Women In Malayalam Literature & Media

The Malayalam Project aims to explore the nuances of language through examples of the written work of writers, poets and journalists. With the selected subject – ‘narrative of the woman character on print’, we look at how women were depicted or their actions accounted for in novels, drama, poetry and even newspapers published during the time period of 1901 till 1999.

Why women?

Art transcends borders and even time periods. Nature and human emotions like love, fear are subjects that stand strong irrespective of where and when they are featured. Out of these, we chose the narrative of woman as our subject for its relevance in this day and state.

Walk into any office in the state or go down any road or marketplace, you will  find women engaged in their activities. From entrepreneurs to housemaids to ministers and MLAs – the title that a Malayali woman takes on is as varied as it can get.

A notable achievement for the state, but does the statistics of high literacy, high female-to-male ratio etc. really gives us the right picture of woman in Kerala?

We look at the subculture comprising printed works that either take inspiration or reflect the life around us. A highly literate state, Kerala has produced many a literary masterpieces that have influenced generations of Malayalis. We narrowed down on two prose works and one poem from each decade along with media reports of one public figure. Being popular and accessible works, these were read by the masses, and were a definitive influence of the time.

The passages are also a reflection of the socio-cultural milieu of the time period in which the work was published. Through the portrayal of the character, we can perceive the status, treatment and idea of the ‘woman’ during a particular time period. And as we move through the decades, we are able to do a comparative study of how the notion about a woman has changed.

From the beautiful yet bold Indulekha to tradition-bound fisherwoman Karuthamma and finally to the fickle-minded Anna Dostoyevsky, we are presented with a plethora of woman characters, who strongly represent the idea of how a woman is or should be during each period.

And finally, as Mrs KM Mathew wrote in the first editorial of Vanitha magazine – is it possible to say that women are not being discriminated against in a country, where you have had women Prime Minister and Chief Ministers?



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