Thank God It Is Friday and the first weekend(oh well if you count a weekend from fridays) does bring with it a fresh set of releases. So lets get to them one by one. And there cannot be a friday without me reviewing a Malayalam film! With that I finished watching the new Malayalam film Saudi Vellakka which is streaming on SonyLiv. The film is directed by Tharun Moorthy who had earlier directed the spectacular Operation Java. And honestly this did pique my attention along with the fact that this is a Malayalam film. But a part of me was skeptical as well.
Usually, it is seen that the director isn’t able to relicate the success of his previous film, so much so that the film does end up being pretentious. It was recently seen in the Malayalam film Gold where Alphonso Puthren could not replicate the success of Premam. This might be a generic statement but a bit of skepticism isn’t entire unwarranted for! There have also been cases of directors thriving with totally different subjects from their previous works and that did give me hope! So then does Saudi Vellakka manage to impress, lets find out.
Story & Screenplay
Saudi Vellakka follows the story of a youth whose aspirations of going to the Gulf take a beating when he is summoned for an age old case featuring his neighbour. The story here is relevant and does provide a sarcastic gaze to the judicial system prevalent in our country, even with the pettiest of cases. It is the inflated ego of the individuals who wish to see each other in court for matters that can easily be resolved amicably. This despite there being 47 million pending cases(as shown in the film). As said by the judge in Jolly LLB 2, people often utter the words – ‘I will see you in court’, a case then that does go on for generations. And this is the issue that is tackled rather well here. The screenplay standing at about a 150 minutes, may seem long but make no mistake, this is vintage Malayalam cinema at play yet again, a reason why I personally love Malayalam films a lot.
The drama starts off with the camera following a police personnel amidst the chaos at the police station. This bit reminded me of Operation Java which was a hard hitting drama revolving around the temporary employees within the police department. But the film soon digresses from this setup and instead shifts focus to a court summons that threatens the arrest of the protagonist who has failed to appear previously during the court proceedings. A series of flashbacks does paint an entire picture here!
The thing that I really enjoyed about the drama was the seamless tonal shift from comedy to something relevant and serious. In a flashback that dated 10 odd years from the current timeline of the film, the conflict is introduced in a rather frivolous manner. It features an old lady who after being accidently hit by the kids goes about and slaps a boy, the young protagonist, thereby breaking his frontal teeth thus resulting in mayhem. Now why do I say this is a comedy is because in a prior scene, we are shown the young protagonist trying to pull off his already loose tooth but unsuccessfully only to be pulled out after the slap. The event here is trivial but slowly it snowballs into a legal tussle that would go on for generations.
The drama is engaging and engrossing right throughout. It also does shed light on the personal equations within the family after the FIR has been sanctioned. The atmosphere of the house isn’t the best and can be termed as toxic. In between a crucial scene involving a character having to go to lengths to just take a photocopy for bail in the middle of the night acts as a black comedy in itself. But the real punch does take place in the second half which is raw and real, needless to say relentless.
The second half does focus on the never-ending court case that keeps going on and on without showing any remorse to the aged accused. Legal battles are often never ending and we all are aware of it, primarily as the ratio of the number of cases to the judges is enormous. So I do understand the plight of the judiciary as well. However, the film offers a satire on a case which was so trivial in the first place itself. Something that could have been resolved years ago(and there was a failed attempt made too by the accused) but instead it did carry on for years. It in a way acts as a mirror for humanity until better sense does prevail.
The final act is one of the most heartfelt and partially heartbreaking parts of the drama. In a moving scene, once the protagonist offers to pay off the fine for the accused, the screen focuses on a tagline – ‘Humanity is like an ocean, a few dirty drops do not make the entire ocean dirty’. This single lines does leave you with hope until a minor tragedy does strike! Yet, in the hospital when we see the protagonist smiling for the first time in the film in front of the old woman only to later ponder while uttering ‘Humans are only this much’, I couldn’t hold back my tears while my heart was full with emotions. So overall, the screenplay is another case of brilliant writing once again from the Malayalam film industry.
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues range from being witty to philosophical in more ways than one, leading to a profound impact to the viewer. The music and BGM are good and they blend well with the drama. The cinematography and art design are top notch and they capture the vibe of the drama beautifully. Director Tharun Moorthy deserves distinction marks here for delivering an emotionally moving drama with shades of dark humour. This wasn’t easy given that the transition would have been difficult. But it ended up being so smooth that I can go as far as saying that this was one of the best pieces of execution that I have seen in terms of the tonal shift. Brilliant!
The performances by the ensemble cast is outstanding. Vincy Aloshious as Manju has her moments to shine. Srindaa, Remya Suresh and Nilja K Baby as Anumol are first rate. Dhanya Ananya as Naseema is simply effortless here and does a great job. Gokulan who does play the advocate Gokulan is terrific here with small bouts of comedy that slowly evaporate as the film progresses. Sujith Sankar as Sathar is at his vulnerable best and he displays that with a lot of affection. Binu Pappu as Britto is endearing and sincere. Devi Nethiyar is absolutely brilliant as the accused old lady and she showcases her pain beautifully through her eyes and expressions. Credit to the writers for making the audience perceive her as a unlikable figure only to have your sympathies for the character later on. Lukman Avaran as Abhilash is outstanding and really affable towards the end. He does deliver a heartfelt performance with that line at the end that does stay with you long after the film has ended.
Saudi Vellakka is an emotionally moving and brilliantly relevant drama that stays with you long after the film has ended. Available on SonyLiv and Highly Recommended!