Moving portrayal of innocence in a casteist world

Moving portrayal of innocence in a casteist world

Ajmina Kassim delivers a heart-warming performance as an innocent teenager.

Maadathy

Tamil (Neestream)

Director: Leena Manimekalai

Cast: Ajmina Kassim, Arul Kumar, Semmalar Annam, Patrick Raj

Rating: 3.5/5

‘Maadathy’ is yet another hard-hitting portrayal of caste discrimination. Leena Manimekalai’s Tamil film, which premiered at the Busan International Film Festival in 2019, exposes caste prejudice and the shocking, inhuman treatment of women in our villages.

Yosana (Ajmina Kassim) is born to a ‘slave’ caste. Her people are ‘unseeables’ as they wash clothes and bury corpses for a living. Villagers think it is inauspicious even to look at them. The film, for the most part, is told through the lens of Yosana. Still in her teens, her innocence makes her oblivious to caste politics. She fearlessly roams around and loves nature. Her parents are always worried about her falling into the wrong hands.

Some powerful dialogues reflect the oppression faced by her community. Yosana’s mother (Semmalar Annam) tells her, “It’s a curse that you were born beautiful in the slave caste. Because you were born a girl, they told me to break your neck when you were born. These human beasts won’t let us live.”

Leena beautifully weaves in the concept of female gaze into the narrative. Yosana is confused and amused with her bodily sensations when she sees a group of men bathing in a waterfall. 

‘Maadathy’ is a well-acted film. The cinematography by Jeff Dolen, Abinandhan Ramanujam and Karthik Muthukumar helps Leena build her world with precision.

It is a place where those lower down in the social hierarchy are always in danger. It is a place where people worship a female deity but don’t respect women.

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