The film Mamangam, for all its purported adherence to historical veracity, contains problematic bits related to the depiction of extreme torture/violence perpetrated on a female protagonist. The above mentioned sequence seldom features in any reviews or critiques. This is perhaps owing to the non-sexual, non-gendered nature of its violence. While the scale of the film is epic, the content it depicts is avowedly historical. It narrates a tale of valorous Kamikazes in medieval Kerala out to ritually annihilate the king, the Zamorin of Calicut.
For all its swords and sandals pretensions, the movie revolves around a medieval house of pleasure and the murder of a royalist foreigner there. (The landscape is familiar to anyone who follows medieval history). The ensuing shenanigans comprise the rest of the story. Unnimaya (played by Prachi Tehlan), one of the main female protagonists in the movie, who, is a danseuse, is interrogated regarding the murder of the royalist alien by a female torturer during the investigation. Her plucked out fingernails are shown in a sequence.
As the torturer also happens to be a woman, there is no conspicuously gendered violence per se being depicted on screen. The nature of the exploitation is also not sexual in nature. Audiences are familiar with the medieval ecosystem of the bizarre and the macabre, owing to movies like Padmavat and TV-series’ like Game of Thrones. But is there a vicarious, sadistic pleasure to be taken in the torture of a woman?