There has been a lot of hue and cry about the dearth of women oriented films in Malayalam, and when finally a film comes along with four major actresses in the industry doing the lead roles, one hopes for the best. However, the end product named Penpattanam attempts to delve into women's issues on an extremely peripheral level.
The four women Girija (Revathy), Suhara (Shwetha Menon), Raji (Vishnupriya) and Santha (KPAC Lalitha) are Kudumbasree workers who toil day and night to make both their ends meet. Life hasn't been kind to any one of them, and things start looking up when they accidentally come across a bag stuffed with money in one of the garbage cans. Along with the money comes a torrent of troubles and the women get entangled in a complex web of deception and deceit.
Each of the four women has a sob story to tell. Girija has been left alone after he husband's death, and she has learned to fend for herself and her kids over the years. Suhara who ventured out to live life on her own terms with a man belonging to another caste soon finds herself at the cross roads when her husband is bedridden after an accident. Shantha does have an adult son and his family staying with her, but unfortunately has to provide for them as well even in her old age. Raji lives with her sister and brother in law and has dreams of spending the rest of her life with Mani (Kailash) who has mended his vile ways and turned over a new leaf, just to be with her.
These issues form the backdrop against which the film starts off on a very promising note. Along comes the bag of money and everything goes topsy turvy. There is the intial confusion as to what has to be done with it, and the final solution that they come up with makes the rest of the story unravel in a very predictable manner.
There have been several films even before that have said the story of men running into unexpected sources of money and the mess that thereby arises out of it. There is not much of a difference from all those tales, in what is happening in Penpattanam, except that the protagonists are women.
I wonder if making four women the chief characters of a film would make the film itself women oriented. Certainly not, as the core issues have to be of much greater significance. There is no escape for women who are almost forced to bite the bait as is suggested by Girija who is persuaded to surrender herself before the money lender. And if you are a beautiful woman, jails will not be a safe place either, as Raji realizes when two women inmates attempt to rape her.
Of the four actresses, Revathy has come up with whopper performance that easily puts the rest of the cast into the sidelines. Shwetha clearly deserved better and all those stunts and grunts do not much of a character make. Lalitha is as efficient as ever, while Kailash and Vishnupriya come up with adequate performances.
Penpattanam isn't a boring film, but there's nothing remarkable in it that makes it particularly important. It shouldn't be labeled a film that deals with women's issues either, since there are much graver concerns that real women deal with, than a lost and found money bag.