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10 Women-centric Malayalam films to watch on Netflix, Prime Video, Hotstar, SunNxt

Ryan Gomez

Ryan Gomez
Jun 28, 2021

From the Great Indian Kitchen to 22 Female Kottayam: Here’s a list of the best women-centric Malayalam films

The Malayalam film industry has produced excellent women-centric films in the past few years. While it has not been the case historically, there have been a few exceptions. The following is a list of some of the best women-centric films in Mollywood, both past and present.

1
Uyare
7.9OTTplay Rating
It is a story about a society and a system that is broken and enables heinous crimes against women. Parvathy Thiruvothu portrays an acid attack survivor, who had aspirations to become a commercial airline pilot. The story highlights the various struggles faced by the victims of such crimes in search of justice. The performances by the main cast which included Asif Ali, Tovino Thomas and Siddique were excellent in one of the most authentic tales about the plight of women in society.
2
The Great Indian Kitchen
8.6OTTplay Rating
The Malayalam film industry has been accused in the past of using misogynistic themes, as well as promoting patriarchy through movies, especially from the 90s to the 2000s. More recently, however, several films have course-corrected the industry’s path. The Great Indian Kitchen is one of the first movies to directly take up the issue of society’s stance on women’s rights and misogyny. The film is a thought-provoking, masterfully crafted creation with some of the best use of frames for visual imagery as metaphors. Nimisha Sajayan played the lead in the film, which is arguably one of the best films of the year.
3
Chinthavishtayaya Shyamala
7.8OTTplay Rating
This classic from the 90s was far ahead of its time. The story is about the struggles of a wife and mother who are burdened with a husband who neglects the family. The film is a satirical black comedy that puts focus on the various social beliefs in Kerala from religion to economics, but primarily on the institution of marriage. The protagonist Shyamala is played by Sangeetha while the husband is played by industry veteran Sreenivasan, who wrote and directed the film as well.
4
Take Off
8.5OTTplay Rating
The film was a critical and commercial success on its release in 2017. It is a real-life story about Malayali nurses who were caught in the middle of the conflict between Iraq and ISIS in 2014. The plot revolves around the attempts by the Indian officials to rescue those trapped in the city of Tikrit. The grounded narrative, cinematography, sound, the screenplay and the historical accuracy were objectively superior to the more popular Bollywood film, Airlift - which had a similar plot about the rescue of Indian citizens trapped in Kuwait during the Iraqi invasion in 1990.
5
Thira
7.1OTTplay Rating
One of Malayalam film’s greatest female leads, Shobana, plays the protagonist in this thriller. The plot revolves around trafficking of women in the southern states of India. The multiple national and state award winner Shobana carries the film on her own. The film also stars Dhyan Sreenivasan, with his brother Vineeth Sreenivasan’s script and direction. The film’s engaging screenplay explores a very complex theme with an excellently paced narrative.
6
How Old Are You
7.3OTTplay Rating
This 2014 film was Manju Warrier’s first film after a 15-year hiatus from the profession. It was a commercial success and it even drew praise from the critics for highlighting the issues of patriarchy. The plot deals with a woman’s attempt to reinvigorate her life which had become monotonous since she became a wife and a mother. Her attempts to work for the society, other than just at her dead-end regular job, is met with disapproval from her own family as well as from certain sections of the society.
7
22 Female Kottayam
7.6OTTplay Rating
One of Malayalam film industry’s most regressive trope used in yesteryear films was that of the fate of a victim of sexual abuse. With the exception of a few films like P Padmarajan’s classic, Namukku Parkkan Munthiri Thoppukal from 1986, most Malayalam films depicted a victim of sexual abuse in poor light. Such characters were usually shunned by the family and society, or sent to a monastery to become a nun, or in most cases killed off either by the villain or by committing suicide - a redemption arc was never an option. 22 Female Kottayam moved away from this draconian trope with a revenge thriller about a woman hunting down her abusers. Similar plots have been used in other films across the globe, but it was a first for Kerala. The film stars Rima Kallingal and Fahadh Faasil as the primary characters.
8
Kannezhuthi Pottum Thottu
7.4OTTplay Rating
The film is one of Manju Warrier’s best, from her first stint in the industry. It is another revenge thriller, however the protagonist played by Manju Warrier is seeking revenge for the murder of her parents, unlike the motives of the protagonist in 22 Female Kottayam. This 90s classic is a well acted and well written film with an excellent supporting cast of Thilakan and Biju Menon.
9
Helen
8.2OTTplay Rating
There are not many notable survival thrillers in the Malayalam film industry. Helen was groundbreaking for being a genre defining film. The titular character played by Anna Ben puts in a stellar performance in a well paced narrative about a woman trapped in an industrial freezer overnight. The film boasts excellent visuals and sound edited well to immerse the audience with the anxiety and fear felt by the character.
10
Nandanam
7.4OTTplay Rating
This family drama is told from the perspective of a young woman working as a housekeeper for a wealthy family. Navya Nair plays the lead in a heartwarming romantic drama, additionally the film was Prithviraj Sukumaran’s breakthrough role in the industry. The film also had an excellent ensemble cast of Revathi, Siddique, Jagathi Sreekumar and Innocent.
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