90 ML: An Average Film That Is Worth A Watch Because Of The Taboos It Addresses
Movie Review by Trijai Nerthi (Rocheston Certified Movie Critic)
Directed by Azhagiya Asura aka Anita Udeep, 90 ML is an amalgamation of the drama and comedy genres starring Oviya, Bommu Lakshmi, Monisha Ram, Masoom Shankar and Shree Gopika in lead roles. The film’s teaser and promotions received a lot of flak for turning out to be the female equivalent of films like Iruttu Araiyil Murattu Kuthu and Trisha Illana Nayanthara. Thankfully, the film does give you traces of a plot that goes deeper than just glamour. In all fairness, 90 ML is an average film with below average writing. The second half is especially uneven. But considering the fact that this is the first Tamil film to actually kickstart the conversation of a woman’s sexuality, some of their perceptions of freedom and more such generally tabooed topics, the other flaws though not overlookable can be tolerated.
Four contrasting women, Thamarai (Bommu Lakshmi), Paru (Shree Gopika), Kajal (Masoom Shankar) and Suganya (Monisha Ram) live in the same building. Hailing from disparate family backgrounds, these women have reluctantly decided to settle for a run of the mill life. Until they meet the headstrong Rita (Oviya). Rita is a woman who lives life on her own terms. Soon she befriends these women and encourages them to live life at its fullest and promises to solve the problems in their lives in turn. Their bond, the challenges they face and the manner in which they discover solutions to their problems form the crux of this film.
Time and again, through different stories, through different mediums, creators of the new age (though relatively rarely) try to bring to the table, films where women establish the fact that they are equal to men. 90 ML is one more film that tries to do this. It is not noteworthy because it tries to do this. It is interesting because, it moves past its initial titillations, to give you a tale of female bonding. It does this by taking you through the lives of five women who shed their shells and learn to take on life, unrestrained by the weight of anything. The only difference being, they don’t do this by contemplation or self-realization. They simply feel liberation in just being free enough to live like men. To get a taste of what it means for their mistakes to be forgiven. To not be responsible for representing their gender with every little action of theirs. For achieving this feat unabashedly, the film deserves a mention.
It takes you through the lives, problems, sexualities of these women without getting judgemental or preachy. It doesn’t bash men to make it’s point either. It doesn’t even use their drinking and smoking as gimmicks, it shows you that at the center of it all is the bond they’re building. The very fact that this is the first film that touches upon tabooed topics such as same-sex relationships, the sexual lives of these women makes it hard for you to zoom in on the film’s errors (which are plenty in number).
Having said that, the film still uses many superficial elements to retain the curiosity of its audiences. An example of this is the many unnecessary lip-lock sequences the film throws into the mix even though it has no relevance to the actual story.
After a point, 90 ML gets stuck in the same pattern. These women get together, they smoke a joint, a problem arises and they set out to solve it. This pattern gets repetitive and predictable in the second half. The last thirty minutes including the climax feels forced. It feels as though the film should’ve ended a little after the interval but it kept pushing through without a clear goal.
While it is true that women should be able to talk about their sexual problems, having this as the one sole focus makes the film one-dimensional. The writing could’ve brought in much more clarity, emotional depth, and better character sketches. That way, it would’ve made the impact it set out to make.
As Rita, Oviya dives in head first and gives the role her best shot. But her portrayal is not at all relatable due to the weak writing. Her characterization is uneven, under-developed and sometimes even superficial. It is clear that the director could not make up her mind on whether to have Rita as the character epitomizing the emancipation of these women or if she is actually a friend who shares a genuine bond with them. This lack of clarity is the reason why Rita comes across as a one-dimensional character. The other actors deliver slightly amateur portrayals but they are convincing in their command over the Tamil diction and this gives them an advantage in being relatable. The one actor who does stand out among the four women is Bommu Lakshmi who plays Thamarai.
Technically the film is strong, thanks to cinematographer Aravind Krishna’s strong and bold imagery. The color correction though could have been a bit more raw to build on the realism in the story. As the music director, Silambarasan’s songs are average. But they do exceed the low expectations you have for it.
On the whole, 90 ML is an uneven film with a one-dimensional focus and weak writing. But it starts a conversation that Tamil Cinema has closed its doors to for a long, long time. Just for this, it’s flaws can be tolerated.