The long-awaited Aishwarya Rajesh starrer Farhana released on OTT, and this is the actor’s fourth women-centric film this year. It looks like the narrative is gradually witnessing a positive change in the Tamil film industry. Directed by Nelson Venkatesan, the movie is a thriller that’ll definitely keep you on the edge of your seat, especially through the second half, despite its slightly dragging pace.
Farhana narrates the story of a young middle-class mother, Farhana (Aishwarya Rajesh), who hails from an extremely conservative family. The first few scenes of Farhana viewing the world through the little window, desiring the freedom that working women have, and sadly admitting to a friend that she doesn’t even have a mobile phone showcase how small Farhana’s world has always been.
Farhana Aishwarya Rajesh
Farhana lives with her parents, husband, and three children. Her husband, Karim (‘Jithan’ Ramesh,) is a househusband who works at his father-in-law’s shoe shop. The family is in a challenging financial situation, and when Farhana’s youngest child has serious health issues, she decides to take up a job. She begins working as a customer support representative at a call centre. While her husband seems to be okay with it because he feels inferior for not being able to take care of the family, her father, Azeez, is disappointed with her for defying gender roles and social norms.
In the company, Farhana starts out in the banking department but later switches to another department that offers higher incentives. In the new department, Farhana’s job is to talk to sexually deprived men who call to appease their sexual desires via phone. She develops a hatred for the job because it goes against everything she believes. Just when she’s about to switch departments again, she begins a conversation with a caller, which makes her decide to stay. What starts out as a harmless conversation soon entraps her in a dangerous situation, and how she gets out of it forms the rest of the story.
The film shows how Farhana, a woman who had been confined in a conservative environment all her life, suddenly experiences the joy and freedom of being financially independent and having a social life. For a woman who has had no exposure to the outside world, an opportunity like this would really be thrilling and liberating.
Conservative Families Need To Empower Daughters
However, the question of whether a woman whose entire life has been inside the four walls of her home is able to smartly navigate through the challenges that come along with freedom. She gets herself entangled in trouble, but is she to blame for it? Or did her conservative upbringing deny her the opportunity to equip herself with what she needs to face the real world?
Many parents tend to be overly protective of their daughters, thinking they are safeguarding them by keeping them inside a cocoon. But do conservative and overprotective parents think about what will happen to their daughters when they step into the real world? Will they be empowered to survive in society on their own? Will they be able to assess people for who they really are?
Definitely not. Daughters who are raised in an extremely confined environment will grow up to be naive women who can turn out to be vulnerable prey for predators. It's always easy for predators to spot weaklings, and they know how to get to them. Although it might be hard to stomach this, overprotective parents are raising their daughters to be potential prey.
Imagine if Farhana had a healthy family that treated women as equals; if she could have open and honest conversations with her family; if she could pick up the phone and talk to a friend; if she had her own social circle and had been able to exercise her basic right to freedom to do the bare minimum; wouldn't she have turned out to be street smart? Wouldn't she have been efficiently able to manage the adversities that life threw at her?
Farhana is yet another reminder to raise physically, emotionally, and financially independent and empowered women, even if it means defying conventional social norms. As a female vendor asks Farhana’s father, how long do parents think they’ll be around to cocoon their daughters? How will women with no exposure be able to survive on their own in the real world?
Views expressed by the author are their own
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