prevailing patriarchy.
12. Avalude Raavukal
Avalude Raavukal is the tale of a prostitute and her encounters with her ‘customers’. It discusses the political and social backdrop of the 1970s through different characters. The nuanced portrayal of feminism is what makes the movie special.
Based on the novel by Lalithambika Andarjanam, Agnisakshi explores the dreams of a young wife and her clashes with her husband’s conservative Brahmin family. We are left to see how she fights the norms and the reluctance of her in laws to accept the societal transformation during the period of independence.
Ozhimuri is a period drama that traces the independence women enjoyed in the old Travancore. It explores how three women enter into and leave an impact on the life of Thanupillai. These women are his mother, wife and son’s wife. The movie’s take on the theme of love gathered much controversy upon its release.
15. Nokketha Doorathu Kannum Nattu
The plot is driven by two women Padmini and Girly. The former battles solitude and bitterness while the latter changes the life of her grandmother and other neighbours with her cheerfulness.
16. Deshadanakili Karayarilla
Sally and Nimmy are befriended by a stranger, Hari, with whom the latter falls in love. Sally’s character is empowering as she is is strongly against anyone taking the charge of her or Nimmy’s life. This was one of the first films to talk about about an extremely close yet non-sexual and non-romantic relationship between two women.
The narrative revolves around Ammini, a teenager who loves to read, writes letters to Basheer and Madhavikutty and lives in her own world. The story gives us an insight into her conversations, love, strange encounters and dreams. Though two men come in her life, they don’t define it.
The movie is an investigative thriller trailing Selina’s life starting from her school days to adulthood, career and finally death. Though interpreted from the point of a male investigative journalist, it is essentially the tale of a female poet’s life.
Nandini goes through a heartbreak but that doesn’t deter her from achieving success in her career. Even when she gets a chance to reunite with her former lover, she takes a brave stand by letting him go the second time.
20. Kannezhuthi Pottum Thottu
The film presents Bhadra, a woman who seeks revenge against Natesan, a landlord, who killed her parents 15 years ago. She further tries to seduce his son Uthaman making him jealous. Using the men as mere pawns, she comes out as a winner in her game of vengeance.
21. Achuvinte Amma
Vanaja is a self-made woman with a mind-boggling backstory. who seemingly accepts all the upsetting chances and relationships in her life. Despite being a conventional feminine figure, she doesn’t mind fighting her battle alone.
Dr. Rohini Pranab and her battle with the world of human trafficking drive the plot of the movie forward. She rescues girls who have fallen prey to human trafficking and rehabilitates them. Despite managing everything on her own, she is aware of the obstacles that come with her gender during such a task.
23. Rani Padmini
Padmini and Rani come from two completely different family backgrounds. They meet on a journey and as they travel through unfamiliar places, they develop a bond and help each other solve their life problems.
Braving oppositions from family, Gayathri and Michael start a life together. But an unfortunate incident takes them off track. Gayathri holds on to her life despite Michael’s constant rant about how unfair it is. Though everything doesn’t turn out as desired, the viewers know that she is figure it all out yet another time.
Sara Vincent and her husband Jeevan Philip plan not to have children. However, with time, they evolve and their perspectives begin to change. What once brought them closer seems to drift them apart. Find out whether the couple finally agree to have a child or not in this Jude Anthany Joseph directorial.