The Mako Mori test requires at least one woman character who has her own narrative arc that isn't about supporting a man's story.

Her story 12 Malayalam films where women characters have their own arc
Flix Mollywood Saturday, June 30, 2018 - 14:05

The Mako Mori is the second most popular test for a film's portrayal of women after the Bechdel test. Invented by Tumblr user “Chaila”, it argues that a film passes this test if it has “one female character who gets her own narrative arc that is not about supporting a man’s story.”

The test is more subjective than Bechdel’s, but so is the issue they both address. It’s a dicey test because along with being subjective, it’s also open to interpretations. For instance, in a film like Manichithrathazhu, one is tempted to be enamoured by Nagavalli, the beguiling Tamilian dancer trapped in the body of a docile Ganga who is diagnosed with multiple personality disorder. While Nagavalli stands tall, fighting her battle against oppression and patriarchy by manipulating her way to get what she wants, Ganga waits to get back her normal life – as someone’s loving wife.

The men are all running behind Ganga while as Nagavalli, she wages a battle on her own terms. Yet somehow the film doesn’t quite pass the test as in the end, it’s a man who tames this “mad woman in the attic.” So, with some trepidation, we have come up with a list that more or less passes the test in Malayalam cinema. Again, it’s open to reading and the readers might have a different verdict.

1. Nokketha Doorathu Kannum Nattu (1984): Two women really headline the narrative in this Fazil film. While the older one (Padmini) battles solitude and bitterness, the younger one (Nadiya Moidu making her debut) wants to grab what little is left in her life to make the most of it. Girlie is the irrepressible and urban. She carries the film on her shoulders single-handedly (with a compelling backstory) with the man only bringing respite in a supporting role.

2. Deshadanakili Karayarilla (1986): Between the two, Sally’s (Shari) character arc is more complex and intriguing in this film directed and written by Padmarajan. Nimmi (Karthika) is the conventional girl, who falls for the first man she meets but Sally is more loyal, aggressive and stubborn, and knows her mind. A decade later, the film has opened to various interpretations about the lesbian angle in their friendship. So, in this relationship she is given the shades of a man, unwilling to let anyone take charge of her life or Nimmi’s. That description does sound borderline sexist but if you view it under the queer lens, Sally is empowering. 

3. Aranyakam (1988)In this Hariharan film which MT Vasudevan Nair wrote, Ammini (Selma) is that teenager we all relate to—the one who has her nose buried in books, writes long letters to Basheer and Madhavikutty and lives in her own parallel world of magic realism. The narrative travels in and around Ammini’s life, focusing on her interests, her profound conversations, strange encounters, love and dreams. And though two men enter her life, they don’t define it.

4. Utharam (1989): Directed by Pavithran, written by MT Vasudevan Nair, in this investigative thriller, the woman character’s narrative is interpreted by a man, played by Mammootty (it can be any gender as he plays the role of an investigative journalist and is doing his job). But otherwise it studiously trails Selina’s (Suparna) life, beginning from her school days to her adult life, career and untimely death. It’s an intriguing narrative of a celebrated a woman poet’s life.

5. Pakshe (1994): A woman (Shobana) who doesn’t lose focus in life despite a painful heartbreak,  makes a success out of her career, stays single and even when she gets a chance to reunite with her former lover (Mohanlal), decides to take a brave stand and lets him go the second time around in this film written by Cherian Kalpakavadi and directed by AN Mohan.

6. Kannezhuthi Pottum Thottu (1999): That she uses the men as mere pawns and comes out a winner in her game of vengeance; that she does it standing within the precincts of her gender stereotype makes Bhadra (Manju Warrier), the central character in this film (written and directed by TK Rajeev Kumar), pass this test with flying colours.

7. Achuvinte Amma (2005): She drives the narrative forward with her slightly mind-boggling backstory (written and directed by Sathyan Anthikad). Vanaja (Urvashi) is a self-made woman who seems to accept the upsetting changes and relationships in her life without flinching. As far as she is concerned, this is a battle she doesn’t mind fighting alone. And yet she carries all the accepted roles and traits of an ordinary woman. Her arc is nicely defined. 

8. Ozhimuri (2012): The film (directed by Madhupal, written by Jeyamohan) throws light on a family deep-rooted in a matrilineal tradition that later paves way to patriarchy. And the matriarch, Kali Pillai (Shwetha Menon), is an intimidating proposition, practicing bigamy, openly deriding her timid son and refusing to play up to the traditional roles required of women in a Nair Tharavadu. Though the empowerment is cut short in the end when she comes back to her son, tired, aged and lonely, we will still let it pass the test.

9. Thira (2013): The film (directed by Vineeth Sreenivasan) is driven forward through Dr Rohini Pranab (Shobana) and her battle with the world of human trafficking. A social activist, she rescues girls trafficked for sex and rehabilitates them. She is on her own all the way down, yet aware of the constraints that come with her gender during such a mission.

10. Artist (2013): Braving family opposition, Michael (Fahad Fasil) and Gayathri (Ann Augustine won her first State award for this film directed and written by Shyamaprasad) start a life together until a tragedy takes them off track. It’s interesting how despite Michael’s constant rant about the unfairness of life, Gayathri holds on to hers with hope, running all around to make ends meet. And even when things don’t turn out the way it should, we know she will figure it all out all by herself, once again.

11. Rani Padmini (2015): If one woman’s (Manju Warrier) existence begins and ends with a man, the other (Rima Kallingal) is on her own, unwilling to be bullied by anyone, let alone random thugs. She is the “son” in her family, who gets annoyed when her mother talks about not having a son, smilingly goes through the various ups and downs and is ready for any adventure. Rani’s character makes up for the otherwise conservative sketch of Padmini in this film written by Shyam Pushkaran/Ravisankar and directed by Aashiq Abu. 

12. Udaharanam Sujatha (2017): The single mother (Manju Warrier) who slaves around kitchens just so her daughter’s future is secured and rises above their socio-economic limitations to find an important place in society. Sujatha does it all by herself, grappling with her frugalities in this inspiring remake of Nil Battey Sannatta directed by Phantom Praveen and written by Naveen Bhaskar.




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