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Review Malayalam

Cinestaan Curates: Exploring the contours of sexual freedom in Freedom@Midnight

Release Date: 09 Jan 2021

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Sukhpreet Kahlon

Directed by RJ Shaan, the short Malayalam film stars Anupama Parameswaran and Hakkim Shahjahan

Can freedom be conditional? What are its limits and who decides them? The Malayalam short film Freedom@Midnight explores the frayed edges in the relationship of a married couple as the wife poses these questions to her husband.

Chandra (Anupama Parameswaran) and Das (Hakkim Shahjahan) have been married for eight years and have a child. On what seems like a regular day, Chandra confronts her husband about her place in his home and as his wife. She craves some attention from him while he is only interested in her cooking. The situation intensifies and as the acrimony between the two increases, Chandra gets her husband thinking about sexual freedom, sharing her fantasy with him.

The thought-provoking short film revolves around the idea of freedom and what it means for the sexes. The ways in which sexual freedom can mean a certain thing for the husband but he has not even thought about the consequences when his wife expresses her wish to exercise her sexual freedom. 

It also makes one reflect on the ways in which women quickly and conveniently become relegated to the domestic space and are not even considered sexual beings, unlike men, for whom notions of masculinity are entwined with sexuality. At one point, frustrated, Chandra says, "I am everything in this house — doctor, waiter, cleaner, plumber, teacher", to which the husband unwittingly replies,"This is life", only to leave her seething with rage.

Written and directed by RJ Shaan, there is a natural fluid movement to events in the film as they unfold during the course of the day. The cinematography by Abdul Rahim mobilises spaces within the home as a setting for the couple and maintains the tempo. The naturalistic performances of Anupama and Hakkim bring to life the frustration behind their confrontation. Anupama is riveting as the wife who is thinking through the actions of her husband and presenting them as a dilemma for him to ponder over, while Hakkim plays the male chauvinist rather well. 

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