Half a century after setting afoot on a land unknown by a wooden catamaran, that night he goes to sleep early as he has to work on day shift from the next day. And he would never wake up again. Thus comes an end to Pallickal Narayanan's life, which was lived mostly on the deserts of the Gulf than in the coastal village of Malabar where he was born. And being a Keralite, as you watch his life on-screen, a number of characters come and play their part in your mind -- because you personally know someone who lived the life of Narayanan, in parts if not fully.
Salim Ahamed's third directorial outing, 'Pathemari' is that narrative necessitated by time itself. Being an economy, that has a strong base on the Gulf boom of 70's and 80's, it's indeed the duty of the land to preserve the memories of a generation that was forced to board on a catamaran (Pathemari in local parlance), that would take them to a land, which they have no idea of. Their journey was so similar to that of any refugees' voyage -- poverty was the driving force, and dreams the fuel.
Pallickal Narayanan played by Mammootty is a metonymy that stands for the early generation of Keralite diaspora in the Gulf. He also stands for the many whose life ended up on the deserts living for others. As in the case of his previous films, in Pathemari also realism is the magic band of the writer-director.
Through episodes that the viewers can easily associate with, Salim tells the tale of the Malayali migrant life in a less dramatic but compelling narrative. The film doesn't have the flavours for a commercial flick. Nor does it compromise anywhere to satiate the tastes of the so-called critics. In short, it's a film made for all. The struggles went through by the likes of Narayanan to reach the sandy shores of the Gulf must have been recorded much before in our literature. However, a visual presentation of the voyage through the rough sea even without food and potable water is much more powerful.
The film is a blend of family and social drama. A tight script and subtle performers are its strong pillars. Right from Mammootty to the supporting actors, everyone offers a neat performance. Jewel Mary deserves special mention for the way she presents Nalini, Narayanan's wife, in different stages. Sreenivasan's Moideen and Siddique's Lanchi Velayudhan are two characters to be counted in those actors' career. Notably, the character of the elder son of Narayanan played by Shaheen Siddique is a fitting debut for him.
The realistic visuals captured by veteran cinematographer Madhu Ambat and sounds by mastercraftsman Resul Pookutty help the film in setting its tone. Sameera Sanish has done a good job in recreating the costumes of different decades. About musical part, Bijibal and Rafeeq Ahamed have once again struck the chord. The theme song materialised in Shahabas Aman's divine voice will stay in one's ears for long.
With his life resembling that of many around you, Narayanan is likely to stay with you even after you leave the cinema hall, which is a rare feeling one gets these days.