Friday, May 24, 2024

An Ordinary Woman and Twelve Ordinary Men

CAN A WOMAN tell the unvarnished truth about what happened to her? This is the central question at the heart of Anand Ekarshi’s Aattam (The Play), the 2023 Malayalam film that was recently adjudged the best film at the 47th edition of the Kerala Film Critics Awards.

The film takes its structure from the iconic Twelve Angry Men (1954), a teleplay that has inspired multiple films since, including the Hindi film Ek Ruka Hua Faisla (1986). A bunch of men weigh in on what appears at first to be a matter of outright criminality, and must decide the fate of the accused.

However, what makes the creative twist in Aattam particularly successful is that it has freed the “judgement” from legal institutional frameworks and moved it into a creative workplace. The “case” in question is sexual harassment. Anjali (Zarin Shihab), the lone female member of a small drama company, has been molested and the other members must decide whether or not her alleged abuser should continue working with them.

I wrote this short essay about Aattam, Indian movies and representation of sexual harassment, especially at  the workplace. My own headline for it was: 'An Ordinary Woman and Twelve Ordinary Men'. 

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