Director: Jude Anthany Joseph
Cast: Anna Ben, Sunny Wayne, Siddique, Mallika Sukumaran
Anna Ben debuted in Kumbalangi Nights, and the films that followed, Kappela and Helen, played on her innocence and charm. This is a girl we want to root for on screen. She’s a good girl to whom you don’t want bad things to happen. It’s interesting to see Anna Ben play with this persona with a role that requires her to be a little selfish. Selfishness is usually considered a bad thing. But sometimes, you need to be selfish to get the things that you really want in life; society might not let you get it otherwise.
Sara (Anna Ben) is an assistant director aspiring to become a filmmaker. This is not something that’s possible without single-minded determination. It’s the kind of job where you might have to forget the people and even the world around you. When there are so many other careers with easier hours and money, it could seem selfish to your family if you take up such a career. Doing a creative job requires you to be selfish in a way that satisfies the creative demon inside you. Luckily for Sara, her parents don’t need her to earn for them to survive.
So, then, why is Sara selfish? Because she is pregnant (her partner is Jeevan, played by Sunny Wayne). She has to choose between creating a baby and creating a movie. Does she nurture the life inside her or does she nurture her own inner creative demon? Or can she make a movie while pregnant? You’d think she could make a film after her pregnancy. But what if she didn’t get a producer then? Also, typically, parenting is a greater burden for women than men.
Like Jude Anthany Joseph’s first film, Ohm Shanthi Oshaana, Sara’s looks at a woman’s plight with a woman’s perspective, a female gaze. The film is about Sara’s confusions and doubts, the conflict between what she wants to do and what society wants from her. It does help that Sara has the nicest father in the world and the nicest husband in the world — he understands that directing is a part of who she is. But then, he starts saying he wants a baby, he’s getting ahead in his job while she’s at the same place, and the equality between them gets disturbed.
I love that the character is ironically called Jeevan, meaning ‘life’. The movie that Sara is trying to make is a hardcore thriller with forensics. Usually, we think women only make arty and emotional films, but Sara is different even in that way. It’s a refreshingly non-judgemental film that doesn’t judge Sara for having boyfriends or for having sex.
It even gives Sara a reason for not wanting kids: it’s not that she hates them but just thinks she might not be good with them. A doctor in the film says the same thing: parenting is not for everyone, it’s a special skill. Just as everyone cannot direct a film, not everyone can be good parents; you need the right instincts. You rarely hear this in an Indian movie.
Sara’s mother-in-law won’t even let her carry a juice tray because she’s pregnant. Imagine her being allowed to go on location and shoot a film day and night. Another filmmaker might have made Sara’s a serious drama filled with much questioning and angst. But for the most part, the director keeps things light, breezy and entertaining.
The one problem I had with the film is that it doesn’t get into a slightly more serious zone when it comes to Sara. The scenes do get a bit more serious, but it doesn’t feel as organic. It feels like the director is trying to pull it back a little and not let it get too serious. I also wish we learnt more about Sara’s feelings. What does she really think about the baby? Does she have doubts about it, too?
In the end, Sara’s is a feel-good entertainer, where you might also go home and think about some of the things in the film. Take the scene where Sara meets a retired actor to cast her for a part. The actor’s husband tells that he’s given her permission to act: the word ‘permission’ makes Sarah angry. Jeevan is never like that because he knows Sara is a director; and whether he gives her permission or not is irrelevant. The film is titled Sara’s, in the possessive, because it’s about Sara’s life, her film and her baby: does she get to choose what she wants? The film heads towards these questions and ends very satisfyingly.