Starring Sreenivasan, Indrajeeth, Zhang Chu Min, Samvrutha, Jayasuria, Guruvayoor Sivaji and Nedumudi Venu
Directed by Lal Jose
Music by Bijibal
So therefore it is no surprise that Lal Jose chose to take on the subject of communism ideals and workers welfare with his latest offering Arabikatha.
But what makes the movie so important is not its take on communism, but its take on the Gulf lifestyle which is undoubtedly the most realistic portrayal of what the Malayalees of the Gulf go through in their daily lives. Surely for the rest, the Gulf and Persia are like words synonym of 'fantasy'. And with this Arabian Tale, the director shows us that life is not a bed of roses across the seas, as many would still like to believe. Thankfully this one goes behind all that glossy look, buildings, posh cars that Dubai life is known for.
The script from Dr Iqbal Kuttippuram needs to be applauded. For when comparing to the other movies he has written like Swapnakoodu and 4 the People, this one is miles ahead in quality. However it must be added that the director and the writer could not come up a more substantial way of closing down the tale. As a result we end up with a hurried up, cliche ending. Something that even most of Lal Jose' earlier works possess.
Sreenivasan is ever so dependable with these kind of roles and 'Cuba' Mukundan is yet another feather in his cap. When you talk of Sreeni and communism in the same line, you easily remember the wonderful portrayal of a communist leader he played in Sandhesham. He manages to stay away from that character and breathe out a fresh lfe into Mukundan. He carries the movie on his shoulders and you know that noone else can do the role with the simplicity that he brought out.
Though the characters are not exactly deep rooted, Nedumudi Venu, Indrajith, Salim Kumar, Jayasurya, Jagathi, Samrutha all put in decent performances. Even Guruvayoor Sivaji has put in a noteworthy performance as the cunning Karunan.
The plot is about a hardcore communist activist in a remote village called Chemmannur in Kerala. So much is his dedication and belief in his ideology that he is nicknamed 'Cuba' Mukundan. Though things around him have moved from social welfare into more of mere political power, Mukundan is content being ignorant to changing times. When his co-worker in the party, Karunan realises that Mukundan is more of a threat to his growing political ambitions, he decides to do the needful.
Thus cunningly he manages to get Mukundan's father trapped in a case of misappropriate funding, which pushes Mukundan to not only ban his own father from the party but also takes on the responsibility of repaying the amount. With his father passing away, Mukundan decides to pay up his dues and the only 'practical' solution laid out in front of him was by working in the 'Gulf'.
Thinking that it is going to be the quickest way to earn the bucks, he flies into Dubai. However once he reaches the city of dreams, he begins to find the true conditions of a expatriate worker. But thankfully, he meets people with a heart of gold, that helps him on his venture. To add to it, he also meets a Chinese girl who he starts to fall for, for the mere fact that she is from the great Communist nation China. This admiration leads him to fall for the Chinese girl, though they cannot communicate anything between each other.
However things take an ugly turn, when Mukundan loses all ray of hope in Dubai whereas back at home, his rival Karunan has managed to rise to political heights. It takes three years before Mukundan's acquaintances decides to set things right once and for all.
With Arabikatha, what Lal Jose has provided is indeed a tale for the modern Kerala. The Kerala that needs to learn the roots of its success and in whose hands the path of the success lies. The movie does not try to preach or put any teachings down the throat, it simply acts as a keen observer of the social and political situation of the state.
The movie also scores for the mere fact that it takes no sides. Though the communism spills throughout the movie, it does not glorify nor ridicule an ideology that might not be finding much favoritism around the modern world.
Some scenes are definitely memorable and gives scope for further discussion. Like the dialogues exchanged between the father and the son early on about the relevance of everything Communist in today's times. And also we find a brilliant scene where Sreenivasan comes to Jagathiis office in Dubai. (Though the editing right after that diluted the impact a bit!)
The signature touch of Lal Jose is pulled out right from the title screen as the comrade hoists up the blood soaked 'flag' amidst blaring gunshots. Even in the climax scene when the 4-wheeler pulls up as the villains stand exposed, we find Sreenivasan coming onto screen as the face of a common man. Had it been the superstars, one must be prepared for the blaring soundtracks and zooming camera edits. Jose knows his 'hero' and does not do anything extra-ordinary to bring out the tale of an ordinary man.
However like mentioned earlier, there are drawbacks. As we progress into the second half, and the third act, things get stereotype. And definitely there was no need for so much of the 'chinese' element with people in Dubai mouthing Chinese dialogues when the truth is most of them haven't even got their Arabic right yet.
Also standing strong is the musical element. It can proudly boast of a wonderful song in the form of 'Thirike', the nostalgic feel of which cannot be denied. And then also welcome back good poetry back into mainstream commercial cinema with 'Chora Veena Mannil'. The lyrics from Anil Panachooran does deserve a mention.
Bottomline, despite all the short comings in trying to get this film as commercially viable as possible for the producers, the movie still remains one of the most important films of our times even if not one among the 'best'!
The movie remains a true and touching tribute to the thousands of 'workers' with whose hard work, the state of Kerala has reached this far. Be it at home or abroad.
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