What drives one to watch the movie is its poignant theme. What one sees on screen is a splash of disturbing colours — bright, glittering sarees, orange- and red-hued flowers, and the disgusting yellow of gold-covered jewellery — that camouflage the theme.

The film has not exactly wasted away a beautiful subject but has certainly not used it well enough to stir thoughts or even prompt empathy with a community that has always been shooed, shunned or brutally shown the door.

It does, however, show glimpses of the real transgender world, especially their emotional upheavals and the way law treats them. It also has a star cast that is widely acclaimed as the cream of Malayalam cinema.

Manoj K. Jayan, in the lead, does a good job though on several occasions his histrionics as Manjula, a transgender, borders on cliché.

One of Thilakan’s last act it is and hence should ideally be used to pay tributes to the classic artist he was, but the fact is he is not even half his potential in the movie. We surely have seen better stuff from the actor who passed away last month.

Maniyan Pillai Raju and Sukumari have played their parts in the way they usually do and there are no wonders from them in this movie. The music by M.G. Sreekumar (whose first production the film is) fails to strike a chord, as the tunes are routine and lyrics, heavily worded.

The last song, which plays in the background as the protagonist walks lonely amidst hills and swathes of red soil in defiance of a world of gods, Mahatmas and prophets that deals transgenders cruel blows, evokes a magnificence that usually accompanies extravagant, period movies.

Educate

What the film does is educate the audience about the community that has so far remained part of society’s dark underbelly.

An effort has been made to bring out their rituals, customs, their angst and preferences, and the way they are forced to deprecate themselves when they are as human as others. That effort is surely worthy of applause.

Film: Ardhanaari

Director: Santosh Sowparnika

Cast: Manoj K. Jayan, Thilakan, Maniyan Pillai Raju, Sukumari, Sai Kumar

Music: M.G. Sreekumar