23 June, 2021

Backwater Bacchantes

In the land of drunkards, women who drink are slowly getting accepted, but still face stiff resistance from the patriarchal Malayali male

Illustration by R. Prasad
Backwater Bacchantes

When American ­television host Jimmy Kimmel retwe­eted the video of girls clad in Kerala saris dancing to the ­Jimmiki Kammal song with the words “Love it”, it ­created an instant internet sensation. But the lyrics also tell another story—the ­story of a certain normalisation of the idea, and images, of women drinking in ­Malayalam films. In 2017, at least 2-3 films show women in a pleasant drunken haze, not to mention the mother who downs a whole ­brandy bottle in the song. In ­Angamaly ­Diaries, Lichi does a happy-go-lucky tipsy walk, while, in Sarvopari Palakkaran, a very pleased ­matriarch is poured a drink at the onset of ­marriage celebrations.

All this seems to set a new normal, quite different from the past when ­liquor was blatantly used to cast women in a negative shade. A woman holding a glass of booze in a ’70s Mollywood potboiler needed no other ­embellishment or dialogue to frame her character as a slut. In contrast, Lichi, in Angamaly Diaries, is...

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