Day 2 of the 54th IFFI (International Film Festival of India), in Goa, started on a positive note with the screening of the Malayalam movie, Aattam (The Play) which was the opening feature film of the Indian Panorama section.
This movie deals with the sensitive and complex subject of sexual harassment of a woman, and in the process, questions our sensibility and sensitivity as an audience.
ABOUT THE FILM
The film is about a theatre group of 12 men and one woman. It revolves around the sole actress of the group, Anjali (Zarin Shihab), who is the victim of one of these men during an overnight trip.
A meeting is called involving 11 men (except the accused) to reach a consensus on how to ‘solve’ this issue.
The plot may sound simple, but it delves deeper into the male psyche and speaks about hypocrisy, patriarchy, etc. The film has been directed by debutant director, Anand Ekarshi, and includes theatre artistes in real life.
The plot, as the director informed, is completely fictional, but the treatment of this film is very realistic. Men’s assumptions about a young actress, sexist comments and assassination of her character just because she wears certain outfits, or the fact that she drinks, sound familiar.
Through such dialogues by these men, the film makes a larger comment on how we, as a society, always blame the woman in such cases of sexual harassment.
And, one male character in the film tells Anjali, that it could be the case of ‘tactile hallucination’ as this could be the figment of her imagination as she was ‘drunk.’ There are various such situations in the movie that give an idea of the male mentality.
However, the film is not really preachy and does not make any loud statements.
Through his cinematic language, Ekarshi, the director sends a strong message about how society treats women, and most importantly, how men fail to understand a woman and her emotions.
Along with the issue of sexual harassment, the movie, in a very subtle way, also speaks about class hierarchy as most of these theatre actors have day jobs (one of them is a plumber, another is a driver, gas station worker, chef, newspaper editor, etc).
However, when it comes to woman, all of these men think along similar lines even though they project themselves as being ‘forward thinking’. This complexity of character is presented well in this movie, especially the character of Vinay (Vinay Forrt) who is her confidant and childhood friend, and yet, he too, uses the situation for his own benefit.
Also Ekarshi has written the woman’s character very well and the audience doesn’t really judge her or question her decisions. The movie has been beautifully, with its heart in right place.