’22 Female Kottayam’ is a movie for which we can’t just generalise our opinions with the terms as good or bad. There can be people who love it, people who hate it and people who consider it as just an average movie. Everyone should be given a space of freedom for their like or dislike. However, I belong to the first section just because I really loved the movie, and I dont recollect anything in it to criticise in a negative tone. Sorry to slap those reviewers who sadistically made it a prey to studies of feminism, psychoanalytic criticism, gender issues and also to their scene-by-scene rash criticism. I have a humble request to all to see this as a ‘movie’ in the first place instead of seeing it as a medical/ theoretical ‘subject’ for anatomical dissection like a frog or a rat in a zoological lab. This is a story of a female aged 22, native to Kottayam, placed as a nurse in Bengaluru and trying for a job abroad. She is called Tessa K Abraham. The transformation of her character from the natural innocent female to the essential bold ‘FEMALE’, after getting exposed to certain unlucky situations and to certain cruel characters is what had got titled as ’22 Female Kottayam’. The tone of the term ‘female’ changes with all dimensions of its concept. It is a must- watch movie, not a must-like one.
Having conceived a really different story line from Syam Pushkaran and Abhilash, Aashiq Abu made a bold attempt to show even the emotionally violent sequences without getting bothered about the audience’s response. Commendably courageous! It is only when one director makes the movie exactly in the form that he perceives and exactly independent of any outer factor without any badly affecting compromises, that the director gets to own the movie fully. It is only then that the movie becomes a good product of his responsibility to himself. I believe that good movies originate as a result of such a process of possession. I could see that well in 22 Female Kottayam.
Next to the writers, the actors had to take up the challenge to carry it on in the same track. Rima Kallingal and Fahadh Fasil excel in that section. I have never seen Rima with such a flexible scope, and that indeed made me most surprised. Rima was able to be that innocent girl in the first portion, the tortured lady in the middle and the boldest ‘woman’ in the last. It was interesting to see that even her looks, her voice tone and her dialogues changed for a perfect blending. This is the first movie in which I see her performance with all respects. It was Aashiq and Rima who carried the story till the end without leaking the strength in between.
Fahadh Fasil should be called a good professional when it comes to the acting career. I had laughed him off in his first movie. Whatever the reason is, the gap that he had taken did work out well and did prove his attitude with a big handful of worthy performances in remarkable movies. 22FK is the latest one in the ongoing list. The romantic looks that is inborn in him is well utilised for the story and he is the first and the last person I can see fitting to the character. Anyhow, looks is not all that matter. The natural way of his gestures, his dialogue deliveries, and acting is well proved in this movie. His previous ones like ‘Chaappa Kurishu’, ‘Kerala Cafe’, ‘Cocktail’ etc too are good proofs of his caliber. It is the magic of professionalism and approach, as I would define it. It had made changes in him, all for good.
After Rima and Fahadh, it would be Prathap Pothen and TG Ravi who excel in the movie. Prathap Pothen was seen ‘behaving’ more than ‘acting’ with the cunning, shrewd looks, the crooked show of innocence, the sharp timing of dialogues and matching gestures. But apart from all the other characters, TG Ravi did that magic to 22 F K that Jose Prakash had done to ‘Traffic’ before. With the cute role, some small scenes of hidden messages and good rendering of emotions, he was one who moved me to laugh and tears alike, along with Rima. The sister character and the room mate character too had done their roles very neatly and added up to the realistic flavour of the product. Also, the lawyer, the sister’s friend character, the old lover character and such minor factors too had their marked importance in the movie and received claps from the audience. Sathar was well used in the movie making him support the track well.
Many dialogues and some scenes received good applause in the theatre that I was in for watching the movie. I could see that the audience were really into the movie with exactly the same response as the director had wanted. Sometimes it was pin drop silence, some other time it was good funny comments, and yet other times it was laughs and claps. The movie kept on making each and everyone fully involve in it.
As a personal note, I like to write about something else that relates myself to the movie. I may be mad, but I used to imagine myself in some jail after committing some unexpected crime. It is one moment that makes us shed our ‘being ourselves’. Everyone becomes the same there with some common habits of daily life. No egos gets worked and there will be no scope for dreaming or planning our next day. We will have no idea then that a world is there outside the compound wall of the jail. There would be no answer if we think about which is the real world- the world outside or the world inside? I always consider jail life as the most horrible, the most unlucky and the worst part of living. I used to think about how my expressions would be once I am there, what my thoughts would be like, how I would accept such a life totally cut off from the world and how I would change with time spent there. 22 F K visualed it perfectly with the minutest detail. I don’t remember to have seen another such film in which I could walk as the character experiencing her thoughts and emotions as though it was all mine. The mental conflict she goes through was well conveyed- not only the jail life, but the whole of what Tessa was going through. The scene of rape and post-rape gave me some feeling that I can’t put into words, but i remember to have got a similar hurting prick in the rape scene of Keerthichakra. The shot of the broken finger of Tessa post-rape was itself a heavy violence for me. Many such sequences may make some kind of audience distracted. I too was shocked with such scenes as if I wanted to run off from the theatre, but the truth is that they can’t be avoided as they are integral parts of the story. I had never thought that 22FK was such a dark movie. But the realistic depiction carries it off in a different level with all classic rules of tragedy. This is really what I feel that makes 22FK stand apart from the reapeating dark threads of Blessy that I hate with all my heart.
I dislike the songs in the movie. Avial is a band that has never satisfied me. ‘Aanakkallan’ in ‘Salt N Pepper’ is one song that I hate. ‘Chillaane’ and ‘Melle’ too add up to that list of mine. Seems like Avial goes in the same track in whatever they are into. I saw the song scenes as just movie scenes, since the tunes never made an impact in me. Sameera Saneesh needs a special clap. I always see her as the most sensible person in the new generation film costume designers. I don’t know much about the other technical aspects of cinema, but appreciate everyone who is a part and parcel of 22FK. There is not point in copy pasting their names and just blabber about the excellence of their work, when I don’t know about it in detail. If the product is good, each one is a part of it.
I hadn’t liked even a bit of ‘Salt N Pepper’ when all the others loved and clapped for it. ‘Daddy Cool’ too was disliked by me. I never thought that Aashiq Abu would do such a movie as 22FK to make me love respecting him as a filmmaker. After ‘Engeyum Eppodhum’, ‘Cocktail’ and ‘Beautiful’, I would like to enlist ’22 Female Kottayam’ to my recent favourite list. Hats off to the makers. Standing ovation to Rima Kallingal. Salutes to the changing concepts of Malayalam Cinema!