We live in a world where even God, who is supposed to be all good and all powerful, uses his terms to command and gain power. Those who are at the bottom of the hierarchy – be it caste, creed, religion or gender – are considered human and faith It plays an important role in making sure that the victims are kept in the dark about the big machine. This is a narrative that is very relevant, and in ZEE5’s web series AyaliWriter-director Mithu Kumar explores how such social and religious factors oppress women through a unique story.
Director: Mithu Kumar
The cast: Abhi Nakshatra, Anumul, Sangampuli, Linga.
Run time: 30 to 40 minutes each
The story line: In 1990, a brave young women with big dreams and ambitions decides to break the cruel rules set by the village people for aged girls.
The eight-episode series begins with an animated sequence that tells the story of how the village of Veerpanai came to be. According to tradition, when a young girl from Pannaivar village eloped with a man from a neighboring village, the people incurred the wrath of their god Ayali, resulting in the entire village shifting to a new location in Pudukottai district. Later came to be known as Veerapanai. In the new village, they built a temple for Ayali and decided that all the girls in the village would be married off there soon after puberty. Jump to 1990, and we see how this practice is used to oppress women. gave Kalacharam And Katupado Now tell that girls who reach puberty can neither enter the Ayali temple nor go to school. Both faith and education are taken away from them and their marriages are made. Protecting this sacred practice, controlling their women, and ensuring caste purity are top priorities for the men of the village, who support their local MLA (Sangampuli) and his son (Linga, a very promising character). i) follow.
Tamiz (Abhi Nachtra), a ninth-grader who questions the lack of sense in these practices, is our protagonist. Tamiz aspires to become a doctor, but fear grips her as she sees her classmates getting married one by one, the latter to suffer. So when she reaches puberty, she devises a plan to keep her dreams alive—she hides it from literally everyone. Most of the early episodes revolve around how Thomas pursues her plan and becomes the only girl in the village to enter the tenth grade classroom.
The hurdles ahead are huge. For example, during the full moon festival, the children of the village have to enter the Ayali temple and offer prayers. However, as the ancient belief states, no girl who has reached puberty should enter the temple. If they do so, the god will kill them on the next full moon day, or the villagers will cut off their hair and separate them from the village. In such a case, what will a 14-year-old girl do by hiding her menstrual scars from her mother? Each passing obstacle becomes more and more dangerous for Thamiz, and we join in celebrating his victories, big and small. Notably, many titles have not questioned the customs that are still followed when girls come of age, so much as in this series.
A still from ‘Ayali’ Photo credit: Special Arrangements
Ayali It’s built through emotional beats, and has enough substance and thrills to keep you engrossed. At the heart of all the drama is also a beautiful story about a daughter and a mother, and how women are forced to come together when pushed to extremes. In multiple tear jerking events, the lump in our throat constantly tightens. Like when we realize that a mere bus ride to the nearest town was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for some, or when a father realizes what true love is. Or when a subplot shows two elderly stepwives, who usually bicker with each other, share a nice moment. Or in the story of Tamiz’s friends who are forced to marry.
Director Muthu uses the long format to write many such sub-plots with enough characters to flesh out the central theme. Barring some poor comedy tracks meant to provide some levity, everything else works in favor of the story. It’s also interesting how the warm tones of the visuals not only set the period of the story, but they also complement the searing emotional tone and connect the world. Ayali I am fixed.
But the series needed a novel screenplay and better treatment. Even when we see what awaits us at a certain point, we are asked to wait a little longer for the payoff. Many characters, such as the one played by Linga, come across as underdeveloped despite initially showing potential. The lukewarm ending, which should have had double the effect, is another minus.
Still, telling such a story Ayali It is not easy, and Muthu takes a strong stand against every silly patriarchal idea that makes no sense and is still relevant today. He questions why the respect of caste and religion is hidden between women’s legs. Why women are only defined by their bodies and their role in childbearing. Why are all customs applied only to women and boys are not punished for their crimes? He also makes sure not to offend the true faith that people have in their gods, because the balance is usually slippery. Reva’s music plays a strong supporting role, and Abhi Nakshatra and Anmol’s performances in particular are also commendable.
Whenever you see Thomas or any of the other women in the series raising their voices and questioning the stupidity of men, you imagine a mass audience whistling their support. That imagery just forces you to consider who the audience is. Ayali Is this a story for those who have access to streaming platforms and care enough to check out titles with many familiar faces? Or is it the story of such regressive minded rural and urban men and women oppressed by them? It should definitely be the latter, but that doesn’t diminish the fact. Ayali There is an essential, timely story that needs to be told out loud all the time.
Ayali is currently airing on ZEE5.