Movies falling into the coming-of-age genre, centred on the themes of growing up and maturation, often incorporate a level of romance—typically portraying the protagonist’s first romantic experiences. The young protagonists in coming-of-age dramas are shown grappling with their one of the earliest life dilemmas or undergo their first major awakening.
Daayam (Inheritance) belongs to this genre, but it deviates from the usual narrative by exploring themes of ‘loss’ and grief instead of relying on common tropes like teenage romance and humour. Daayam uses them as catalysts for the protagonist’s transition into adulthood and her journey of coping with new realities and realisations brought about by the loss.
Directed by Prasanth Vijay, Daayam narrates the story of Kalyani (Aathira Rajeev), a teenager whose life is upended by the sudden death of her mother. In the subsequent weeks, Kalyani grapples not only with the grief but also confronts harsh realisations about the patriarchal and hypocritical nature of the society surrounding her.
Vijay, a self-taught filmmaker from Kerala, explored a similar theme—disappearance of a parent—in his debut feature film The Summer of Miracles (2017), too. While the internationally-acclaimed film used a young boy as its protagonist to examine power dynamics in interpersonal relationships, Daayam extends this exploration with a 17-year-old girl at its heart.
The director attributes the genesis of the film to writer Indu Lakshmi’s personal experience of losing her mother at a young age. “The pain of those memories, channelled into the script, became the foundation of the narrative. Having a female writer has provided the film with perspectives that I might not have been able to explore otherwise.”
In Daayam, Vijay employs a deliberate, unhurried pace to construct the narrative. The strategic use of silence, pauses, and a minimalist setting effectively immerses the audience in an atmosphere of a “marippuveedu” (house in mourning) attempting to cope with loss. Everyday household chores, coupled with the tumult that arises when an inexperienced father and daughter attempt to manage them, serve as tropes to scrutinise how patriarchy operates within the home, tilting the balance in favour of men.
The film delves into the pain of confronting the hypocrisy of an “idol”, unveiling the true nature of the character and the resulting insecurity it instils in the teenager. Towards the end, the audience witnesses her decision not to submit but to confront these challenges. However, Daayam adopts a subtle approach in encapsulating these themes, intertwining elements of casteism and misogyny, crafting a compelling narrative that invites reflection.
Having had its world premiere at the MAMI Mumbai Film Festival 2023, Daayam is currently featured at the International Film Festival of Kerala. Aathira Rajeev delivers an outstanding performance marked by exceptional screen presence. Her ability to convey a spectrum of emotions with grace is noteworthy. If you appreciate films that delve into the dynamics of power within a household, Daayam is undoubtedly a movie worth watching.
Director: Prasanth Vijay
Cast: Aathira Rajeev and others