Among the many tropes associated with female characters in movies is this popular idea of “Femme Fatale”. In the early ages, the femme fatale idea was almost equivalent to being a man-eater or vampire. The idea was of this mysterious, beautiful, and seductive woman who charms her targets and leads them into deadly traps. These characters often have a mysterious vibe surrounding them and would have the ability to enchant or seduce men into getting their way. Pennu orumpettal oru pottanum thadukaan patilla, thats the basic idea. Malayalam cinema has quite a few women characters portraying this archetype. From Vinayan’s beloved rakthayakshi to Tessa from 22 Female Kottayam, here’s how Mollywood lovingly portrayed their femme fatale’s.
(Disclaimer: Spoilers Ahead)
Bhadra of Kannezhuthi Pottum Thottu
Undeniably, the first image that comes to every Malayali’s mind when they hear “femme fatale” would be Manju Warrier in Kannezhuthi Pottum Thottu. With hair flying wild, eyes raging with vengeance, and a bright red pottu indicating the danger she brings along, Manju Warrier effortlessly executed the character of Bhadra. In the movie, she can be seen plotting the death of the feudal lord Natesan Muthalali and his son Kochu Muthalali, succeeding in the end. Her killer performance even brought her a special mention at the National Film Awards.
Tessa of 22 Female Kottayam
A revenge story that left many uneasy and satisfied simultaneously. 22 Female Kottayam‘s Tessa is the textbook definition of ‘femme fatale’, which means ‘deadly/lethal woman’ in French. The movie explores the transformation of a naive nurse to a revenge-thirsty woman who served it well and is cold to those who betrayed and abused her. Rima Kallingal beautifully portrayed the role.
Maya of 2 Harihar Nagar
In terms of the level of brutality, Maya (played by Lakshmi Rai) might not fall exactly in line with the rest on the list. The character keeps changing her name from Christina Honai to Serina to Maya occasionally, leaving the audience clueless about who exactly she is fatal to. She had the task of manipulating and trapping the Harihar Nagar boys with her charm, and this job she managed to do it cleanly in the sequel of the classic cult movie.
Savithri of Aanum Pennum
The 2021-release Aanum Pennum is an anthology that explores narrations of man and woman relationships in the backdrop of three timelines. The first in the thread is Savithri, a story smeared with lust, romance, and communism. Set in the early ages, Savithri is a communist on the run who takes the alias of Kochuparu at the landlord Raghava Pillai’s home. Pillai keeps throwing dirty glances and violates her every chance he gets. Long story short, we see Kochuparu/Savithri luring Pillai in the name of lust and playing a UNO reverse on him by taking his life.
Daksha and Ashley of Masters
The movie which is loosely based on Hitchcock’s movie Strangers on a Train is a decent attempt at a crime thriller and has got two characters that could pass as ‘femme fatales’. Both women charm their victims in different settings and end them in a suicide-murder pattern that kills both the charmer and the charmed. The very introductory scene of the two femme’s becomes their climax scene this way.
Anjali of Beautiful
Meghana Raj’s portrayal of Anjali in Beautiful would hands down be one of the most exciting characters to study in this list. She gracefully falls into the grey area and brings a silent charm to the screen. Her entry in the story is backed by the classic “mazhayath nannany varunna Clara” background music and keeps the audience fooled for a good portion of the movie. By the end, Clara is a Chaaran who wants to feed the differently-abled Stephen (Jayasurya) with poison to acquire his veedum parambum. Her character is a sweet poison throughout the movie.
Vinayan’s Rakthayakshis with 99 other yakshi’s of Malayalam movies
The list would be incomplete without the yakshi’s assembling. They are vengeful but weirdly can’t think of ways to kill their victim other than seducing them to death – turning into femme fatale’s by default. These Yakshis are also otherwise fatal, with the laser superpowers and unprovoked laughs they break into. However, for some reason, they always seem to put in more effort to look charming before the kill. It’s like giving the sacrificial goat one last sight to be happy about. Examples include Vellinakshatram, Yakshiyum Nyanum, Yours Faithfully Yakshi, angane kore. If looks could have killed, the yakshi of Malayalam cinema are already slaying.
A female who proves to be fatal to a man’s existence has become a commonly deployed concept in many movies. It is seen even among side characters with barely 10 minutes of screen time. So undoubtedly, you would have encountered one such femme fatale (whether on or off-screen). Drop the names of these characters as we continue celebrating tropes associated with women in Malayalam cinema.