Film: Adaminte Makan Abu (Malayalam)

Director: Salim Ahmed

Cast: Salim Kumar, Zarina Wahab, Nedumudi Venu

In a life spent flitting between hope, despair and contentment, an individual's fundamental struggle is always with oneself no matter the societal status. However, for someone with conviction and a will to sacrifice, getting on top of the inner conflict seems effortless. Bliss, it is averred, lies in coming to terms with oneself.

‘Adaminte Makan Abu’, with its honest portrayal of a devout old man's pursuit of spiritual bliss, offers a glimmer of hope for Malayalam cinema, currently at its nadir.

Forsaken by their only son who is said to be making a fortune in the Gulf, Abu and Ayesha, a decrepit couple managing to make ends meet, live their lives in Malabar with the sole purpose of going on Hajj.

Unmindful of ill-health, Abu wanders the streets late into the night selling athar (perfume) and unani medicine, while his doting companion tends to the cow and its calf in the household.

They save up modest returns from street vending and milk sale in the neighbourhood in a watchfully-kept box to fund the pilgrimage.

The village, not far from the bustling town of Kozhikode, is idyllic and the life of the people there, harmonious. The story unfolds in 2010, as evident from a flex board in front of the travel company that helps the protagonist couple get their travel documents. But the societal life in the village, reminiscent of rural Kerala in the 1980s with its crop of do-gooders and mystics, is too ideal to be true in current times.

But then, Salim Ahmed is out to picture life in a Basheerian habitat, where inter-religious individuals gleefully share the earth with pagan living organisms.

Despite everything falling in place, Abu is forced to call off the journey at the eleventh hour as he doesn't want to borrow money for the trip — though everyone around is eager to help him out — against the will of the God. Always a giver — and a generous one at that — the fatigued, doddering man with unflinching faith turns out to be the sole stumbling block to realising his own dream.

Human dilemmas

But even the upright Abu is human, as shown in an earlier scene in which he has no qualms in greasing the palm of a slimy cop to get his passport.

Just as the lanky old man goes about reconciling with everyone associated with him, asking forgiveness for even unintentional acts that might have hurt them (a practice laid down for Hajjis), he seems to be in no mood to forgive their estranged son.

Finally, it dawns on Abu that he has to do some course correction, but he refuses to forgo hope.

The image of the felling of the grand-old jackfruit tree in the courtyard of his house after it was sold to a benevolent sawmill owner returns to haunt Abu, who now resents causing the termination of ‘a life' to attain his goal. The fruit-bearing tree — which was found hollow on felling — resembles the protagonist who longs to make the Hajj to make his life worthwhile.

‘Adaminte…’ is a simple tale of faith and hope well-told. In setting and characterisation, it reminds one of M. T. Vasudevan Nair's ‘Oru Cheru Punchiri’. The movie may be a tad utopian, but Ahmed demonstrates commendable mastery in relating an individual's undying spirit and a happy death he so much yearns for.

Stellar performances and a candid camera make it a soothing viewing experience.