Jayasurya’s ‘Njan Marykutty’ Wins Over Kerala’s Trans Community
As you may know, Lalita Salve, the police constable from Beed, Maharashtra has now after a sex-change operation resumed her duties as Lalit Salve. Interestingly in the Malayalam film Njan Marykutty, which just released on 15 June, Marykutty, a woman trapped in a man’s body, wishes to join the police force to not just gain respect but also because according to her it is the police that harass trans people the most.
Njan Marykutty has got rave reviews for sensitively handling the story of a trans person in the mainstream format with a star like Malayalam actor Jayasurya both producing and acting in it. The film, directed by Ranjith Sankar, captures the battle that she fights as she makes her journey from being Mathukutty to transforming into Marykutty, and dealing with not just a hostile outside world but also her own family, that wants to distance themselves from her.
The review of Njan Marykutty in The Hindu highlights the fact that the best part of the film is, “...the sheer dignity and subtlety with which he treats his subject. You have seen them as crass, loud-mouthed cliches or inferior caricatures - Malayalam cinema’s only accredited format of depicting transpersons. But in Njan Marykutty the director bares the real crux of translife in Kerala through Marykutty, his eponymous lead lady.”
A review in The News Minute, says, “However, Ranjith is careful not to reduce Marykutty to her gender identity alone. The film goes beyond this and does not lose sight of the character in establishing the gender politics. Marykutty is presented to us with every feeling, strength and weakness. And ambition.”
Anjali Ameer, the trans woman who will soon be seen opposite Malayalam superstar Mammootty in a film, was among the first to react to the film on social media. After watching Njan Marykutty, Anjali posted an emotional video on Facebook in which she recounted the trauma and harassment she had to face. “Like Marykutty, we want to have a good future and live respectable lives,” she says in the video.
Deccan Chronicle praises the film with these words, “There are no exaggerated gesticulations, no over-the-top emotions, no promiscuity, no loud makeup or clothes often attributed to trans persons but a quiet dignity that forces us to cry whenever Marykutty sheds a tear or exult whenever she scores a victory. Everyone in the audience who has seen the film is guaranteed to look at a trans person in a new light and that is the victory of this path-breaking film.”
Surya and Ishan, the first trans couple in Kerala who got married last month under the Special Marriage Act, watched Njan Marykutty together. “I didn’t see Marykutty on the screen, I saw myself,” said Surya reacting to the film while speaking to The News Minute. Just like Marykutty in the film, Surya too was harassed on the streets, taken to a police station and made to strip. “Each of the incidents shown in the movie is something that happened to us Marykuttys,” she says.
Apart from writer and director Ranjith Sankar, it’s Jayasurya who deserves an applause for tackling the character of Marykutty sensitively and effectively. Jayasurya who is a popular second rung star in Kerala took up the challenge of portraying a trans person and delivered.
He (Jayasurya) has given a stellar performance - perhaps his career best - as the trans woman Marykutty, who is dignified and elegant. When the world throws brickbats at her, Marykutty wears as her armour — courage, boldness and a never-say-die attitude to reach for her dreams. Marykutty’s monologues, even in the most emotional moments, are said with a quiet smile and the playful winking of both eyes, demanding admiration over pity.Deccan Chronicle
39-year-old Jayasurya, who has mostly played extremely likeable characters in films like Janapriyan, Mumbai Police, Punyalam Agarbattis and Su Su Sudhi Vathmeekam has also produced Njan Marykutty besides playing the title role.
“Jayasurya essays Marykutty with utmost finesse. A slight incline of the head, the vulnerable line of the shoulders and those self-deprecating smiles - they all melt into his character like notes into music,” writes The Hindu.
Having released a month after Kerala witnessed the first registered marriage of a trans couple - the hope is that Njan Marykutty is watched by people beyond the community and that the film is able to create awareness about and sensitivity towards trans people.
(With inputs from The News Minute)