Smooth sail on a sea of emotions

Updated - October 11, 2015 05:49 am IST

Published - October 11, 2015 12:00 am IST

Film: Pathemari

Director: Salim Ahamed

Cast: Mammootty, Sreenivasan, Jewel Mary

A familiar story, a familiar setting and even actors in predictable roles – on paper, there is nothing really going for Pathemari . But still much can be achieved with a script that shines light on previously unseen details. Salim Ahamed, after the critically acclaimed Adaminte Makan Abu and a partly disappointing Kunjanandante Kada, takes it upon himself to tell the story of the past half century of struggle of the Malayali in the Gulf.

It is the 1960s. Forced by poverty and filled with dreams of a better tomorrow, Pallickal Narayanan (Mammootty) sets off to Dubai in a Pathemari (a large sailboat). With him are many others like from his village. The illegal journey itself is a struggle, battling waves, hunger, and even death. In Dubai, they take up menial jobs and live frugally, saving everything for the trip home, once in several years. We follow Narayanan’s life across a few of those trips, spanning fifty years.

We see the expatriates struggling to keep up the impression of them living a good life abroad in their native village.

As Narayanan says, “When we send them Rs.10,000, they think that we have Rs.20,000. But the reality is that we get Rs.7,000 and we borrow Rs.3,000 to make them happy.” There have been several films which tackled similar story lines, most recently Arabikkadha . But, it is rare that a film has remained fully focused on their struggles, and not straying to tell other crowd-pleasing stories too. It manages to capture the pain and convey it effectively to the audience.

In one of those scenes, Narayanan is shown making a call to his home on the day of his niece’s wedding. As his sister keeps the receiver aside, waiting for his wife, he listens eagerly to the sounds inside the house, smiling a bit sadly as he recognises each by their voices. Mammootty just aces those scenes and makes you wonder why he does not take up more of these roles which challenge the long-forgotten actor in him.

Pathemari is a tribute to the thousands of unknown faces who toiled hard in the Gulf, without ever becoming millionaires or ‘success stories’. It tells us that success has more meanings than what we use that term for. 

S.R. Praveen

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