Starring Mammootty and Jyothika in the prominent roles, Jeo Baby’s Kaathal: The Core brings the discussion of homosexuality to the mainstream cinema. When a superstar such as Mammootty plays a homosexual man, it helps normalize queerness for the public at large. Perhaps this is a lesson for the Bollywood stars who continue to choose hyper-masculine characters to please the public. Unfolding at the quaint village of Teekoy in Kottayam District, we are introduced to Mathew Devassy and Omana, a regular married couple. For the last twenty years, the couple has been living peacefully, and Omana’s decision to divorce Mathew all of a sudden left the entire village in complete shock.
Plot Summary: What Is The Film About?
Mathew was a reputed man in the village. His soft-spoken nature and his calm demeanor appealed to the villagers, and he was considered to contest the local body elections as an independent candidate of the Left Party. As a political figure, Mathew intended to do the right thing rather than only sticking to the ideas of the party. Mathew was specifically asked to side with the parents in a love affair case, but he ended up supporting the couple. He believed individuals must have the right to make their own choice when it came to partners, and the family must eventually make their peace with it. Of course, party worker Sibin was not happy with his decision, but Mathew was satisfied with the way he dealt with the situation. This instance gives us an idea of the life Mathew envisioned for himself, but he never had the courage or support to live freely.
Mathew eventually accepted his candidacy, and just as his posters made it to the public walls, he learned about the case Omana had filed. She had filed the petition two months ago, and she did not know then that it would clash with the election campaign. Even though everyone around her begged her to revoke the petition, she was resolute about her decision. It was no ordinary divorce case; Omana had mentioned that her husband was a closeted homosexual who failed to fulfill his duty as a husband. Several villagers refused to trust Omana, and they showed their support for Mathew. The party, too, decided to carry on with the campaign to show their complete faith in their candidate.
In her petition, Omana mentioned that Mathew shared a romantic relationship with Thankan, a fellow villager. Not only was Mathew’s reputation tarnished, but Thankan, too, had to face the brunt of the matter. His nephew refused to show him respect, and the villagers made suggestive comments. When Mathew confronted Omana about the petition, she admitted that she did not have the courage to discuss the matter in person. For the last twenty years, she had wanted to take the step, and maybe she was afraid that, once again, she would be forced to gulp down her feelings and continue pretending to be a regular couple.
Why did Omana want a divorce?
Mathew tried to brush aside the case, saying it was a decision Omana took after their recent conflict. He chose to be dishonest with his lawyer because he was extremely ashamed of the truth. Before the court case began, Mathew visited his daughter, Femi, at her college. He assured her that the case would be dissolved within a few days. Just like everyone else, he assumed Femi would believe his lies as well. However, Femi and her mother had a lengthy discussion about Mathew before she filed the petition. Femi did not expect her father to continue lying. She confirmed that she held no hatred or anger towards the father; instead, she felt a certain sadness for him, maybe because her father never found a safe space to express his true identity.
Omana was not ready to settle for anything but a divorce, and she was ready to fight the case for as long as necessary. She had lost the most valuable years of her life living a lie, and she was not ready to do so anymore. She continued to live at the same house as Mathew because she believed it was her duty towards his father to be there as long as she was his daughter-in-law. Towards the end of Kaathal: The Core, she expressed how, through marriage, she did not get a husband, but she did get a father-in-law who loved her just as a father would. She had fulfilled her role as a mother, wife, and daughter-in-law to perfection, and the ones who knew her could see that, for the first time, she was fighting solely for herself. The church pastor tried to convince Omana to cancel the petition, considering they were a respectable Christian family, and such a case would bring shame to the community, but once again, she refused to budge.
When Omana took to the stand, she confessed that, as a married couple, they never shared a healthy sexual relationship. Even though they shared the same room, there was a lack of effort from his end. She did not have any proof of his affair with Thankan, but some instances made her believe that the two were more than just acquaintances. It was only because they had a daughter together that Mathew’s lawyer, Advocate Sajitha, wanted the court to believe that the couple was in a healthy relationship. Advocate Ameera came to Oman’s defense, stating that countless homosexual men get married to maintain their straight image in society. The fact that Mathew was a man of reputation and that he had managed to conceal his identity well for all these years had little to do with his sexual preference. Mathew’s inability to fulfill his marital duty was nothing less than mental torture for Omana. There was also a lack of honesty when they got married, and that ended up ruining her life. She had no complaints against Mathew, and all she wanted was to be free from their loveless marriage. She waited all these years to file the petition because homosexuality was a criminal offense until 2018. Omana did not wish for Mathew to end up in prison, and she chose to wait for the right time.
What was the court’s verdict?
Mathew’s father agreed to take the stand for his daughter-in-law. He knew his son was homosexual from the time he was a little boy, but he was ashamed to accept the truth. He was told by a counselor that marriage would alter Mathew’s sexual preference, but clearly, that never happened. Instead, they ended up ruining the life of an innocent girl. He begged Omana to withdraw the case, but she made him realize how unjust it would be. It was time that the family faced the truth, as bitter as the experience was. The public scrutiny of Mathew’s identity affected his reputation, but at the same time, Omana had every right to live the life she desired.
Mathew’s father had stopped talking to his son since the day Omana delivered Femi. He alone had to bring her home with the newborn from Meppara because Mathew was busy taking care of Thankan after he had an accident. How heartbreaking it must have been for Omana to not have her husband by her side after delivering their baby. For years, she chose silence for the sake of everyone else. Omana’s father-in-law realized how he had wronged her, and he decided to speak the truth in court to help her case. He admitted that his son was a homosexual man, and as his father, he was aware of the truth. After his confession, there was no chance for Mathew to win the case.
During Kaathal: The Core‘s ending, the weight was lifted from Mathew’s chest once he realized that his truth was no longer a secret. He could not come out of the closet, but Omana helped him accept his identity. Mathew’s father apologized to him for failing to provide him with the right support. Omana and Mathew shared a beautiful friendship, and they decided to sleep in the same room one last time before she moved out. Femi was in support of her parents’ decision and helped her mother pack her belongings. The change was difficult for everyone to cope with, but then again, it was necessary. Mathew went on to win the election even after his sexuality became a matter of public discussion. It went on to prove that people tend to judge others by their character, and they had complete trust in Mathew even after finding out his truth.
Throughout Kaathal: The Core there is no interaction between Thankan and Mathew, and we only learn about their relationship through the case. Thankan is almost a silent spectator who proudly watches Mathew from afar. It was societal pressure that once forced them to stay apart, and maybe he was hopeful that they would find their way back to each other after the divorce. Omana was ready to try her luck in love once again, and this time, she had the support of her ex-husband and daughter. Mathew watched Omana take her first step towards finding her partner, and all he needed to do now was live the life he had always wanted to. We do not know if Mathew and Thankan will end up together, but in any case, Mathew will be able to live his life as his authentic self. As a political leader, he will also be able to make influential decisions for the progress of the queer community. Kaathal: The Core addresses societal expectations that force queer individuals to live a dual existence. It is not just them who are forced to live a lie but also the partners who end up in a loveless marriage.