A slice of life at the 'Snoopy Island', off Khorfakkan


A slice of life at the Snoopy Island, off Khorfakkan

Pathemari, directed by Salim Ahamed with an A-list cast and crew, narrates the story of Gulf expatriation by Malayalis without frills.

By Deepa Gauri

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Published: Wed 18 Nov 2015, 11:00 PM

Last updated: Fri 20 Nov 2015, 8:03 AM

'Snoopy Island', off Khorfakkan, is a tourist destination today. But years ago, that was the sign-stone for sea-weary men to jump off the dhows they have been sailing in for some 20 to 40 days to swim ashore and step onto their 'land of dreams.'
For the hundreds who made it to the shore and lived to tell the tale, there are also the untold stories of those who perished in the high seas. Their story - of the dead and the living - is the theme of Pathemari, now playing at theatres in the UAE.
Directed by Salim Ahamed, who shot to fame with his debut feature, Adaminte Makan Abu, India's submission for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film in 2012, Pathemari brings a slice of life that probably every Malayali expat in the UAE (and the wider Gulf) will relate to at some level.
Short partly in the UAE (in Dubai, Sharjah and Fujairah), the film has an A-list cast and crew in addition to at least ten UAE-based actors.
With Mammootty playing the lead role of Pallickal Narayanan, one of those hopefuls who boarded the dhow to Dubai decades ago, the film also holds a mirror to Kerala's societal evolution - and how 'Gulf money' fuels the state's economy.
Salim says that the film is a tribute to every Gulf expatriate, even more so to those who arrived first, overcoming odds that would appear insurmountable to those who now take an easy four-hour flight to modern-day luxuries of the UAE.
"I am fully aware that not every expat Malayali in the Gulf is a Pallickal Narayanan," says Salim. "There are people better off and worse off than him. But what I can vouch for is that every expat here would be able to relate to the film." Perhaps that is why Pathemari has gained critical and box office acclaim in Kerala. "Almost every Malayali family has a member who works and lives in the Gulf. So it is not just Malayalis living in the Gulf who can relate to it," says Salim.
On his part, Salim had never been a Gulf expat. He had earlier worked in the travel and tourism industry before he moved to television. The idea for the film was inspired by his tour of the UAE after the success of Adaminte Makan Abu and his second film, Kunjananthante Kada.
During discussions with friends and after meeting a lot of people from all walks of life, he realised the need for a film that portrays expat life without frills and exaggerations.
"I must have read practically every single piece of literature written on the subject. I met and discussed several hundred people and took so many notes I can really make ten films on the subject," says Salim. "The very dhow journey from Kerala to Khorfakkan is good enough for a full movie."
Salim feels that the story of the quintessential Gulf Malayali is not recorded in cinema with greater detail - and that is what he seeks to accomplish with the movie. "I have always approached my stories with hundred per cent sincerity and honesty and Pathemari is no different," says Salim.
With tremendous detailing needed, Salim planned the film in schedules with long intervals. "Mammootty must have done three films during the span; but it was on purpose. Pathemari narrates the story of Narayanan through different phases in his life - and each shooting schedule corresponded to one of these phases."
Salim says that shooting the film in the UAE was a breeze. "I had the support of a lot of friends, including the executive producers of the movie, TP Sudheesh and Adv. TK Hashik."
Cutting no corners, Salim roped in his favourite crew for Pathemari too. So it has accomplished cinematographer Madhu Ambat wielding the camera, and Academy Award-winning Resul Pookutty on sound design. "We share a strong chemistry," says Salim. "There is an instinctive understanding of what is needed."
He gives full credit to the cast adding that the film marks the career-best performances by Mammootty, Sreenivasan and Siddique. The film also stars Joy Mathew, Salim Kumar and Jewel Mary as well as local talents including Albert Alex and KK Moideen Koya.
Salim does not look back on the loss of Adaminte Makan Abu at the Oscars with any great remorse. "I do not make films for the sake of recognition. To me, every award that comes is a bonus. My job is to make the film with total conviction."
He might only be three films old but that rare streak of non-compromising conviction indeed makes Salim Ahamed's films matter - and with Pathemari, he gifts a movie that will serve as an effective referral point on the history of Gulf-expatriation by Malayalis.

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