When Appu said, “Sex is not a promise” to Maathan in Aashiq Abu’s Mayanadi (2017), it was not just a pathbreaking statement but also a befitting reply to movies that tend to over glorify heroine’s virginity, especially in Malayalam cinema.
Over the years, virginity has remained a hot topic in Malayalam cinema. While some tried to take a progressive path, most ended up displaying virginity as an essential requisite of a woman.
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Keep the Heroine For the Hero
Kamal’s Ayal Kadha Ezhuthukayanu (1998) is a film that is completely obsessed with the heroine’s virginity. The movie was like a treasure hunt to find out whether the female protagonist has lost her virginity or not. Finally, when everyone is relieved that the heroine is still a virgin (three cheers to the achievement!), they dupe her into marrying the hero played by Mohanlal. But that’s not the end, we have a benevolent Mohanlal who assures the heroine that even if she has lost her virginity, something that all men prefer, he is ready to accept her. Wow!
Another movie that runs behind virginity is Ranjith’s Chandrolsavam (2005). The whole movie is like a game of football. Meena’s role resembles a ball in high demand with three men trying to score a maiden goal with it. In the end, a widowed Meena, whose husband became paralysed on the day of marriage (note the point) unites with her original love Mohanlal before losing her virginity to the villain. Unfortunately, many consider Chandrolsavam as a cult romantic classic.
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Kilichundan Mampazham (2003) portrays a desperate attempt to protect the heroine’s virginity. Here, director Priyadarshan plays a tug of war to keep the heroine Soundarya’s virginity under sanctity until she reunites with her hero Mohanlal.
The Virginity Formula
The basic rule followed by such films is that the heroine should lose her virginity only with the hero. So even if the heroine is already married to someone or widowed, she doesn’t necessarily consummate. Hence, sacred enough to unite with the hero.
Other examples are Meena in Olympiyan Anthony Adam (1999), Shobhana in Mampazhakkalam (2004), Tessa in Pattalam (2003) and Divya Unni in Ustaad (1999), all of whom were married but missed consummation. (Hurray!)
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In all these films, one dialogue is spoken to stress the fact that the heroine, though married hasn’t consummated. Sometimes it is mentioned as her eligibility to marry again. But interestingly, if it is the hero who is married, mostly he is shown as having a child and the heroine will have no signs of objection. Like in Chithram (1986), which saw Mohanlal going to serve his capital punishment and Renjini promising him to take care of his son from a previous marriage. Ishtam (2001) directed by Sibi Malayil probably had the longest living virgin heroine before she reunites with her childhood love Nedumudi Venu, who is now the father of two sons. BodyGuard (2010) by Siddique too showed Nayanthara reuniting with Dileep, who is now a widower living with his son.
There is also a notion that if the female character has lost her virginity, she should end up with the same person, irrespective of her consent. Hitler (1996) is a prime example of this. In Hitler, M G Soman rapes Mammootty’s sister under the influence of alcohol. But the film tries to prove that it was the mistake of women too by including M G Soman’s famous dialogue “Aval Onn Urakke Karanjirunenkil” (Only if she had cried out loud!)
The Old but Progressive Era
Normally, with passing time we expect more progressive movies to come up, but surprisingly, Malayalam cinema that normalised virginity happened in olden times, the ’80s especially.
Regarded as one of the greatest filmmakers of Mollywood, Padmarajan who predominantly worked in the late ’80s and early ’90s never put his heroine under a bubble of the virginity crisis. In his Namukku Parkkan Munthirithoppukal (1986), Mohanlal unites with Shaari who was raped by her stepfather, played by Thilakan.
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In the classic, Thoovanathumbikal (1987) Padmarajan gives a poetic touch and romanticises a call girl character portrayed by Sumalatha which otherwise is seen with prejudices. In his 1990 romantic film Innale, Shobhana, who had an accident and lost her memory, falls in love with Jayaram. But neither Jayaram nor his mother Srividya talk of virginity as an issue when they find out that Shobhana was a married woman.
Sathyan Anthikad’s Gandhinagar 2nd Street (1986) and Adhyayam Onnu Muthal (1985) preferred to reunite the widowed heroines with the hero without any reference on their virginal status. In the 1981 classic, Oppol, Balan K Nair accepts his wife Menaka’s premarital affair and her illicit child from that relationship. Bharathan’s Kathodu Kathoram (1985) saw a married heroine falling for the hero played by Mammootty.
One striking difference between Namukku Parkkan and Oppol with 1996 movie Azhakiya Ravanan is that in the former two, the hero accepts the female lead without uttering philosophical dialogues on love beyond virginity. It didn’t try to emphasise that the hero was great enough to ignore the virginity status of the women, which sadly Azhakiya Ravanan did.
Some hopeful changes.
In the later 2000s, films like Ore Kadal (2007), August Club (2013), Ramante Edenthottam (2017), tried to explore love out of wedlock. Kadha Thudarunnu (2010) saw Jayaram falling for a widowed Mamata and Take Off (2017) normalised a second marriage.
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In 22 Female Kottayam (2012) Rima Kallingal confesses to her lover Fahadh Faasil that she is not a virgin. Both 22 Female Kottayam and Mayanadi, with Aashiq Abu at the helm, are examples of movies that openly normalised losing virginity, underlining that it is not a parameter to be judged. But both these films had received criticisms for the same from the moral policing viewers saying that it is against the concept of an ideal woman.
Though the trend of normalising virginity in Malayalam cinema is slowly coming back, it remains a taboo subject in Mollywood. Even now, only some filmmakers normalise virginity in their films, maybe in fear of conservative reactions. It is time both the audience and filmmakers stop giving grace marks for virgin heroines and realise virginity is a choice and not a quality to boost. This can pave the way for more progressive movies to come up which will make even future generations proud.