Friday, October 7

Adaminte Makan Abu is poignant.

Movie - Adaminte Makan Abu (Malayalam)
Director - Salim Ahamed
Producers - Salim Ahamed, Ashraf Bedi
Story, Screenplay, Dialogues - Salim Ahamed
Cast - Salimkumar, Zarina Wahab, Mukesh, Nedumudi Venu, Suraaj Venjarammoodu, Kalabhavan Mani, Thambi Antony, Gopakumar
Music - Ramesh Narayanan
Cinematography - Madhu Ambat ISC
Background Score - Issac Thomas Kottukappally
Editor - Vijai Shankar
Release Date - 24th June 2011

A movie which came from nowhere and swept National and State awards this year and now, it is the country's official entry for the Academy Awards of 2012. Naturally the curiosity about this small film all over the country became quite high. And for Malayalis, it was even more shocking when Salimkumar, an actor underestimated as just a slapstick comedian suddenly won a National Award for Best Actor, something which we expect Mohanlal or Mammootty to win every year, for this film nobody had ever heard of, before the National Awards. I missed watching this wonderful movie during its very short theatrical run in Kerala and was finally able to catch it on DVD after the DVD released last week. As I watched it, all my speculations about it being just another pseudo-art movie or as many critics would call it, poverty porn were proven wrong by the simple and beautiful film Salim Ahamed has made as his first movie. 

The premise of the movie is extremely simple - Abu (Salimkumar), an Atthar merchant wishes to achieve his lifetime dream of going on the Hajj pilgrimage along with his dear wife Isu (Zarina Wahab) suffering extreme financial difficulties and health issues believing in his faith and principles till the very end. Now, turning this simple story which could have easily made for a 20 minute short film into a 100 minute feature film, which is extremely engaging is not an easy task. Salim Ahamed, with no background in filmmaking achieves what many filmmakers in our industry have been failing to do. Telling an original story in its most deserving fashion through an organic and engaging narrative without falling into the traps of commercialization, cliches or melodrama. 

Salim captures the goodness, hope, faith and devotion of his protagonist Abu beautifully through his film. The character of Abu is one of the strongest we have come across in Malayalam Cinema recently. Never does he back out from his single, most important goal in life and consistently struggles to reach there, with his faith and ideals intact. The other characters in the village may come out as too idealistic as all of them are goody-goody and well-wishers of Abu, with not a tinge of negativity in them, but given the milieu and the tone of the story, they turn out to be believable as the narrative progresses. And Abu's journey was never against any external antagonist. He had to complete his journey himself, on his own grounds, with just his wife along with him. This, according to me was the unique aspect in this film. The estranged relationship of the couple with their son, whom we never see on screen has also been brought out effectively. We, the audience, smartly predict what all troubles Abu would be facing right from the point the plot is established, but Salim Ahamed cleverly avoids all those cliches and gives us a different experience through the wonderful character called Abu. Having worked in the Akbar Travels firm, he uses the institution very well in his narrative, giving it ample promotion as well as taking the story forward with its help - a perfect example of product placement done well. The film progresses in a slow and steady pace, but neither does it bore you at any point, nor does it turn into one of those slow and boring arthouse films, and really comes into its own towards the climax and proceeds to a poetic and poignant end, leaving a smile on our faces. 

Coming to the performances, Salimkumar has nailed it as the frail and old Abu. It is hard to believe that it is the same man who has been doing to anything to make his audience laugh over the years, from delivering classic one-liners to jumping into cow dung pits; coming up with such a glorious performance. Never do we see the Salimkumar whom we are all used to seeing, in this film. He has transformed into Abu completely, so much so that, the North Indian friends who watched the movie along with me believed that he was actually an old man in his 70s. (Credit to Pattanam Rasheed for his make up as well). [I had to show them a clip of his hilarious Michael Jackson act from Chathikkaatha Chanthu to make them believe that Salimkumar was a much younger comedian]. The actor had proved his mettle some years back in Lal Jose's Achanurangaatha Veedu, but his performance in Adaminte Makan Abu is leagues ahead of his first foray into serious cinema. The scenes with Kalabhavan Mani and Mukesh towards the climax and the scene where he faints in the bus are all beautifully performed by our beloved Salimettan. Also it would be unfair if I do not mention the subtle touches he gives every now and then, like the slight bewilderment when he gets clicked for a passport photo. 

Zarina Wahab as the ever-smiling pillar of support for Abu, is wonderful. The positive energy of her character wonderfully comes out through her performance. There is some wonderful chemistry between the actress and her screen husband Salimkumar which gives rise to lovely moments like the one where they're admiring each other's photos in their newly received passports. Mukesh as Ashraf, the travel agent who goes out of his way to help out the couple is believable and genuine. Kalabhavan Mani in a short cameo is effective. Nedumudi Venu is as usual, brilliant even though he is cast in a miniscule role. The only thing which sticks out as a sore thumb among the performances is that of Suraaj Venjarammoodu. His attempt to do something serious, especially in the scenes after the death of the 'Ustad' character, looked very caricaturish, and spoilt the mood of the film whenever he appeared. Thambi Antony appears in silhouette shots as the mystic character Ustad. Except for Suraaj, Salim Ahamed's casting desicions are bang on and could not have been better. 

Salim Ahamed shows the traits of a seasoned storyteller in his very first movie itself. The metaphor of the jackfruit tree as their son comes out beautifully. The only part where he falters a bit is the portion revolving around the mystic character called Ustad. That bit wasnt actually necessary to the movie and does not add anything further other than an element of mysticism. 

Madhu Ambat, one of the country's finest cinematographers lending support to such a small film is indeed a reassurance for good, indpendent cinema. He has shot the film digitally and the results are extremely good, except for some rare occasions where you feel it would've been better had it been shot on film. His work in the film won the Best Cinematography National Award, a first for any feature film to be shot in the digital format in the country. Ramesh Narayanan's songs are good, except for one song 'Mutholakkunnathe' which is placed a little oddly in the film. The song by Hariharan, 'Kinavinte Minarathil' is beautiful. Issac Thomas Kottukappally plays with subtle music and silence in his background score for the movie, which won him a National Award. Vijai Shankar makes sure that the film flows seamlessly through his editing. 

We do not know if the film will make it to the final nominations list at the Academy Awards, but that does not take away anything from the film. Like its protagonist Abu, the film is sincere, genuine and heartwarming. There is this strong positive energy and feeling of hope which is extremely difficult to ignore while you watch the film. Salim Ahamed shows great promise as a sensitive storyteller and filmmaker and it will be interesting what he has to offer us next. Salimkumar is back to doing his regular comedy roles, after being declared the best actor in this country, which shows his simplicity. But one really hopes that the actor in him gets challenged in more such roles rather than being wasted in terrible roles in films like Tejabhai & Family, etc. Adaminte Makan Abu leaves you with hope, positive energy and a feeling to revisit our goals and deeds to see if they were right, after all. Lets hope this small, genuine, heartwarming and poignant film goes on to receive much more awards and accolades and do Malayalam Cinema proud. 

Bottomline - Poignancy through simplicity. Must watch!!

1 comment:

  1. dude watch renjith ettan's new movie,Indian rupee..ts a gud one and thilakan,praj ,jagathy did a gud job in it