Adaminte Makan Abu is a wholly functional drama that probes into questions of basic human existence. Fabulously directed and sensitively acted, this is no didactic film, but rather a poignant parable that ponders on human aspirations and the strenuous journey to their fulfillment.
Abu, son of Adam, is a man in his seventies, who has spent an entire life selling Athar on the streets. Over the years, Abu along with his wife Ayeshumma (Zarina Wahab) has learned to get over memories of Sathar, their only son who had deserted them when life's fortunes beckoned. Old and poor, the couple lives on with hopes of realizing a single dream that is left - that of going on a Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.
The unfussiness that pervades the entire film makes it all the more engaging. The script that has been penned by the director himself is a closely knit yarn that has little loose ends and unknotted strings lying around. The sentiments and sensations that it evokes in you are genuine, and the questions that it makes you ask truly vexing.
Salim blends in mythological elements into his tale through Ustad (Thampi Antony), who prophesies the future and sees the unseen. The saintly man does not claim to be a God, but maintains that those ridden with grief could leave their sorrows and tears safe with him. When all this anguish becomes unbearable, he walks up a hill and stays there until the wind blows it all away. The hill top where he rests is a spectacle - where the sky seems to stoop down to kiss the earth, where a golden grandeur seems to have thrown open the doors to paradise.
In a notable scene, Abu and Ayeshumma pay a visit to the teacher's (Nedumudi Venu) house to seek forgiveness for any wrongs that they might have caused him and his family in the past. They hug before Abu leaves, and the teacher requests him to remember them when he sets foot on the Holy City.
Abu had nurtured feelings of guilt over a squabble that he had with his neighbor Sulaiman (Gopakumar) several years back. Much water had flowed by since then, and Sulaiman had moved away to a distant place. Abu and Ayeshumma, in a bid to seek absolution, call on him with a pack of biscuits. And they find a frail, bedridden man who is overwhelmed with joy at seeing them.
It would seem more than a coincidence that of the two men who come to Abu's aid when he is in dire straits, one is a Hindu and the other one a Christian. Money is what they offer the poor man. Abu gratefully declines the village teacher saying that alms for the holy journey could be accepted only from those with close blood relations. As for Johnson (Kalabhavan Mani), the wood dealer. Abu hands him back the money that he had accepted, when he learns that the tree that he had sold him was hollow. The religions that these men belong to could be a plot device with some deliberate intent, but it's just the innate benevolence in these men that ultimately prevail.
Salim Ahamed'a film thrives with men who smell of humanity and compassion. Ashraf (Mukesh) the manager of the travel agency is one such man, who says he is reminded of his own parents when he sees the old couple. He implores Abu to carry on with his journey, and assures him that money or the lack of it should not act as an impediment. In a much shorter role, we get to see Suraj Venjarammoodu playing Hyder, who is distraught by the Ustad's demise. Bereft of the pious presence, Hyder turns out be an extremely dejected man whose only hope is that Ustad is still around.
Salim Kumar brings in an immense amount of believability into his portrayal of Abu, and it's by far impossible to think of another actor who could have done equal justice to the role. This is a complex and extremely emotional performance from the brilliant actor, who simply deserves every accolade that has come his way. Zarina Wahab as the silent, and yet supportive Ayeshumma lends ample support.
Adaminte Makan Abu has been visually crafted in marvelous frames, courtesy Madhu Ambatt. Ambatt's camera gently moves around the nooks and corners of a lazy green village, deftly capturing the dark realities that make up life. The splendid background score by Isaac Thomas Kottukapally is as penetrating as the drama that lies beneath.
Adaminte Makan Abu is meticulously paced and splendidly staged to create a sense of optimism that should keep the human race going in these testing times. With a highly considerate and meditative tone, this is the kind of stuff that leaves you totally entranced.