(MENAFN - Khaleej Times)
At some point, we have all questioned the personal perception of attractiveness of our bodies. From being overweight or having a receding hairline, most of us have cringed at least once at the sight of ourselves in the mirror. Yet, when these body image issues are depicted in the film, they either carry a very dramatic lean or are used in an entirely comedic manner.
Finally, Malayalam film makers have given a quirky and extremely sensitive take to body image with Thamaasha. Critics, movie reviewers, and Malayalee film lovers in Kerala are calling a refreshing, much-needed take on body shaming. Starring Vinay Forrt from the Premam fame, and a bevvy of other talented new-comers, Malayalam movie Thamaasha has been running successfully in movie theatres in Kerala for three weeks. The movie is all set to release in Dubai today, Wednesday, June 26.
Thamasha has been bankrolled by Sameer Thahir, Shyju Khalid, Lijo Jose Pellissery, and Chemban Vinod Jose, under the banner of Happy Hours Entertainment. Directed by Ashraf Hamza, Thamaasha is the story of a University professor with a receding hairline and timid demeanour on the lookout for love. Portrayed by Vinay Forrt, the movie revolves around Forrt's character Sreenivasan who is constantly rejected in the wedding market for his baldness. Co-starring newcomer Chinnu Chandini Nair, and leading ladies Divya Prabha and Grace Antony, Thamaasha, according to its stars and director, addresses the issue of body shaming with a much-needed sensitivity.
'Didn't think twice before I decided to do the movie'
City Times caught up with some of the leading stars and director Ashraf Hamza for a chat ahead of the movie's UAE release. An excited Forrt, still reeling from the overwhelming response the movie has had in Kerala, asked "Do you know anyone who hasn't been a victim to body shaming at least once in their life? The answer would most probably be no."
Forrt said Thamassha is one of the most relatable movies made in recent times. He said Thamaasha has been made to 'inspire'. "It's super motivational. And the response has been overwhelming. If 100 people have seen it, then all 100 are saying they love it. It's a thought-provoking, light, and timeless movie," said Forrt.
"I've been doing theatre since Grade 4, and I honestly feel that after spending 10 years as an actor, acting in this movie has been the end product of all those efforts." Forrt is not new to playing a stumbling, awkward college professor either. He got his breakthrough by portraying 'Vimal Sir' in Alphonse Putharen's smash hit movie Premam.
When asked if he was worried about being typecast in this role, Forrt said, "I loved the script. When I read it, the only thing I thought was: 'How can I reinvent myself?' A lot of hard work, research, and detailed homework went into building up this character. The body language is very different from anything I've ever done before. And, to bring it to this perfection, I have to give full credit to the director."
Without criticising the role of mass media and social media in perpetuating body shaming, Forrt said, "At appearance, no one is perfect. All of us face body shaming and all of us have indulged in it as well. It is not just a person who is bald or someone who is on the heavier side; it's something that everyone faces. We can post bad comments on pictures, but we don't really think of the emotional consequence the comments could have. Thamaasha helps the viewer on ways to deal with body shaming and ways to approach life with more positivity."
Forrt also said he is very pleased with the direction Malayalam cinema is taking. "The scripts are great, and there is a great group effort in making the movies work. They have an immense international scope," said Forrt.
'Thamaasha educates people without preaching'
Meanwhile, Thamaasha's director Ashraf Hamza said he made Thamaasha with the sole intention of 'making a good movie'. We caught up with the director just as he was headed to watch the movie in the theatre for the first time. "I prefer watching it this way," laughed Hamza. Speaking about the movie's shooting experience, Hamza modestly said he did not want to affect the 'reputation of the producers'. However, he was vocal about society's tendency to indulge in body shaming. "It's something people really participate in," said Hamza.
The director said, "The sole purpose of the movie is to educate audiences about the perils of body shaming without preaching. One way or the other we have all participated in body shaming. We wanted to remind people that we are all culprits, but in a very positive, subtle, yet powerful manner." While casting for the actors, Hamza said Forrt was a natural choice. "He is a very capable artist and we really like him. We didn't have a doubt that he would not be able to carry the movie. Obviously, we were worried he could repeat his performance from Premam, however, he outdid himself."
The same was said for the female leads. "Take Chinnu for example. Her character addressed fat shaming, and towards the second half, she shoulders the entire movie. We selected actors for the characters, irrespective of their star status," added Hamza. Chinnu, who plays an overweight young woman by the same name, says that she has received about "300 messages in a day, of which about half the messages say that 'I feel like the Chinnu in the movie'".
The newbie actress works to shatter all stereotypes surrounding the female body in cinema. She said, "They have taken the movie without bringing negative shades to any of the female characters, thus breaking the existing mould of female leads," said Chinnu. The director also said movies that are being made in Malayalam cinema today are socially aware, and takes into account the happenings in our surroundings - "be it interests, be it politics, or pretty much anything else."