A shout-out to Jayasurya’s performance in ‘Njan Marykutty’…

Posted on July 5, 2018

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Read the full article on Film Companion, here: https://www.filmcompanion.in/njan-marykutty-jayasurya-performance-southern-lights-baradwaj-rangan

Plus, thoughts on cis actors in trans roles, ‘Asuravadham’, and a beautiful ‘singer’s song’ from the seventies’.

Since everyone’s talking about Ranbir Kapoor’s performance in Sanju, allow me to direct your attention to Jayasurya in the Malayalam film, Njan Marykutty, where the actor plays a transgender. This isn’t about comparing performances, but non-Bollywood films don’t register much outside the states they are made in, and I felt Jayasurya’s marvellously tuned performance deserved another shout-out. (The first one is in my review, which you can read here.)

But this column is about something else. On the Film Companion South Film Club, on Facebook, this (valid) question came up: Where do you stand on the debate – “Actors should play their age?”  And this made me think of Njan Marykutty. I replied: “The whole point of ‘acting’ is that it is opposite to ‘being’. If the character is convincing, age or gender or whatever else does not matter. I say this also because, in recent years, it’s become PC to say ‘a trans role should be played by a trans person’ and so on. If you get a great trans ‘actor’, then certainly. But the ‘acting’ comes first, and if a cis person is better at putting the emotions across, then THAT should be the priority. Cinema is make-believe. Whether the actor ‘makes us believe’ is the most important thing.”

Naturally, there was some back and forth, and a commenter brought up this important point: “It’s not just political correctness in the case of marginalised characters like trans people. It’s just that they hardly get a role written for them and when there is a chance, it does feel unfair to have a cis male play them. It also suggests that they are just men playing women, which is part of the problem that creates the stigma around transition.” They added: “If we are looking for a woman to play a female character in a film, do we take the best female actor that’s available or do we take the best actor that’s available? If only a woman can play a female character, shouldn’t the same rule apply to transgenders too?”

Continued at the link above.

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