Actor-director Sri Priya on Malini 22 Palayamkottai, her remake of a critically-acclaimed Malayalam film that deals with violence against women
Despite a web of problems in our society, Tamil cinema has been obsessed with the issue of corruption. But yesteryear actor and director, Sri Priya says that the recent spate of violence against women, was instrumental in her choosing to remake a critically-acclaimed Malayalam film, 22 Female Kottayam, in Tamil titled Malini 22 Palayamkottai.
“This is not an anti-male film,” she says with a disarming smile debunking any preconceived notions about the film. The decision to remake it in Tamil and Telugu, she says, was made after she watched the original in Malayalam. She talks about the catharsis that the film offers to those who are disturbed by the growing instances of violence. “After watching the film, I went ‘Oh yes’…that’s how it should be,” she exclaims at the poetic justice meted out in the film.
The film itself is a bit serious for Sri Priya who admits that she likes to watch movies that make the audience laugh. “Everyone talks about how Kalaivanar would make people think through humour. I like such films,” she says.
At every possible instance, she talks about the message of Malini 22 Palayamkottai, which is that “women should learn to give it back”. She also rejects the notion that this film is primarily made for women. “I am surprised when people ask me if it is a film for women as if the men aren’t affected by the violence against women.”
Has she also done what most filmmakers do when they remake a film — change the content to suit the tastes of the audiences? “No. I have only removed things which I thought are not needed.”
She defends her decision to cast Nithya Menon, who replaces Rimi Kallingal in the Tamil remake. “She has a good screen presence. She transforms herself in front of the camera,” she says.
Having been a leading star in South India for several years, Sri Priya hints at the irony of the film industry, which treats actresses well on the sets, while its portrayal of women on screen is stereotypical. “Back then, I wasn’t sure about doing Aval Appadithan. At that time, I cared only about my co-star, the producer and the director. It was Kamal who insisted that I do the film. I am happy I got an award for it,” she says and adds, “While making a film has become easier due to technology, some things are pretty much unchanged,” she says referring to how women still play second fiddle to male actors. She is also not comfortable with the way comedy has been reduced to making fun of women.
So, what was the reaction when she announced that she was going to direct this film? “The first reaction was ‘What does she know?’,” she says.
What has changed for the former actress after she became a director? “I felt like I had created something. It is a feeling that a woman gets after she becomes a mother,” she says.