“Njan Marykutty”… A finely tuned Jayasurya performance carries a black-and-white tale of a transgender who wants to become a cop

Posted on June 30, 2018

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Spoilers ahead…

Read the full review on Film Companion, here: https://www.filmcompanion.in/njan-marykutty-movie-review-malayalam

If there is a petition to ban background music in cinema, Anand Madhusoodhanan’s score for Njan Marykutty, directed by Ranjith Sankar, would be Exhibit A. It is offensive not just because it’s so blatantly manipulative, but also because Marykutty (Jayasurya), who was formerly a man named Mathukutty, lives her life with such dignity — and it’s sickening to see her plight being amplified so, as though what she were going through wasn’t enough and we needed to be reminded to feel. Banish memories of the score (it takes some doing), and you find that Jayasurya’s performance is its own kind of music. It’s impressively minimalistic, not so much a symphony as a series of perfectly tuned solo instruments — a lightly swaying gait, a modestly raised pinkie, a small smile, a smaller sigh.

When a man on a bus gropes Marykutty from behind, she gently, but firmly, squashes his foot with her shoe. If the background score had directed this scene, Marykutty would have screamed and the other passengers would have jumped in to beat up the man. Then again, maybe they wouldn’t have — for Marykutty may think she’s a woman but the others don’t see her that way. At church, women move away when she stands amidst them. Two men — this is the town of Idukki — are determined to drive her out. This perhaps explains the minimalism of Marykutty’s behaviour. If she allows herself to feel fully, life might become even more difficult. Even the tears don’t flow freely. They emerge, and we sense Marykutty’s resolve to not let them drop.

Setting this story in Idukki is a masterstroke. With the public attitude towards transgenders, Marykutty would have found things difficult even in bigger cities, but in this small, patriarchal town, it’s worse. The locals don’t care that she used to work in a software firm (which explains the money for the gender reassignment surgery and the subsequent hormone treatments) or is more well-educated than most people around her. What burns them up is that she rejected her masculine privilege. A female gazette officer who wishes she had been a man spews venom Marykutty. (You can hear her thinking. “You were born a man, and you chose to become a… woman?”) Even Marykutty’s younger sister (Malavika Menon) spurns her. The sister explains, with great sorrow, that she was happy and, more importantly, proud to have an older brother. “Why did you do this?” You think a twentysomething like her would understand, but this is Idukki; the only definition of Pride is probably what one feels on an accomplishment.

Continued at the link above.

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