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Episode 91: Director Series – Padmarajan’s Deshadanakkili Karayarilla

Episode Trigger Warning: Suicide

After a long break, we are back with our Director Series on Malayalam auteur Padmarajan. This one is on his 1986 film Deshadanakkili Karayarilla starring Shari, Karthika, Urvashi and Mohanlal.

Deshadanakkili Karayarilla might be one of the popular mainstream films in the context of any language, with big stars, but it is also one of the earliest Indian films to talk about a lesbian relationship, confronting the world of queer subjects and the hardships the LGBTQ+ community faces in public and private spaces, what it means to be queer in the confines and threat of heteronormativity and how this subtext can be approached directly with formal elements of cinema while remaining a film that’s about female companionship at the surface level.

For this episode Aditya is joined by two guests – Darshana Sreedhar Mini, Asst. Professor at University of Wisconsin – Madison’s Department of Communication Arts and Affiliate – Gender and Women’s Studies, Center for South Asia and Center for Visual Cultures.

Our second guest is Rajashree Raju, Board Member of Kerala based LGBTQI+ welfare organization and activist group Queerala. She’s been associated with the organization since 2016.

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Here is the link to watch the film on Youtube. Unfortunately there are no subtitles but it is worth watching even without it as the cinematic elements make sure the subtext is eloquently conveyed:

Here is a link to the book Unruly Figures: Queerness, Sex Work, and the Politics of Sexuality in Kerala (Decolonizing Feminisms) by Navaneetha Mokkil that has a chapter on the film and is discussed in the episode.

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