The third film in the CSAS South Asian Film Series will be the award-winning Aattam, a Malayalam film by Anand Ekarshi. The screening, in partnership with the historic Michigan Theater, will be at 7:00 pm on Wednesday, January 17, 2024, and it is open and free to the public. 

Aattam was released on January 5, and the storyline and performances have already garnered much acclaim. When the sole actress in an all-male theater troupe claims she was molested at an afterparty, the other members convene to discuss whether to expel the accused. But what starts out as a straight-forward decision threatens to fracture the group as doubts, secrets and hidden agendas bubble to the surface.

First-time writer-director Anand Ekarshi developed this chamber drama with actors from his own theater group, constructing a narrative filled with surprising twists and building to a powerful climax.

“There's no simple way to describe Anand Ekarshi's Aattam. It is both a play and a movie. It is also a play within a play within a movie. It is also a courtroom drama, albeit sans a courtroom. However, above all, Aattam stands out as one of the most brilliant Malayalam movies in recent times,” says Anand Suresh in his review for Indian Express.

“I saw the film at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles, where it won the Grand Jury Prize,” says Veerendra Prasad, filmmaker, U-M professor, and curator for the CSAS film series. “I was initially not excited to see it because the premise sounded like the film would be well-meaning but not a particularly fresh take on harassment. But the story and the characters constantly surprised me by twisting and turning every time new information was brought to light.”

Though Bollywood, or Hindi movies, are more well-known, the four major film industries in South India, primarily engaged in making feature films in the major languages of the region, namely — Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, and Malayalam, have garnered a lot of international attention recently, with the Oscar nomination and mainstream success of Telugu film RRR

The Malayalam cinema industry has produced some of India’s most successful films. Started in the late 1920s, it is dedicated to creating movies in Malayalam, widely spoken in the state of Kerala in India. Malayalam has 34 million speakers throughout the world. 

“I'm excited to showcase a South Indian film,” added Prasad. “So much of what is known about South Asian cinema in the West has to do with Hindi films. But every year, some of the best films come from the Malayali film industry.”

Tickets for Aattam are available now on the Michigan Theater website, and the trailer can be found on YouTube.