Njan Marykutty movie review: A breakthrough moment in Malayalam cinema
Director: Ranjith Sankar
Cast: Jayasurya, Jewel Mary, Innocent, Joju George, Suraj Venjaramoodu, Aju Varghese
Cinema’s attitude on the transgender community hasn’t evolved beyond cis-gendered perspectives. It is here that a film like Njan Marykutty stands out for the fine way the lead character Marykutty has been scripted by director Ranjith Sankar and interpreted by actor Jayasurya. He has given a stellar performance - perhaps his career best - as the trans woman Marykutty, who is dignified and elegant. When the world throws brickbats at her, Marykutty wears as her armour — courage, boldness and a never-say-die attitude to reach for her dreams. Marykutty’s monologues, even in the most emotional moments, are said with a quiet smile and the playful winking of both eyes, demanding admiration over pity. This fifth outing from the director-actor duo does not preach or patronise but seeks to just put cis viewers in the shoes of trans community members and bestow them dignity.
The film begins with Jayasurya’s character Mathukutty leaving home to begin his journey towards becoming a woman. It is not an easy one – he has to meet a medical council that needs to recommend a sex change surgery and thus, Mathukutty begins his transformation to Marykutty, step by step. Her biggest ambition is to join the police forces so that she can earn respect and dignity. She prepares for the exams diligently. She lives in the house of her childhood friend, played by Jewel Mary, with a daughter who is very attached to Marykutty. As the film progresses, there are instances of what a woman faces as well as what a transwoman faces. Like any other woman, Marykutty is subjected to sexual advances from cis men as well as groping in crowded buses. But unlike most women, Marykutty faces an uphill battle in making society and even her own parents and sibling accept her. The hostile stares at bus stops, the open resentment, lewd comments and her being shunned only make her resolve stronger to fulfil her dream.
Enter a police officer played by Joju George, who turns out to be her nemesis. He does not like Marykutty’s nerve or her grasp of the law and makes it his life’s mission to destroy her dream. How Marykutty rises above hate and resentment is a lesson in positivity and a huge motivation to never lose sight of one’s dream, however hard the circumstances. Marykutty is aided in her quest by Jewel, an RJ friend played by Aju Varghese, the priest of her parish played by Innocent and a lawyer who lusts for Marykutty played by Siddharth Siva. Suraj Venjaramoodu, as the collector, deserves applause as also all the actors, especially Joju.
Marykutty says at one point, “This is neither the world of men nor is it of women; this is the world of talents.” Here, you are forced to acknowledge the talent of actor Jayasurya who seems to have disappeared into the garb of Marykutty. Part of that transformation is thanks to the elegant sarees donned by Marykutty - courtesy Saritha Jayasurya. There are no exaggerated gesticulations, no over-the-top emotions, no promiscuity, no loud makeup or clothes often attributed to trans persons but a quiet dignity that forces us to cry whenever Marykutty sheds a tear or exult whenever she scores a victory. Everyone in the audience who has seen the film is guaranteed to look at a trans person in a new light and that is the victory of this path-breaking film.