‘B 32 Muthal 44 Vare’ movie review: A sensitive, nuanced take on body politics

Through the stories of six well-written characters, Shruthi Sharanyam’s film sensitively portrays the body politics faced by women while also delicately and empathetically handling homosexuality

April 07, 2023 06:01 pm | Updated 06:06 pm IST

A still from ‘B 32 Muthal 44 Vare’

A still from ‘B 32 Muthal 44 Vare’ | Photo Credit: Kerala State Film Development Corporation

One can either choose to drill in the message that has to be conveyed with loud, didactic melodrama, or just gently put it across without compromising much on the craft. In B 32 Muthal 44 Vare, debutant director Shruthi Sharanyam opts for the latter, while effectively portraying her take on body politics. The title indicates the bust size of the principal characters, for each of them is facing different issues connected to this.

With the episodic nature of the narrative in the beginning, one gets the impression that these are women from various strata of society, unconnected to each other. But once the introductions are done, the episodes are done away with, as their stories come together seamlessly, making us feel as if these are people who were known to each other for long and not made to speak to each other for the convenience of the script.

B 32 Muthal 44 Vare (Malayalam)
Director: Shruthi Sharanyam
Cast: Ramya Nabeesan, Anarkali Marikar, Ashwathy, Zarin Shibab, Krishna Kurup, Raina Radhakrishnan, Harish Uthaman
Runtime: 108 minutes
Storyline: Six women are forced to deal with their insecurities about their bodies, while also navigating their lives through emotional, physical and psychological issues

Iman (Zarin Shihab) is facing an uncertain future at her job in the hospitality sector, as her boss indicates that her physical features are inadequate, while Ziya (Anarkali Marikar), a trans man’s troubles are just the opposite. Iman’s problems are compounded after she stands up for Rachel (Krishna Kurup), an aspiring actor who faces sexual assault from a director. Malini (Ramya Nambeesan) feels that her husband Vivek (Harish Uthaman) has become distant from her ever since she underwent a mastectomy. Jaya (Ashwathi), a domestic help, takes a drastic change in career forced by her circumstances, but then adapts to it beautifully. Nidhi (Raina Radhakrishnan), a teenager, is coping with various issues after giving birth to a child.

It might seem too much for one film to handle, but nowhere does one get an impression of a scriptwriter dealing with a checklist of issues. Because this film is not about the issues as such, rather it is about the people and how they are dealing with the peculiar situations they are caught in. One thing that stands out is the sensitive portrayals of each of the characters, especially the teenage mother. We are not even told her background story, because what the film focuses on is something else altogether. The handling of homosexuality is also not jarring and clueless as in Monster, but delicate and empathetic as in Geetu Mohandas’s Moothon. The way it normalises modelling as a career and addresses societal taboos associated with it is also notable.

One is also reminded of K.G. George’s classic Aadaminte Variyellu, which centred on a few women struggling against patriarchy in their own way, sometimes even perishing after failing to cope with it. Although the issues are vastly different here, and the women are mostly doing a quiet revolt, the spirit of that film and a few other initiatives in Malayalam cinema are felt here. Made under the Kerala State Film Development Corporation (KSFDC)’s initiative to fund women filmmakers, it is a film which underlines the need for more women writers and filmmakers to tell their stories. The two scenes, involving two boys, that are used to bookend the film also tells us why we need to have more of these conversations.

B 32 Muthal 44 Vare is currently running in theatres

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