Critic’s Rating : / 5
Mike Movie Review : Good subject, but ill-informed
Review: As Sarah returns home late on a bike with her friend, her mom and step-dad await at the entrance with annoyed faces. After a heated argument, her mom says, ‘I prayed for a boy and this is what I got!” As Sarah sits aggrieved in her room, she also recollects her friend’s comment when she let him on her enduring wish that she were born a boy. “You are already a boy, but with the addition of ‘this’,” he says. The entire film is Sarah’s journey to remove ‘this’ – the breasts, which is uttered only once when she explains mastectomy to her companion Antony in the later half of the movie.
Sarah is a free spirited girl who feels that she wants to be a man. The reasons she cites include – to avoid male gaze, to sleep next to anyone without any worry, to skip cooking, to marry without dowry, to pee anywhere and to enjoy the freedom which include walking on the road after 6 pm. Most of her responses seem like a protest towards her parents; her mother who chose to live with her masculine boyfriend, ignoring her weak husband, and her dad who did not take her responsibility. However, Sarah who believes, being a man is about drinking alcohol and smoking endlessly sets out to undergo sex reassignment surgery.
On her way back to home from Karnataka, after her first consultation, she meets Antony, a youngster who reminds one of Arjun Reddy, the current toxic masculine icon of Indian cinema. He is grieving some loss and his constant companion is alcohol. Well, it seems a great reason for the duo to connect. They instantly become thick friends to the extent that Sarah leaves her home and walks into his house, asking him to be her bystander during her gender transition surgery.
Filmmaker Vishnu Shivaprasad touches upon a socially relevant gender issue which needs to have a lot more awareness in the society. He has managed to provoke a thought on non binary genders. It is a well-made movie with Renadive’s cinematography, editor Vivek Harshan’s crisp cuts and Rajesh Rajan’s sound design. Anaswara Rajan who plays Sarah and Mike has managed to take the movie forward singlehandedly. Newbie Ranjith Sajeev has all the inhibitions of facing the camera for the first time. Action sequences are good.
Unfortunately, the film falters in its script which lacks proper research on the serious subject of sex reassignment surgery, and the sociological, psychological and physiological aspects of a person who wants a transition from the gender assigned at birth. Apart from that, the movie also reminds one of the films that celebrate toxic masculinity where at the end every ‘tomboyish’ girl, who seeks liberation becomes a submissive woman when they find someone to protect them from the evils they were fighting till date.
This also includes the healing power of solo travels promoted by social media hashtags, substance misuse, inconsiderate aimless life and self-harm to recover from trauma. Interestingly, the majority of the frames of the movie is filled with disclaimers, either on alcohol consumption, women abuse or on wearing helmet.
The songs by Hesham Abdul Wahab and the background score are too loud and boisterous which stand out from the film. Even the lyrics of some songs, especially Ladki written by Suhail Koya and sung by Sithara Krishna Kumar, are highly sexist.
Well, what’s the message the film gives to its audience? The world belongs to gender binary – male and female – and anyone who thinks beyond that is wrong. It’s transphobia and it nullifies the struggles of an entire community who has been fighting for ages against systemic oppression. Most of the time, when a trans person opens up, they are first asked if they were abused by the opposite gender during childhood. Then they are sent for conversion therapy. The visibility the community has created is now questioned through a film that’s skin deep. Also, it creates confusion among those who are preparing to open up and among rainbow parents. One could easily negate it saying films won’t influence society but this film would. A decision to undergo gender transition is not an ‘impulsive decision’ but a survival from years of trauma, conditions, confusions and realisation of one’s identity.
On the whole, peripherally it could be a one time watch but the regressive thoughts in it would definitely influence the public opinion on gender roles, gender inclusivity and sensibility.
PS: This is a film that neither empowers women nor gives women any message.
– Anjana George