Film: "Malini 22 Palayamkottai"; Cast: Nithya Menen, A.C Murali, Naresh, Krish J. Sathar, Chandra D. Janagi, Kovai Sarla, Kota Srinivasa Rao and Vidyullekha Raman; Director: Sripriya; Rating: **1/2
Sripriya's "Malini 22 Palayamkottai" is what Jodie Foster's "Accused" was 20 years ago. It's an underrated gem that falters predominantly because of its very slow proceedings and the absence of commercial toppings. Critically raved and celebrated when it was made in Malayalam, the remake fails to leave an impact as the original.
Malini (Nithya), 22, a nurse awaiting her visa to Canada, falls in love with Varun, who deceives her with his charming looks. He moonlights as a pimp for affluent Prakash (Naresh) and has cheated several women in the past. Prakash is introduced as Varun's boss to Malini, and initially he portrays himself as a very friendly and respectable man. But when the moment arrives, he turns into a monster and rapes Malini twice. The duo team up and scheme a situation that eventually lands Malini in jail. Upon release from prison, Malini seeks vengeance.
As we are constantly exposed to news about rapes of innocent young girls and helpless women in the country, this film may appear to be like an extended footage of such incidents. But it's not because it achieves what many films that ever featured rape scenes didn't in Tamil cinema.
In "Malini 22 Palayamkottai", rape is not depicted from the perspective of the doer but from the victim's side. We usually hear the screams of a woman in rape, but never get to see or feel her pain. This film is an exception because it shows everything from the perspective of women, and, therefore, stands out.
If you're not patient, you're unlikely to enjoy this film or at least appreciate its effort. Sripriya addresses the subject with guts, proves that a woman at the helm can deliver an equally powerful and intelligent film. But what she doesn't realize is that her audience is not as intelligent as she would expect them to be.
Sripriya, who was once a successful actress, played a rape victim in Tamil drama "Aval Appadithan". It's probably because of that role and the effect it had left on her, she handles this subject with great care and understanding that most of her peers would lack.
The film is not your wake-up call against the atrocities happening against women in the country. It merely shows us that the ability to perform in bed doesn't make someone a 'man'. But its love, care and affection towards women that truly makes one a man. There are examples used in the film to reinstate this statement so that it gets registered in our thick skulls.
Nithya Menen plays Malini with a layer of emotions. Her transformation from the hunted to the hunter is commendable and she stands testimony to women power. She is strongly supported by debutant Krish and Telugu actor Naresh, who essay negative characters to perfection.
Dealing with a subject like rape, it's surprising to find that there's no room for sympathy in the film. All the sympathy is gathered up and presented as motivation for revenge. Despite a powerful climax sequence, the film struggles because of its meandering first half.