Little Wings | Film Threat

Feb 6, 2023

Little Wings is an independently produced short film and marks director Naveen Mu’s prolific entry into filmmaking. Set in the extremities of rural Tamil Nadu, the drama visualizes the consequences of role reversals in a conservative Indian household. While a large section of Indian society is outgrowing traditional gender norms, Mu (full name: Naveenkumar Muthaiah) reminds us of the lack of change in those notions in the more orthodox cultures.
The film tells the story of a woman (Manimegalai) struggling to meet basic daily needs as she serves as her house’s breadwinner and caretaker. Her husband (Nitharsana C. Kalidoss) lies paralyzed, unable to find work, and must rely on his wife for his care. But, this shift from societal gender stereotypes makes him envious. Knowing that there is hardly enough wage to eat, he desires a complete meal with chicken served to him. The wife owns a pet rooster, so why not go after it?
The wife saves and invests in the next meal, but the proud and angry husband is obsessed with asserting his dominance and obtaining his fill. Thus begins a dispute between a husband and wife, between two distinct sets of values and beliefs that are diametrically opposed. Will the wife be able to rise through these daily irritable sufferings? Or will the husband’s stubbornness to establish his status bring dire consequences?
Even a little more into the story would spoil Little Wings. But the elements of gender bias and discriminatory cultural practices that the themes target are most brilliantly expressed. In a statement, Mu conveyed how personal experiences drew him towards this story which he had earlier titled A Fool’s Paradise. It’s a fitting name to represent the husband’s false notion about his manly status in the household and that his dream of having a meat-fledged meal could come true without consequences.

“…a woman struggling to meet basic daily needs as she serves as her house’s breadwinner…”
But, the change to Little Wings serves the ideas at play better. The title now asserts that this is about the wife’s struggles to fly ahead to a better, sustainable future. It makes it about her wings constantly being ripped and hurt in a male-dominated society. Shifting the focus from the man to the woman speaks highly of the filmmaker’s intentions and resonates more with the final shot.
The setting makes this film interesting. Most rural areas in India follow and live on customs and traditions that are vastly unknown and often obsolete in the urban and fast-growing societies of the country. But the short takes several steps in reverse and offers deep insight into these forgotten practices that barricade everyone from moving on. There are hardly any signs of powerlines, television, or even basic landline service, making the couple’s house and surroundings more barren and deprived. There’s a scarcity of everything in the small hut they reside in. This desolate wilderness visualizes the other-worldliness of their lifestyle.
Naveen’s approach to the narrative is quite blunt yet subtle, which has the effect of shattering the glass ceiling. The short also resorts to a certain amount of humor, but the viewer will notice the striking force at which the core thought is conveyed. For his directorial debut, Mu has left a mark. I expect a lot more to come from the team behind Little Wings, as their start in filmmaking is worthy of applause on every level.
For what’s worth, the film’s take on a well-known and much-debated social concern is quite enjoyable and clearly impactful. From acting performances to cinematography, Little Wings is very engaging. While you may not watch it for the social commentary, you’ll definitely love it for its edge-clutching drama.
Little Wings screened at the 2023 India Film Festival.

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