The Goat life (review by Juny Kallukalam)

Published on 03 April, 2024
The Goat life (review by Juny Kallukalam)

Based on Benyamin's searing novel, "Aadujeevitham" chronicles the true story of Najeeb, a Keralite migrant worker lured to an Arabic country with dreams of a better life, only to find himself trapped in a Kafkaesque nightmare of modern slavery. Stripped of his passport, his dignity, his very humanity, Najeeb is forced to tend goats in the scorching desert, enduring backbreaking labor, starvation, and brutal abuse at the hands of his sadistic captor.

It's a role that demands nothing less than complete physical and emotional transformation, and Prithviraj delivers a tour-de-force performance. With haunting intensity, he charts Najeeb's descent from hopeful innocence to broken despair, his once-bright eyes dimming with each fresh horror. The anger, fear, and sheer helplessness that Najeeb feels is etched into every line of Prithviraj's increasingly gaunt face, every tremor of his emaciated frame. If there's any justice, he should be a frontrunner come Oscar season, the slight inconsistency in his weight loss throughout the film notwithstanding.

Equally revelatory is newcomer Gokul as Hakkin, a fellow enslaved worker whose fleeting friendship with Najeeb becomes a lifeline in a world of unrelenting cruelty. That Gokul's performance stands tall alongside a veteran like Prithviraj is a testament to both his raw talent and Blessy's sure-handed direction.

Blessy, known for his unflinching portrayals of social issues, brings a documentarian's eye to the film, immersing us in the stark, unforgiving beauty of the desert. While the cinematography at times relies heavily on the inherent majesty of the golden-hued dunes, it's in the film's more intimate moments that it truly shines. When Najeeb is banished from his ramshackle tent and finds solace in a rare desert thunderstorm, the camera captures each precious drop of water on his upturned face with almost religious reverence.

But it's in the film's quieter moments that "Aadujeevitham" finds its most shattering power. A simple scene of Najeeb savoring a precious pickle from home becomes a testament to the sustaining power of memory, of the human spirit's ability to find solace in the smallest of comforts. When he shares his meager scraps with the goats he has come to view as his only companions, it's a moment of pure, wordless empathy that sears itself into the viewer's heart.

For all its visual poetry, "Aadujeevitham" never shies away from the ugly reality of Najeeb's situation. The film is unflinching in its depiction of the physical and psychological toll of his captivity, from the grueling labor that leaves his body bruised and broken, to the gnawing hunger. In one of the film's most viscerally powerful scenes, a delirious Najeeb must battle a vulture, a primal struggle that underscores just how completely the kafala system strips migrants of their basic humanity.

Yet even in its darkest moments, "Aadujeevitham" never loses sight of the resilience of the human spirit. When Hakkin appears like a mirage in the desert heat, his easy camaraderie with Najeeb becomes a balm for the soul, a reminder that even in the direst of circumstances, connection and friendship can flower. A secret missive from Hakkin, promising escape, becomes a talisman of hope, a flicker of light in the all-consuming darkness.

But it's in the film's final act, as Najeeb and Hakkin make their desperate bid for freedom, that "Aadujeevitham" ascends to the realm of myth. Against an unforgiving landscape that seems to shift and shimmer with each step, the two men stagger onward, driven by sheer force of will. When Hakkin succumbs to the ravages of heat and thirst, it's a moment of such stark tragedy that it steals the breath. And when Najeeb, pushed to the brink of madness, he still walks, it's a testament to the power of faith to sustain us when all else fails.

In the hands of a lesser filmmaker, such a moment might tip into mawkishness. But Blessy, with his keen eye for human truth, imbues the scene with a sense of spiritual transcendence, a recognition of the divine in the most degraded of circumstances.

It's this ability to find glimmers of grace in the darkest of places that makes "Aadujeevitham" such a profound and necessary film. At a time when the plight of migrant workers is all too often relegated to the footnotes of history, Blessy's film is a clarion call for empathy and action, a reminder of the human lives behind the headlines.

That the film has faced censorship and bans in the very region it depicts only underscores the urgency of its message. In shining an unflinching light on the brutal realities of the kafala system, "Aadujeevitham" challenges us to confront the uncomfortable truths of our globalized world, to recognize the complicity of nations and corporations in perpetuating modern-day slavery.

But more than that, it's a testament to the enduring power of storytelling to illuminate the darkest corners of the human experience, to find hope and beauty in the most unexpected of places. With "Aadujeevitham", Blessy has crafted a work of searing honesty and profound compassion, a film that doesn't just demand to be seen, but to be felt in the marrow of one's bones.

Long after the final frame fades to black, the image of Najeeb, stumbling toward an uncertain future, will linger in the mind's eye. His is a story of unimaginable hardship and unbreakable spirit, a reminder that even in the face of the most dehumanizing circumstances, the flame of hope can never be fully extinguished. It's a message that feels more urgent now than ever, a clarion call to arms for anyone who believes in the fundamental dignity of all people.

In the end, "Aadujeevitham" is more than just a film. It's a prayer for the forgotten and the voiceless, a hymn to the resilience of the human spirit. It's a work of art that sears itself into the very soul, a testament to the transformative power of empathy and compassion. In a world too often divided by fear and hatred, it's a reminder of our shared humanity, of the ties that bind us all.

Aadujeevitham" is a cinematic triumph, with Prithviraj Sukumaran's breathtaking performance as Najeeb at its core. His portrayal transcends language and culture, capturing the universal human experiences of suffering, resilience, and hope. 

Prithviraj's Najeeb is a crowning achievement in acting, resonating on a global scale and affirming his mastery of the craft.  This performance deserves worldwide celebration as a testament to the universal language of great acting. Prithviraj's portrayal of Najeeb will be celebrated for generations as a shining example of the best in cinema.


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Mary mathew 2024-04-03 20:13:10
Great observation with the eye of camera and the creativity .Anyway it is a great movie with Blessys keen direction and Prithvirajs hardworking .Gods blessings always with Godfearing people.
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