Kani Kusruti Calls Out Malayalam Cinema for 'Lack of Strong Female Roles': 'Where Are the Women...' | Exclusive
Kani Kusruti Calls Out Malayalam Cinema for 'Lack of Strong Female Roles': 'Where Are the Women...' | Exclusive
Kani Kusruti says pre-2000s heroines in Malayalam films had better arcs than today's actresses. She wishes for women artists to take matters into their own hands.

2024 has already emerged as one of the biggest years for contemporary Malayalam cinema with four films – Manjummel Boys, Aavesham, Premalu and Aadujeevitham (The Goat Life) – crossing the coveted Rs 100 crore mark. But filmmaker Anjali Menon’s post on Instagram – ‘Where are the women in Malayalam cinema?’ – last month brought back the spotlight on the absence of women from recent Malayalam films.

Parvathy Thirovothu also acknowledged her concerns and in a recent interview stated that stories are primarily being written about men and that it would be inappropriate to ‘force-fit women’ into them. Ironically, this conversation gained momentum at around the same time when All That We Imagine As Light, a film directed by a woman filmmaker (Payal Kapadia) and revolves around women, won the Grand Prix at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

And interestingly, the latest to join this conversation about the dearth of women characters in Malayalam cinema is Kani Kusruti, who has been making heads turn for her performance in All That We Imagine As Light. Talking to News18 Showsha exclusively, she says, “I can’t specifically talk about Manjummel Boys, where maybe the story didn’t demand female characters. Having said that, I recognise the lack of beautifully written strong female characters and those that aren’t the subject of male gaze.”

She continues, “How women think, what their sense of humour is like, how they crack jokes and what are they actually like – these depictions are lacking in most stories today. We either see very bold women smoking and drinking or poor (demure) women. Where are the women having fun? Why don’t we see them onscreen?”

Kani believes that female actors need to take matters into their own hands and pen characters that they can enjoy playing onscreen. “There are so many different kinds of women. Why are our amazing writers not being able to write them? Why aren’t we able to play them? I do really ponder on these things. I’m sure that a lot of my co-actors also wonder the same. It seems like we’ll have to start writing such parts even if we aren’t good at writing! I don’t know how else we’ll reach there,” she states.

Kani opines that even heroines in mainstream Malayalam films pre-2000s had better arcs to play around with. “In Malayalam cinema, especially in the 70s, the 80s and the 90s, I’ve seen amazingly written part for heroines and other diverse women characters. Yes, they were subjects of male gaze and had patriarchal values instilled in them but at least the actress had the chance to portray a diverse range of characters. That’s missing now,” she rues.

Hopeful that the future will bring about some sense of equilibrium, she points out a performance by a peer that stayed back with her. “Once in a while, here and there, I see good characters being written. For example, Bhavana Studios and Syam Pushkaran have created some nice female characters. There’s a director called B Ajithkumar who made a film titled Eeda. The character played by Nimisha (Sajayan) was one of the most fantastic female characters written in a long time. But we’ve a long way to go,” Kani says.

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