An Unfairy Tale (Leena Manimekalai) India

An Unfairy Tale
Leena Manimekalai
India. 2019. 90 min

India is a land of Subaltern deities. Each deity has an unique legend and these legends are often interwoven with socio-historic tropes of India.

Puthirai Vannaar is an ‘unseeable’ Dalit caste group, in southern India. Their forced-occupation is to wash clothes of other Dalits, the dead and the menstruating women. This film is a tale about a young girl who grew up in Puthirai vannaar caste group and how she came to be immortalised as their local deity, Maadathy.


Leena Manimekalai is a poet and filmmaker committed to social justice. Her narrative documentaries on the dynamics of caste, gender, globalization, art therapy, student politics, eco-feminism, indigenous people’s rights and LGBTQ lives have been internationally acclaimed and have won several awards in prestigious international film festivals and civil rights circuits. Her docu fiction ‘Sengadal/the Deadsea’ won her NAWFF Award at Tokyo for the Best Asian Woman Cinema and also was recognized with prestigious Indian Panorama selections after the initial ban by CBFC that got cleared through several months of legal battle.

One of her documentary ‘Goddesses’ has won her Golden Conch at MIFF and Nominations for Horizon Award in Munich and Asia Pacific Screen Award in Melbourne. ‘White Van Stories’ an exclusive doc-feature on enforced disappearances on SriLanka was shot by her and won her accolades in platforms like Channel 4 and Aljazeera. Her recent documentary co-produced with NHK Japan is currently doing festival rounds and has already won Best Documentary Award at Singapore International Documentary Festival and Jury Mention at the prestigious Film South Asia, Nepal. Additionally, Leena has received the Charles Wallace Art Award, the EU Fellowship and the Commonwealth Fellowship for her work in Cinema and Gender. She has published five poetry collections and is currently editing her non-fiction feature ‘Rape Nation’ that traces the lives and struggles of rape survivors across the Indian Subcontinent. ‘Maadathy- an unfairy tale’ is her first pure fiction feature.


  • Is it too much to ask (Short Documentary) / 2017
  • White Van Stories (Long Documentary) /2015
  • My Mirror is the Door (Poem Film) / 2012
  • Sengadal the Deadsea (Docu Fiction) / 2011
  • Goddesses (Mid length Documentary) / 2009




I have grown up listening to stories of my village female deities who were once ordinary women but had extra ordinary lives. Most of these goddesses were killed by injustice and hence were worshipped in order to save the village from their wrath. These legends of social suppression are always a great learning material to understand my roots and evolution of the society I live in.

While it is not a norm to have someone from an oppressed caste as heroes even in our folktales, as a story teller, I started pondering on making a film of an unseeable woman, of an accursed, of a nobody who is not even a statistic in a society that is deeply divided by an unjust caste system. I started my research, traced down the community, read all the least material available, did hours and hours of interviews, stayed with them for months together in the remote villages of south Tamilnadu in India and realised the script with their active inputs and participation.

“Maadathy” is my attempt to introspect what is it being an unseeable slave woman, living the lowest among the lowest, as a victim to both patriarchy and caste system.