Director: Vineeth Sreenivasan
Cast: Renji Panicker, Nivin Pauly, Lakshmi Ramakrishnan, TG Ravi, Saikumar, Rebecca Monica John, Shaan Rahman, Jomon T John, Ashwin Kumar
Modern Malayalam cinema reminds me of the classic Bengali fare I saw in the Kolkata of the 1960s and 1970s. It was authentic, rooted in reality, and it told unforgettable tales of a struggling country. Minimalistic make-up and extraordinarily natural performances made that cinema a delight to watch. Today’s Bengali films shamelessly copy bad Bollywood mannerisms and imagery.
Malayalam movies did dip in the 1970s into a semi-pornographic pit, but they have now brushed off that dirt and have begun in recent times to present sensitive portrayals of everyday life, sans the glitter and gloss of Mumbai movies.
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Vineeth Sreenivasan’s Jacobinte Swargarajyam (Jacob’s Kingdom of Heaven) in Malayalam might sound like a preachy discourse on religion, but though the film narrates the turmoil of a Malayalee family in Dubai during the times of the great American economic crash, when the Emirates plunged into gloom, faith hardly plays a role in this gripping, well-edited work.
Watch the trailer of Jacobinte Swargarajyam here:
True, the story -- though based on a real incident -- may not be novel in a certain sense, and I did feel Sreenivasan’s touristy obsession with Dubai at times, but this apart, the narrative has an easy flow and did not weigh me down with teary emotion -- like much of Indian cinema does.
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Jacobinte Swargarajyam is all about the depressing times that a once happy family of a father, mother and four children finds itself after the man loses all his wealth. His trust is broken and the father, Jacob, essayed with riveting subtlety by Renji Panicker, is shattered, and in desperation, flies to Libya hoping to make some quick money so that he can repays his heartless debtors. One of them Murali Menon (Ashwin Kumar) is vindictive and vicious, threatens the mother and the eldest son, Jerry (Nivin Pauly), with imprisonment and makes sure that Jacob does not return home.
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With rare grit and determination, Jerry and his mother (Lakshmi Ramakrishnan) face the storm and rebuild their business from scratch, branching from Jacob’s steel enterprise into event management and tourism. The movie stays pretty much focussed -- and does not stray into any romantic alleyways (though Jerry has a girlfriend) -- except to include a few squabbles which one of Jerry’s brothers gets into. These add a certain balance to the film’s structure, and with performances by most of the cast members -- particularly Pauly, Panicker and Ramakrishnan -- disarmingly understated, Sreenivasan’s work is captivating.
But, yes, Jacobinte Swargarajyam could have been tighter without its Tour Dubai and a couple of songs.