'Sancharam' is a small gem in Indian cinema; it might well go unnoticed by many, and indeed, given its subject, there might well be a conspiracy for its erasure. For the movie is a daring look at same-sex desire, and unlike Deepa Mehta's 'Fire' - whose failures, for this reviewer, lay in not allowing lesbian desire a discourse of self-legitimacy - this movie speaks of women's desire as a matter of choice. Here are two girls falling in young love, not because of a bad husband, or a failed marriage, or as some sophomoric experiment in 'freak' love, but well and truly recognizing both the possibilities and limits of their transgressive passion. The movie is beautifully shot - its opening sequences are some of the best ever!
Lesbians or lesbian well-wishers might find the plot of 'Sanchaaram' somewhat of a letdown, but the director's vision is firmly realist. It is unlikely that lebian women can enjoy full sexual freedom in Kerala, like they do in places like, say, Toronto. Kerala society, while overall traditionally matrilineal and forward-thinking with regard to women's status and position, nonetheless remains deeply unaccommodating of subversive sexual mores and sticks by its own spins of heterosexism and patriarchy. In this sense, the movie's plot makes sense, but that may still not please our need to find feminist heroines in our art. Be that as it may, 'Sancharam' is an audacious experiment for India in real cinema - and is a refreshing addition to Malayalam art in general.