Malayalam cinema, more often than not, is perceived as the land of moustache twirling men with abdominal abundance. From the same cinematic domain, comes the heart wrenching story of an old Muslim man who toils away his life for his dream of reaching hajj. Released in 2011, Adaminte Makan Abu (Adam’s Son, Abu) is India’s official entry in the Oscars.
The film, directed by debutante filmmaker Salim Ahamed, stars Salim Kumar as Abu and Zarina Wahab as his wife, Aishumma. Others in the cast include Nedumudi Venu, Kalabhavan Mani and Mukesh.
Set in a small village in the Malabar region of Kerala, the story shows the travails of Abu as he struggles to put together enough money to undertake the holy pilgrimage to hajj. Abu (portrayed by Salim Kumar), is seen as a small time medicine and attar seller; who, being a devout Muslim, wants to make the holy trip before dying. His wife also supports him as they manage to scrape through on his meager earnings.
Their son, on getting married to a wealthy girl, leaves them forever. The story unfolds as Abu’s attempts at collecting money through various sources. When the good-natured villagers try to help him financially, he refuses by saying that it was against his religious norms. Years pass by without any headway. People don’t seem keen on buying his goods. Frustrated, he gives up his beloved cow and the lonesome jackfruit tree in his front yard. After gathering enough money for the pilgrimage, he opts out of the trip as he finds out that the money he procured was not legit.
Director Salim Ahamed claims that the story has been based on a client whom he handled during his days as a travel consultant. The movie won four national awards and four state awards. These included awards for cinematography, music, best film, and best actor. The film has been widely praised by critics as well as audiences.
Salim Kumar, basically a comedian, showcases his talent by delivering a stellar performance. His portrayal of the God-fearing septuagenarian was praised by many members of the jury (National awards). Zarina Wahab also lends her acting experience to the film and handles her role competently. All the other actors do justice to their respective roles.
The music and the background score (Issak Thomas Kottakapally) infuse life into the story. The cinematography (Madhu Ambat) is excellent and conveys the general gloominess of the tale. The characters of Hyder and Ustad provide a surreal aura to the proceedings. The director (Salim Ahamed) tries to paint a realistic picture having no scope for over indulgent action sequences or tree hugging dances.
Being an art film, it may not appeal to the masses. One thing that seems to nag me is the forced communal harmony and the lack of negativity in characters. The people who offer to help Abu are the Hindu teacher and the Christian saw mill owner. No character in the film has any negative traits. All the characters, although not overtly cheerful, do carry a sense of moral purity. This may seem too idealistic and hard to believe.
Why Watch It??
Watch it for the brilliant acting of the lead pair. Watch it for the awesome cinematography and the divine musical score. Although lacking the glamour of commercial cinema, it succeeds in leaving an indelible mark in your heart. Watch it because good cinema is becoming a rarity. Watch it; if you love cinema with a soul.