‘Aadujeevitham – The Goat Life’ movie review: Prithviraj’s performance drives a survival drama that borders on monotony

If hard work were the sole benchmark for a film, ‘Aadujeevitham’ would rank right up there among the best

March 28, 2024 05:57 pm | Updated 06:15 pm IST

Prithviraj in ‘Aadujeevitham: The Goat Life’

Prithviraj in ‘Aadujeevitham: The Goat Life’ | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Unimaginable are the ways in which adversities can reshape a human being. The physical transformation is the most obvious of these. But, Blessy’s Aadujeevitham — based on the real-life story of a man who ends up living in slave-like conditions in a goat farm in the middle of a desert — deals with much more than this.

For instance, it is interesting how the film treats the ill-fated man’s struggles with language. Initially, when Najeeb (Prithviraj Sukumaran) lands up with a younger compatriot at a Saudi airport, one sees him struggling to communicate in any language other than Malayalam. This also has a huge role to play in the unfortunate turn their life takes afterwards.

Later, after years of herding goats and camels in the farm, and with no human interaction (other than the abusive words from his ‘owner’), he loses the only language he knew, almost bleating like a goat when he sees his long-lost friend. Aadujeevitham, which otherwise is mostly filled with extreme suffering and heightened emotions, has a few such delicate touches. One of the others being an emaciated Najeeb finding enough time to savour a bath after long years, in the small window of time that he got to escape from the farm.

Benyamin’s book, one of the most read books in Malayalam, on which the film is based, drowns itself in suffering almost to the level of monotony. The film sticks to the basic text, except for a few changes, especially in how it stays clear of the way Najeeb deals with his sexual urges.

Aadujeevitham: The Goat Life (Malayalam)
Director: Blessy
Cast: Prithviraj, Amala Paul, Jimmy Jean-Louis, K.R.Gokul
Run-time: 173 minutes
Storyline: Najeeb Muhammed heads to Saudi Arabia with the dream of a better life, but ends up in slave-like conditions in a goat farm in the middle of a desert

Blessy, a filmmaker who has a knack for pushing the emotional levers over the maximum limit, attempts the same here. Indeed, there are some genuinely moving sequences, but at the same time, there are quite a lot that leave one untouched, despite all the obvious hardships in depicting them on screen. Some of these repetitive sequences leave one with a sense of emptiness that a person who trudges up a sand dune feels as he sees yet another expanse of sand extending till the horizon, instead of that expected sign of life.

Amid all the expansive shots of the blazing hot desert, massive sandstorms and the rather inconsequential humans who are reduced to a mere dot, Prithviraj holds his own with some remarkable physical and emotional transformation to become a character who went through unbelievable suffering. He does things that can only be done by internalising the character — something he is often accused of not doing — and pulls off perhaps the best performance of his career.

AR Rahman, in his rare work for a Malayalam movie, comes up with a soundtrack that suits the theme and setting, with ‘Periyone’ and its various iterations being the high points. The few sequences of Najeeb’s life back home are strictly functional, except for that breathtaking shift from the river to the desert at the end of a song. Amala Paul gets a role so short that leaves no scope for performance.

If hard work were the sole benchmark for a film, Aadujeevitham would rank right up there among the best. And, quite a lot of the hard work does pay off too. Yet, it leaves one with the wish that the script had enough to break the monotony that sets in at some points.

Aadujeevitham: The Goat Life is currently running in theatres

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