A purdah-clad Muslim woman who leaves for work after putting her children in her husband's care, is quite the unusual protagonist, as far as Indian movies are concerned.
In that way, 'Farhana' featuring Aishwarya Rajesh as the titular character, is different as it makes an attempt to represent a section of women who are usually relegated to the shadows or misrepresented in Indian cinema. That the film hit theatres exactly a week after the controversial Sudipto Sen directorial 'The Kerala Story' released, is quite interesting.
For unlike 'The Kerala Story', the Muslim community in 'Farhana' are shown as people who are capable of love and care, though some hold views that are quite regressive. Farhana's orthodox father is one such character. He believes women are meant to stay at home and take care of their children and that they need not own a mobile phone or even get a good education.
The 'regressive' tone of the characters ends there. Farhana's husband (Jithan Ramesh), though not worldly, is portrayed as a kindhearted man who is in favour of his wife going to work, despite the odds. Though his not preferring that Farhana attend any phone calls may seem contradictory to his otherwise liberal nature, his character is quite interesting.
Farhana takes up a job at a call centre, which isn't your conventional 'what's wrong with your product?' BPO. Here, the job entails having to engage in simulated sex with customers over the phone. Despite being an educated woman who is clearly uncomfortable with the nature of the job, Farhana's financial constraints leave her with no other option. However, one call she attends while at work changes her life. The intrigue and the treatment of the movie make it an interesting watch.
The movie's trailer had come under criticism for portraying Aishwarya's character as a woman working at a phone sex call centre. Her character being a Muslim did not sit well with the community with some even saying the film was an insult to Muslim women.
However, director Nelson Venkatesan has made an attempt to ensure that the character does not seem controversial. More than being a Muslim woman, Farhana has her own identity. Like any other woman who steps out into the world, she too has to face some challenges to move up in life.
Nelson has done a good job of keeping the intrigue flowing, though the film suffers from moments of lull, too. The mysterious man behind the voice, who falls in love with Farhana, is the highlight of the movie, which turns dark in the second half.
The performances by all the actors, including Selvaraghavan, Kitty, Anumol and Aishwarya Dutta, were commendable, though Aishwarya Rajesh is the highlight of the film. Her facial expressions, her composure and the way she carried herself, prove that she is someone who can carry an entire film on her shoulders.