One day when Shahina (Meera Jasmine) is walking to school along with her friends, she sees the local village broker Hassan Moyeen (Mamu Koya) along the way staring at her. When she comes near, he asks if she is the daughter of Sophia (Pallavi Krishnan). Shahina retorts something angrily and walks away, but when she is in school, something sinister happens.
The broker along with Shahina’s uncle make a visit to her house with the objective to convince Shahina’s parents to get her married. The shocking fact is that she is only 14. More shocking is the fact that they want Shahina to be the second wife of a 30 year old man. The man, Razak (Irshad) wants some money to go to the middle east and that his motivation for the second marriage.
Shahina is a girl who is interested in studies and loves poetry, especially Gitanjali by Tagore and it was her dream to go to college. All that gets shattered when she is forced into marriage. In her husband’s house, she becomes friends with his first wife and daughter. She does not allow Razak to touch her and frustrated Razak forces his first wife to sedate her and rapes her. Following this, he complains to his mother that since he cannot touch her, he wants a divorce.
Shahina is sent back home and starts going back to school.She gets another marriage proposal, this time from Hajiyar, an old man in the village, older than her father, who wants to take her as his fourth wife which her mother rejects. Then Shahina finds that she is pregnant and her world collapses. Her mother dies of shock and finally she becomes a teenage mother, alone with her baby.
The story of the film is simple and is told in an anecdotal format. There are many scenes which remain in your mind as you finish the movie. Often there is a scene where a line of teenage girls with children in their arms and bucket of clothes in the other hand walk towards somewhere. You feel like this scene has no relation to the movie. In the last scene, you see Shahina in the line along with her baby walking with many other women to the river bank. The final shot is that of all the babies crying in the river bank while their single mothers are washing clothes. It was a heart breaking scene.
While the rape scene by her husband and the marriage proposal by the old man were repulsive, the instant divorce and the attempts by the local Muslims to blame Shahina’s school teacher for her pregnancy were shocking. When confronted by the locals, the school teacher Kasim (Babu Annur) gives them a lecture on Quran and how to respect women and the Hajiar, the man who wanted to take Shahina as his fourth wife wryly says that the teacher is “not progressive” like them.
Meera Jasmine was natural as Shahina. Her transformation from an innocent school girl to a teenage mother is a powerful performance, without overacting,and she won the national award for this role. (In 2005 she played the role of a grieving woman in a much better performance in Perumazhakkalam) The rest of the cast, largely unknowns, gave very natural performances. Many of them had short roles, but with impact.
Director T.V.Chandran was able to set the right tone and speed for the movie. He was also able to extract the right performances from his actors. Unlike the slow pace of such movies which can be termed “Art movies”, this one moves at a reasonably good pace. Still there some shots of people walking along the road for long time, which I think is required as per “Art movie” laws. Such 1970s techniques should be done away with.
The biggest damage to this movie was done by Johnson’s background score. The first scene of the movie is that of a Muslim woman walking along a desolated road with a child in her arms. The background music is that of a sarangi playing something sad. At this point we don’t even know who this woman is or what her problem is, but the director used music to manipulate our emotions. Then at some point, the music turns from sad to something like the Naushad’s title music for the serial, The Sword of Tipu Sultan. The transition between these tunes was not smooth and took our attention away from the scene. Similarly in many important scenes the background music turned out be a distraction and it would have been better if the movie did not have any background score.
The movie, written by Aryadan Shoukath (son of minister Aryadan Mohammed) is a candid look at the sad life of Muslim girls in Kerala. We feel for them when they are married off to people twice or thrice their age and divorced with no one asking for their opinion. It would not have been possible to make this film in many Islamic countries, but thanks to the freedom we have in India, such criticism is possible.Even then the premiere of this movie saw protests from Islamic publications and the release was postponed due to the fear of theater owners in getting involved in controversial topics.
We like movies which talk about evils in our society and have a social message. Sadly not many movies are made in this genre and not many of our stars act in such controversial movies. This movie does not offer a solution to the problem and leaves the ending open.
We recommend that everyone see this movie and look forward to seeing more scripts from Aryadan Shoukath.