Sakhavu- A well intentioned ode to communism

Even before the word go, the movie takes off as the opening credits roll as dilapidated strips of footage and newspaper cuttings on communism- international and local – to the loud cries of war bugles and rusty voices intended at summoning the very spirit of communism from every soul in the theatre, notwithstanding the butter popcorns and coke by them. So even before the screen begins to come alive- before the red on the screen can dry up – we exactly know the side between left and right, the movie’s headed. No surprises there. In these kind of doff-of-the-hat vehicles, all we expect is a compelling tale to chronicle the journey of a man towards his idealistic culmination; without being alienated. The moment Nivin Pauly appears on screen as this man, we’re rest assured about not being alienated.

He’s storming out of the house, late in the night over a fight with his mother. Fight over a strand of hair in his food. Extracting the funny side from domestic duress has been Nivin’s chief constituency and he does it here as well. He plays Krishnakumar a.k.a Kichu, a wayward loser with no aim in life. In short, his favorite alter ego that he’s endearingly played to great effect many times, without a change of wink.(Oru Vadakkan Selfie, Thatathin Marayathu and Premam from the top of the head)  The usual gullible friend/ accomplice in crime, Nivin’s exploitation of him, their combined idiosyncrasies in public places and Nivin being the sporting ass of jokes; all of the accouterments find a place here as well. What’s different about Sakhavu is the scaffolding that he holds on to, doesn’t come in the form of love, like it usually does. Unlike his previous outings, the happy-go-lucky portions are subplots to warm up to another story. A lofty, grimmer one about Sakhavu Krishnan(Nivin again with  a Gemini Ganesansque persona).

Sakhavu is in the ICU in the same hospital, Krishnakumar has come to give blood…rather pull another stunt towards becoming district secretary of SFK, a communist party. In the process gets acquainted with a friend of his, stationed outside. It is through this man that we get to know about the person lying inside and crowd praying outside.

A person who dedicated his whole life to give a theory, the sanctity of practice. To turn it into an uplifting tool from being a fiction of utopia. Sakhavu Krishnan used communism as a powerful instrument to create conversations between exploited and exploiters. This stretch of the movie uses the usual tropes: establishment versus poor scenarios, strikes outside the factory gate,galvanizing monologues to large gatherings, the police nepotism to affluent and even the lock up torture sequences. But what fleshes these sequences are the finesse with which they’re handled. The old wine is not only served in a new bottle, but served tastefully. We get this wonderfully staged fight in the night, where light and sound are put to good effect to create the necessary intrigue. Not to mention well written lines like the one he claims Sakhavu(Comrade) before his name to be the surname that depicts his caste and creed.
Through these portions we come to know of this individual, who is looked upon as a saint by a legion of well wishers, as he lies unconscious in the ICU of an obscure government hospital. We just don’t know him by his teachings or the anecdotes alone anymore, we know him by his instincts and intentions as someone to root for.

There’s a beautiful narrative device at play as Krishnakumar gets to know about the story of Sakhavu Krishnan. His friend prologues with a precursory that they spoke and looked the same, sometimes. Moments later Krishnakumar proudly glances at himself in the mirror, as we move back in time to see Sakhavu, as him. Just as he so narcissistically would visualize , while listening to one anecdote after another. Even towards the movie’s end, when both men are in the same room, we’re not shown Sakhavu. Probably he looks different. Probably they both are doppelgangers. Probably not. It’s not that important after all.The movie leaves this ambiguity to brew in us, as Krishnakumar walks out with Sakhavu in him. Their resemblance has transcended beyond superficial.

This line from Kaththi comes to mind, that explains communism as one’s awareness of next idli after his hunger being another man’s. Sakhavu takes this culinary metaphor to indicate communism as well. After the point of realisation, Krishnan tells his mom that he’s coming home for dinner. She says there’s only morning’s food left. And he is okay. From staging a walk out over a strand of hair on his food, to going back to eat whatever is left without; we see the entire of his transformation, as his priorities change with him.

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Jacobinte Swargarajyam-Chicken soup for the Soul

Earlier on the movie we are shown an affable looking old man pulling the leg of Jacob’s youngest son, who blushes in response like a pug tickled on its sensitive belly. He then goes on to ensconce on the plush sofa laid out in the hall, browsing a daily. We think of him to be family. Probably a family friend. As it turns out, he’s their driver. Jacob is that kind of a man. His family, that kind of a warm place.

Before a family outing he wants Jerry, his eldest son to click a few moments with a vintage camera bought out of his first earnings. He wants pictures taken with this archaic device over its slicker digital counterparts. He believes it watermarks memories, distinct and exclusive from digital photos taken by the dozen these days.

Jacob is a very emotional man, who’s his family’s fulcrum and his family, his.

While on a drive, Jacob proclaims himself to be the richest man in the world denominating his wealth in the terms of his children’s value to him.A loving husband.A doting dad, he waxes eloquently about perspectives, epiphanies, anecdotes to Jerry like a cult founder to his follower.
Altitude is a motif in the movie used as a metaphorical device.
All the life lessons imparted to Jerry happen from a vantage point overlooking a landscape beneath. From over a sand dune once. From the ridge of the terrace, where Jacob tells his son that the best place to look at a city to appreciate its opulence is, from its top.

But Jerry is a naive person who’s leading a life too gifted to appreciate these words. It takes a crisis,the size of the one that hits him, for him to appreciate the fruit held in the flowery discourse of his father.

All of a sudden his cup that seemed full is turned upside down. His father is forced to move to another country on the lookout for newer vistas. His prosperity gets disarranged like a pack of cards. All that he is left with is his Family and a dark corner, life’s pushed him to.

Distraught and devoid of hope it’s at this point- eyes closed, he sticks his head out of the roof of a wedding party’s limousine that he’s unwillingly become a part of-courtesy an acquaintance. This results in one of the most poignant moments in the film.
The car gets into a dark alley as epiphanies start brewing from within. With the strong wind combing against his face, he starts reminiscing his dad’s words about Dubai being a land of opportunity which he would realize when the time was right. And when he opens his eye as the car moves out of the dark tunnel, he sees the city standing before him like a benevolent deity.

If till this point it was about the king and his kingdom. From here on it is about the prince shepherding his family  out of oblivion and bringing back his father from exile; while discovering his own self.

The crisis takes away every bit of opulence from them, barring themselves. If anything it brings them closer than before. It brings out hitherto dormant dimensions in each one. Their mother rises above the confines of her chores, guiding Jerry from the place of their father. She pushes him to his limits. Empathizes when he stretches beyond. Jerry manages to fill his father’s huge shoes, buoyed by his mother’s unrelenting support.

What doesn’t break something, makes it stronger by its strength.

The Jacobs in this period are kept on their toes. They learn to be desperate. To sacrifice.To cut slack. They know the real friends that they’d made, who weather the storm along with them. They collectively function with an objective to instill back the faith that left them along with Jacob. Resiliently they see  through the crisis and unite with him in due course.

We get to know in the end that this is a true story. An extremely motivating one at that. But, to weave an endearing celluloid fable out of it, it needed an auteur with a vision beyond just retelling anecdotes prosaically. What we get are well fleshed characters. Scintillating performances that dissolve in the cause of the movie. Sequences staged so well to empathize and root for. Like the one in the end, where Jerry’s mother manufactures an embrace to break the ice between him and her husband that results in a Kodak moment before Jacob’s vintage camera.

The last time this happened, the camera captured a merry moment. But this click is different from that by the underlying gravitas. It is the visual equivalent of a victory bugle at the end of a battle. It captures a proud father, his relieved son and a thankful family that’s wrapped themselves around in a warm embrace.

The king returns to his kingdom, to a place that now feels like his heaven.