ORUTHEE: A Raw Realistic Take On The So-Called Average Woman

Radhamani in Oruthee is vulnerable, not a superwoman. She falls, she weeps, she breaks down. But in spite of everything, she has to rise.

Happened to watch a Malayalam movie on Manorama Max, ‘Oruthee’. Which translates to ‘That Woman.’ It’s a 2022 film, I just happened to catch it now.

This true story revolves around Radhamani, brilliantly played by Navya Nair, a middle-class, average woman. She is a boat conductor, who juggles work and home, her two children, and her mother-in-law. Her husband works in the gulf and unlike what is usually made out of Gulf Malayalis, this man isn’t all that rich. In fact, he’s unemployed when the story plays out. So, the major responsibility of bringing food to the table falls on Radhamani.

Her daughter, unfortunately, gets hospitalized and Radhamani is left with no other option than mortgaging the little jewellery she has. But she’s a woman, all alone in the big bad world, and ends up getting duped by the gold mafia.

How a seemingly timid woman takes on the rich gold mafia goons and brings them to their knees, forms the crux of the story.

This might sound pretty regular, I mean you might wonder what’s novel. Let me tell you, it’s the narration, the honest treatment, and Radhamani’s character development, that stands out.

An ‘ordinary woman’

Radhamani is just another woman, any face in the crowd, who has to put up a brave front because there’s just so much that she is responsible for. Like many of us women out there, Radhamani is so real, so normal. With her children, their schooling, her mother, her mother-in-law, and her job, she looks visibly tired. The perspiration and exasperation, I could relate a lot, as the audience. And Radhamani goes on, on her scooter, from her office to the hospital, back home, to the bank, she can’t stop. Because everything at home falls on her shoulders.

Unlike some serials or women-oriented movies, where a strong woman protagonist goes about fulfilling all her responsibilities with a fake smile and inspirational music, there’s no preaching here. Radhamani in Oruthee is vulnerable, not a superwoman. She falls, she weeps, she breaks down. But in spite of everything, she has to rise. And push herself to fight against the perpetrators, for the sake of her family. Which she does, eventually, but sans any shouting from rooftops.

And Navya Nair does a great job in making Radhamani a believable, everyday woman. She actually lives the role.

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Husband playing the blame game… also ‘ordinary’

But for me, more than anything, the conversations between Radhamani and her husband resonated a lot.

Their daughter is hospitalized due to food poisoning, and the moment the man hears this on phone, he lashes out as to what she feeds his children and how careless a mother she is. He lives in a faraway land and is unemployed, so he obviously can’t help her much. But that doesn’t deter him from playing the blame game. When Radhamani sets off to mortgage her jewellery to pay the hospital bills, she realizes she has lost the purchase receipt. Her husband reprimands her rather rudely over the phone, holding her responsible for their predicament. “Do whatever you want, I can’t take it anymore” he shouts.

We see her weeping, talking to herself, but incessantly looking for the paper all around the place. Because she’s made to believe it’s all her fault. Though she retorts, gives him an earful, and cuts the call, she doesn’t stretch the argument. Because she knows it’s futile, her priority is to find the document and settle the hospital bill.

‘Oruthee’ may not be a masterpiece, but it is definitely worth your time and effort. For Navya Nair’s natural performance and for the many facets of a woman’s life and feminism, subtly dealt, with sensitivity and maturity.

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