2011 has started with a decent note with 'Traffic' in Mollywood. Now for the month of February, it's 'Gaddama'. Senior director Kamal's latest offering is a sensitive saga about the suffering inflicted on Indian women who are working in the Middle East as domestic servants. A disturbing premise, which makes you remove those blinkers and experience the truth, 'Ghaddama' remains as a purposeful and powerful take on the lives of expatriates in the Arabian Gulf. Kamal has utilised all his experience to tell a real story of suffering with the intensity that is demanded by the script.
The movie has Kavya as Ashwathy, who takes a chance of working in Saudi Arabia due to the untimely death of her husband Radhakrishnan, who was a J C B driver. She has to help her own and her husband's family to tide over their deep financial difficulties. With the help of Usman (Suraj Venjaramoodu, this time in a well knitted role), her husband's friend, she fetches a job in a household where Usman is working as a driver. The movie then follows the physical and mental abuses that Ashwathy faces in the house of her sponsor. She also finds that she is not a lone case as the Ghaddama's (domestic servants) are all subjected to similar kind of treatment in the entire middle east. And her attempt to run off from the house results in her being charged for robbing jewellery from her sponsor's house.
Though the story seems like a one dimensional look into the problem, the treatment of interspersing Ashwathy's fate in Gulf with the character of Good Samaritan social worker Razaaq Thottekad (played by Sreenivasan), who is in search of this missing Gaddhama, manages to keep us interested along much of the narratives. You do relate to the characters since you've either heard or watched tales of domestic abuse and most of the time the corporeal abuse that Aswathy is subjected to, shatter your heart.
Kavya Madhavan, who plays a meaty role of one who continues to take the beatings silently on a foreign land, takes much of the chances and emerges with winning performances. She displays the helplessness and pain that this character demands with gusto. But as she is asked to maintain a distraught, puzzled face much of the time; she has to limit herself from displaying variety of emotions. Sreenivasan once again is in his elements with sharp thoughtful dialogues. Mohanakrishnan, Biju menon, Lena and plenty of freshers match pretty well with their characters. The actress who plays the Indonesian servant also makes a commendable act.
The movie takes some time to make a safe landing and leisurely conventional pacing may not interest the new generation audience, but regular Kamal fans may not find this without interest. Manoj Pillai's camera work, now in a different terrain excels in capturing the murkiness and vulnerability of the isolated victims of the desert. Benett Weetrag's couple of songs are pretty good while M Jayachandran's theme music is also impressive.
All in all, 'Gaddama' is a quality offering from the master director, with a genuine upsetting story. The movie has plenty of faces that continue to haunt you even after the film has ended. This is a film for the discerning viewer who likes to go a little beyond the regular masala stereotype.