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Sara’s Review: Jude Anthany Joseph’s Movie on Abortion is Drab

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There is an evident influence of social media in the films of director Jude Anthany Joseph. Om Shanthi Oshaana (2014), Oru Muthassi Gadha (2016) and the latest, Sara’s, have the same beat and tone as a meme or a viral Facebook post. Om Shanthi Oshaana was instrumental in launching a series of Malayalam films that used nostalgia as a selling point. These films attempted to convince young adults on social media that life in small-town Kerala in the pre-Internet decade of the 90s was marked only by great happiness and warm simplicity.

Some of the supporting roles in Sara’s are played by popular social media users, like civil servant Prasanth Nair and television host Dhanya Varma, who bring with them an off-the-shelf amenity. One of the film’s running jokes is about the many romantic relationships its protagonist, Sara (Anna Ben), a 25-year-old aspiring filmmaker, has had at various points in her life. What should not be a big deal for a modern generation is reiterated in the film because Jude knows that a woman with multiple boyfriends and liberal views on sex will tickle the conservative Malayali consciousness.

The central theme is relevant — abortion as a woman’s right. Sara has always been sure that she does not want to become a mother. She chooses a life partner, Jeevan (Sunny Wayne), who shares her sentiment about parenthood. However, when they come face to face with a situation where they have to decide between social norms and the commitment they had made to each other, resentment emerges in their happy marriage.

Never before has a Malayalam comedy discussed a subject as sensitive as this, endorsing the woman not just as an equal partner in a marriage but the sole decision-maker when it comes to the matter of human reproduction. Jude sugar-coats the idea with elaborate scenes that demonstrate happy motherhood. Jeevan’s sister, a cheerful mother to two unruly toddlers, is a successful forensic surgeon. His mother (Mallika Sukumaran) is spending her old age in pleasant solitariness. The only instance of unhappy parenthood in the film features two actors, Srindaa and Aju Varghese, whom the audience would immediately associate with a popular comedy, Aadu (directed by Midhun Manuel Thomas, the screenwriter of Om Shanthi Oshaana). The familiarity elicits laughter, overriding the repugnance the movie situation should evoke.

Although the characters — Sara and Jeevan, her parents, his mother and sister — live in different parts of Kerala, their houses look strikingly similar as though they are pieces of one large studio set designed for television commercial shoots. In the latter half of the film, the characters brood in picture-postcard spaces, their appearance and choice of clothes in contrast with the emotional conflicts they undergo. The background score by Shaan Rahman is loud and unapologetically goofy; it has the spirit of a Tik-Tok performer.

Sara’s exists in the same space as the inventive digital content produced by platforms such as Karikku, where sensitive and progressive ideas are slipped into conventional settings that the general audience would easily relate to, served with a generous scoop of humour. Jude Anthany Joseph’s film has the style of the aforesaid digital content — it does overt product placement too — although, many of the latter are tastefully brief, made on a shoestring budget and offered to the viewers free of cost. Sara’s might help lessen the ickiness the Malayali society associates with abortion, but as a movie, it achieves little.

*****

The Sara’s review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.

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