Jalam Malayalam Movie Review
'Jalam' is a commanding indictment on the global issue of human displacement that has been the focal point of many a rights movement launched across the world. It's a deeply affecting film that strikes the perfect balance between an art house production and strapping commercial entertainment.
Dinakaran (Jain Syriac) and Seetha (Priyanka) arrive at the big city of Cochin along with their four year old son, with hopes of obtaining the documents of the four cents of hard earned land, handed over to them by the Chief Minister after the land struggle at Chengara. After several rounds at the Revenue and Taluk offices, the disheartened couple realizes that owning a piece of land could cost them a lifetime.
The urban landscape of Cochin assumes devilish proportions in 'Jalam' as newly constructed skyscrapers tower over the city, having unconcernedly dislodged a population that has ever since been left loitering on the streets. Urbanization and the dark shadows that it has cast over unsuspecting lives loom large, as these lost souls meander around from pillar to post, hoping that they would be able to anchor themselves down at some point of time or the other.
The sub terrain of supporting characters is sturdily laid out with Janet (Sethulekshmi) occupying the forefront. Left alone at old age, the woman has found a son in Bhuvan, an immigrant labourer from Assam, and together they pin together the torn shreds of their lives and start anew. It is this optimism that shines through the film and which does not let it wallow down the streets of cynicism and gloom.
The much celebrated Metro rail project of the city receives a gentle knock on the temple, when Seetha crouches beneath a street light to read Uroob's 'Rachiyamma'. With the faint streetlight flickering away, an annoyed Seetha murmurs to herself that it's ironic that efforts are being made to fly a train over their heads, when the city hasn't been lighted up appropriately as yet.
To keep the night predators of the dark city at bay, Seetha seeks refuge at a secluded corner that is warded off on all four sides by a water trench. The water appears to her at once as the saviour and the slayer and she has nightmares of her son drowning in its abyss. The finale is a bombshell, and is as authentic as life itself, that offers no easy solutions.
Here is a superlative performance from Priyanka, and as the distraught young woman who has to fend for herself in a disturbingly callous world, she is remarkably impressive. As much as it remains a woman centred film, 'Jalam' also belongs to the wonderful actor Jain Syriac who has instilled an almost astonishing susceptibility into his portrayal of Dinakaran. There is Prakash Bare as well, who keeps surprising us with the choices of roles and Hareesh Peradi who appears in a noteworthy cameo.
The melancholic background and musical scores by Ouseppachan lends a delicate charm to the narrative, while Vinod Illampilly's meticulous frames hover decisively over a troubled landscape that has set its erstwhile inhabitants into disarray.
'Jalam' is easily Padmakumar's best film till date. Heavily laden with bitterness, it's a brutally honest slice straight from life that stringently relates homelessness to hope, human courage and most importantly a harrowing loss of identity.