Cast & characters (in the order of importance)



Critic and festival selector Cameron Bailey on Four Women

Four Women World premiered in Toronto International Film Festival 2007 in the Masters section – A selection of 20 new films from the World’s Greatest filmmakers.

As deeply rooted as they are in the soil and soul of his of his native Kerala,
Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s films speak universal truths. None does this more than Four Women.
The film distills to a rare purity four tales of village women in south India. Their titles are elemental:”The Prostitute, The Virgin, The Housewife and the Spinster”.
In each, woman submits to a role society decides for her. Each role offers a paradox of freedom and bondage in nearly equal measure.

In the first story, Kunju pennu accepts a proposal from Pappukuttty and enters into an informal marriage, giving up her profession as a prostitute to do so. Both are desparately poor and live outdoors on the pavement, but they believe in the honour of their new status. That honour is shattered when police catch the couple in a compromising position one night and drag them to court on obscenity charges. Their only defence? They are husband and wife.

In “The Virgin”, Kumari’s parents are happy to marry her off to a man from another village but disgusted when he returns to visit and eats every last morsel of food they can offer. These scenes are both comic and alarming. After the meal, her new husband leaves, never to return. Kumari must face the shame of the stiutation, but also the ironic fact that her husband’s only gift to her was the one thing he should have – by traditional right- taken.

The last two stories play out in a similarly trenchant fashion. A housewife is unable to produce a child. An old school friend offers himself to her as a surrogate stud, and his moustache is no doubt tempting. But what of the consequences? And in “The Spinster”, Nandita Das gives a heart-breaking as a woman, whose younger sister marries before her. With spinsterhood fast approaching, she eventually moves in with her sister and husband, but that causes more problems than it solves. She soon opts to face the world of her own.

Gopalakrishnan’s combination of deft narrative strokes and delicate characterization produces deeply satisfying insights. Wherever one finds parents anxious for their daughters, gossips eager to talk and women navigating the deep waters of men and social standing, Four Women will resonate.

                                         - Cameron Bailey in Festival Programme Book