Maadathy-An Unfairy Tale: Caste, Space, and Gaze

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Swarnavel Eswaran


This essay engages with Maadathy (dir. Leena Manimekalai, 2019) to explore how space is constructed as a marker of caste and interrogate the concomitant intersection of caste and gender in a divided community. Through the retooling of myth, Maadathy explores the horror at the heart of a patriarchal society that is invested in caste as a means of oppression, violence, and inequity. However, such a perverse agenda comes back to haunt the community, which is invested in destroying an adolescent girl without any concern for her desires and finally trying to deify her and find a way for the catharsis of their guilt. Untouchability runs as a subtext throughout Maadathy as Yosana and her family are marked, even more inhumanely and unjustly, as unseeable people, wherein the onus to be not seen falls on them. They are abused verbally and physically when they are going about their mundane chores. Nonetheless, the focus on the joyful demeanor of the pleasure-seeking Yosana through the Lacanian lens of the gaze initially enables the understanding of the yearning for subjective mastery from the other side of the village community whose men repeatedly target and try to contain her. However, Yosana’s gaze does not allow itself to be domesticated. The jouissance of Yosana, marking her singularity as the casteless adolescent girl, troubles those who want to contain and destroy her effervescence and, even after her death, continues to haunt them as they are blind to the impossibility of knowing the secret of her desire.

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How to Cite
Eswaran, S. (2022). Maadathy-An Unfairy Tale: Caste, Space, and Gaze. CASTE / A Global Journal on Social Exclusion, 3(1), 153-170.
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Author Biography

Swarnavel Eswaran, Michigan State University

Associate Professor, Department of English and the School of Journalism Michigan State University