Narthagi: Vijaya Padma

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Tamil cinema is known for its gender insensitivity. The movies have a knack for portraying sexual minorities such as the transgender and the gay in negative or poor light. It makes them the butt of all the jokes in any movie. 

But, all this is set to change with Narthagi. It is the first attempt for Tamil cinema to address the issues faced by the transgender community while shedding light onto their lives to break the lack of knowledge and the myths that surround their community, lives, and existence. And because of this attempt, Punnagai Geetha is worth paying some attention to. 

The movie is directed at overcoming the prejudice metted against transgender/transsexuals. There’s nothing preachy about the movie and it’s more or less an almost accurate portrayal of the characters. The director did the right research and seems to have gotten the right education as well as he doesn’t succumb to major mistakes when it comes to representation of the third gender.

One of the aspects of the characters is that a real transgender played in one of the roles so more points to the director for that smart choice. The plot of the movie happens in Tanjore focusing on the life of a Silambam teacher, a man’s man, and his son who has come to the discovery that he’s becoming a woman.

However, the teacher cannot acknowledge the fact that his child is most likely a transsexual and with limited knowledge about this, he blames his son for his “condition”. Thereafter, his life becomes miserable and he tries to turn his son into a straight man.

Narthagi tries to explain the gender inequalities that are dominant in society by cutting close to the real life situation of a man who is going through mental and physical transformation. He wants to become a woman and he follows through his goal. 

The movie highlights the different ritual that such people have to undergo specifically, for some weird reason, in Mumbai. These scenes are hard to stomach but they also feed our inquisitiveness.

Abhishek, who plays Kalki during childhood takes the crown on the performance front. He is magnificent and doesn’t shy off making us aware of the changes happening in his body. When his father is teaching him Silambam steps, it becomes bharathanatyam. Aswin the teenager also gives a noteworthy performance as he breaks down when Leema wants to seduce him in the hopes of “making him a man”. All the other characters are also very well played.

The music playing during the movie is a plus as it will linger in your mind long after you’ve finished watching. While the attempt between the director is quite commendable and laudable, Narthaki has too many maudlin scenes. Unfortunately, they are infused into the story and will make you feel really bad for the characters.

However, still, it is a movie worth noticing and applauding as it provides a lot of answers to questions surrounding a topic concerning sexual minorities that the general public has no idea about.

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