’90ML’ Review: This Is A Film I’m Glad Exists, But I Wouldn’t Recommend Anyone To Watch It

Ambalainga panra ellaa ketta vishayathayum panradhillai penniyam” (Doing all bad things that men do is not feminism), they say. 90ML argues that, this is, in fact, feminism, if that’s what women want!

At the outset, I must tell you that 90ML is a terrible film. In fact, it’s hardly a film: It’s a inebriated vomit of giggles, pretensions, exaggerations and an over-acting Oviya. Yet, there is something mildly admirable about the effort in general. In a world where nearly every single film is the story of a man, the mere release of 90ML — in fact, it has got an enviable release and patronage — is an act of rebellion, and a sign of change. 

In that sense, 90ML is a film I’m glad exists, but I wouldn’t recommend anyone to watch it.

90ML is the story of several women and their unsatisfying lives. Rita — almost indistinguishable from the Oviya we know from Bigg Boss — brings these women together and transforms their lives. This transformation begins with changing their Whatsapp group’s name from ‘Brindavan Beauties’ to ‘Hot Chicks’. Similar revolutions follow.

Rita is presented to us as the ideal woman, one we should look up to, who is clear about her needs and courageous enough to seek it. But Rita’s character is the most unidimensional of them all. She shows no emotion other than smiling widely, giggling or laughing wildly. Her heart-break is only mentioned in passing. Her self-awareness and self-reliance are merely in dialogue. Her empathy is in acting as ridiculously as a Tamil film hero would — she throws a booze party for her new teetotaller friends, she kidnaps a bride and groom from their wedding hall, walks into a rowdy’s den and fights his henchmen, kisses a random man in a bar without his consent and so on.

The film treats its men with similar nonchalance. The two young men in the apartment are used and thrown, without the slightest courtesy; and the filmmaker wants us to see this as funny. The one man who seemed reasonable enough — Rita’s boyfriend — gets dropped off the ride in the middle of the journey simply because he wants to marry Rita and she doesn’t. Ask why? Because “my life, my rules”! 

Yet, each of her friends and their problems ring real. The frustrations and denial of the woman whose husband doesn’t sleep with her; the fears of a woman whose husband is a rowdy; the new mother whose husband cheats on her; the defeatist lesbian — each of them could have been interesting and complex characters on their own. But no. They become half-baked side-dish in a film obsessed with alcohol and platitude.

For film that’s just over two hours long, 90ML seems like it has been going on, gratingly,  forever. Devadarshini as the empathetic psychologist need not have existed; she is supposed to reflect the feelings of the audience, but she’s too polite for that! Silambarasan’s music is unremarkable, even if I can’t get the visual of Oviya violently shaking her head for marana matta off my mind. 

The staging and cinematography is nothing to speak of. In fact, in some parts, it is ridiculous. Like in the car chase scene where the only thing causing cinematic tension is Rita’s high pitch wails. If you closed your eyes and just heard the film, you’d think they’re in trouble. If you saw the film, though, you’d feel like a fool.

90ML certainly has a pertinent point to make. It wants us to believe that women can and must do whatever they want. It wants us to understand that drinking or smoking isn’t a personality trait, merely a choice. It wants us to know that women have friendships and support each other, just as men do. 

Yet, it takes an approach so bizarrely contrarian that it requires the kindness of your heart to take it seriously.

Previously published in Huffington Post India.