With the recent controversy surrounding Arabi Kalayanam (the term used to describe the practice of marrying young girls from Kerala, India to Arab men for a lesser dowry), and legalizing marriage for Muslim girls younger than 18 years of age, I was reminded of T.V Chandran’s 2003 movie, Padam Onnu Oru Vilapam (Chapter One: A Wail). It is probably the only Malayalam movie which dives deeply into the multiple social evils that are still prevalent among Muslims in the Malabar community of Kerala.
Padam Onnu Oru Vilapam choses to showcase the state of women, from the lower/working class of the Muslim society, and focuses on issues such as forced marriages of minors, polygamy among Muslim men, marital rape and Arabi Kalyanam. A 2012, movie which won the Kerala state award, Ayalum Njanum Thammil, (Between Him and Me) also has a Muslim girl , Sainu, as the main female protagonist. Ayalum Njanum Thammil discusses various relevant issues, ike bribery in hospitals andcorrupted doctors, but within the context of another part of the Muslim community, which is financially stable, and under no monetary pressurewhen it comes to marrying off their daughters. Yet both characters, one from a middle class family and the other from an economically deprived background suffer a similar fate.
Shahina, in Padam Onnu Oru Vilapam is a 14 year old school girl preparing for her class Xth exam when some local imams nd her uncle force her into marriage as a man’s second wife. Shahina is too young to understand sex, and is scared of it. She shrieks, screams and runs away from her husband on their first night much to his dismay and embarrassment. While the husband tries multiple times to consummate the marriage, it all ends in failure. Shahina doesn’t let his first wife sleep with him either. Finally the husband drugs her and rapes her. Shahina responds violently after waking up. She is divorced on grounds of being mentally ill, right after, with the triple talak. She happily returns home and while writing her exam collapses, and is later found to be pregnant. She is ostracized in society and accused of adultery as her husband claims to have never touched her. She joins the long line of hapless women who are deserted after such marriages, left with young children to feed. [Read more...]