ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Matriarchy Revisited

Two recent films—one Malayalam, the other Bengali—adopt a dissenting stance towards the consensus of patriarchy as they focus on the roles of women in society.

The academic preoccupation with writing the history of India from a woman’s point of view has not been very successful. We find ourselves living in the power of the Aryan myth and the surrounding discourses in planting the Indian nation in this soil.  This approach continues to hold immense sway in professional, technocratic circles that has silenced almost every other approach. The middle-class professionals being the biggest consumers of mainstream popular media—if not its trendsetters—it is very difficult to expect something exceptional from the Indian media. As for academics, women’s representation has ceased to be of any significance other than a question of empowerment. This is a state of reciprocal ignorance within which academics and media seek to mutually gratify the consensus of patriarchy as the running thread of all narratives.

Two films recently produced yet try to adopt a dissenting stance towards this consensus. They are insinuating and do not explicitly try to make a feminist critique of history or challenge its patriarchal assumptions, but call on the spectator to think about the roles of women in society. One is a Malayalam film directed by Madhupal, which is adapted from a novel Uravidangal in Malayalam by bilingual writer Jayamohan. Titled Ozhimuri (2012), the film refers to a divorce suit, which in the story is filed by Meenakshi, a devout Nair wife of a landlord in erstwhile southern Travancore, at present in Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu, an area with a mixture of Tamil and Malayalam as lingua franca and a place that harbours a lot of nostalgia for the Nair community, once subjects of the Travancore king. The film sheds light on the Nair caste trying to come to grips with the gradual shift from matriliny to patriliny, beckoned by the changing times and circumstances since the 1940s. Can women leave behind their privileges and walk into relationships of a legal contract as easily as men? That seems to be the principal question the film’s story raises. 

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