Aadujeevitham First Day First Impression: Blessy’s Introspective Adaptation Balances Scale With Terrific Emotion

The survival thriller, which remains faithful to the source text, is anchored by Prithviraj Sukumaran’s career-best performance
Aadujeevitham Review
Aadujeevitham Review

Director and Writer: Blessy

Based on: Aadujeevitham by Benyamin (Malayalam novel)

Cast: Prithviraj Sukumaran, Jimmy Jean-Louis, Amala Paul

Duration: 172 minutes

Available in: Theatres

  1. No other recent Malayalam film has been able to generate the sort of pre-release momentum that this Prithviraj Sukumaran film has managed to rake in with its complicated fourteen-year production history. The film, based on Benyamin’s epic novel of the same name, is surely worth the wait. Blessy's iteration of the novel is a meticulously designed survival film that respects the source material and its real-life hero, while also featuring the director’s own interpretations of the story.

  2. The film follows the life of an immigrant worker stuck in a goat farm in the Middle East with no place to turn to but himself. Aadujeevitham captures the subjective experience of a hellish survival story with nuance and grace and rises above the literary text to deliver an emotional punch, that thankfully does not trade in melodramatic gestures.

  1. Blessy has remained faithful to Benyamin's source text but expands on certain fissures and emotional beats that lend themselves to the film medium. The film hinges on prolonged silences and quieter moments, with a few flashbacks elegantly stitched to keep the momentum ticking at all points. The filmmaking also cleverly juxtaposes the wet, giddy flashbacks with the barren, heat storms of the desert where the hero finds himself, slaving away in a goat farm run by his inhumane captors. Blessy is in no hurry and registers each passing frame with bristling life.

  2. AR Rahman's eclectic yet never overbearing score underlines the pathos of Najeeb's heartbreaking survival story. Rahman is in full control of the soundscape of the barren desert dunes and has come up with some of his finest work in recent times in setting the film’s tone. The use of the 'Periyone' song cues in various places in the story’s survival arc and offers much by way of hope in an otherwise bleak second hour.

5. Blessy is not afraid to ponder on the deeply existential stillness inherent in the subject matter and displays glimpses of his trademark constraint in pulling off overtly sentimental material without being sappy or contrived. We get why he is revered as one of Malayalam cinema's modern-day masters in exploring the nitty-gritty facets of the human experience when people are forced to fight their inner demons.

  1. Aadujeevitham is also a lowkey spiritual film that delves into the question of why some people are forced into ordeals beyond their reckoning. The film tries to answer the question as to why some things happen the way it does to certain people and what ultimate truth guides their journey of redemption. But, Blessy keeps the metaphysical aspects as a secondary layer to Najeeb’s spiritual search for freedom.

  2. Sunik K cranks the camera and his yellow hues form a blanket around Najeeb that never lets him out of sight. The desert dunes have rarely been captured with such depth and minimal flourishes in our cinema. The muted visual palette holds back from overtly stylising a sober text and uses the heat and excessive sunlight to draw out a portrait of a nightmarish escape akin to surviving hell.

8. The film undoubtedly belongs to Prithviraj Sukumaran who transforms into Najeeb and carries us through the entirety of the gruelling experience. Also to Blessy's credit, the performance here feels like a reinvention of the actor's previous screen persona and there is no residue of his prior screen repertoire in the way he conceives the character.

  1. You can chart the various stages of the emotional journey that Najeeb undertakes from the initial helplessness and slight resentment to his fits of concealed anger, all within the arc of his transformation. The actor, to the detriment of his physical health, makes us feel the agony of one-of-a-kind misery. The actor is allowed to play out his scenes like in a single-character play, where he is allowed to wallow in the pit of existential dread and hopelessness.

  2. Jimmy Jean-Louis too delivers a stellar performance as the fellow traveller in Najeeb's path to freedom. But the surprising takeaway comes from the performance of Gokul (who plays Hakeem, Najeeb's friend), who holds his own against the more senior co-stars with aplomb. Amala Paul does not get to do much but keeps the flashback sequences hopeful and vibrant, contrasting with the sombre tone of the desert escape. Aadujeevitham is a brisk, relentless exercise in storytelling that is anchored by Prithviraj Sukumaran’s career-best performance and Blessy’s inspired vision.

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