Unlike many of us who couldn’t form confident viewpoints on some issues until we got to our late 20s, Sara, the protagonist in Jude Anthany Joseph’s new film, is found to be quite assertive in her stand. “I don’t want to have babies,” she tells her high-school boyfriend. Played by the ever-reliable Anna Ben, Sara is fearless when it comes to matters of relationship. She reveals herself to be an adventurous type who has been operating outside conventions since her high school days. Sara is a fish out of the water in a staunchly conservative crowd who would also feel uncomfortable by her presence. It’s an admirable quality she carries over to adulthood and keeps honing as she navigates her professional life.
At a time when some feature-length filmmakers and short filmmakers (especially) are looking for ways to pander to the liberal crowd with subjects that appeal to them, Sara’s arrives like a breath of fresh air. It isn’t forceful or excessively preachy. It knows when to do that—which is not very often, thankfully—and when to be subtle. I loved a lot of the dialogues and the way they were delivered. But I also loved how it expertly tackled its relatively quieter, dialogue-less moments.
Sara’s is a film that appears small on the surface but packs a lot of big topics and thoughts, some of which are relatable and conveyed in a matter of seconds or minutes. It could be an egg puff analogy. It could be a husband at a hospital spotting a cautionary warning on the wall. It could be someone commenting on the efficiency of male gynaecologists. It could be a boyfriend trying to cover up the awkwardness of a kiss initiation with a coffee-spilling joke. It could be a woman opting to take the stairs to avoid conversation with a stranger. It could be ‘Unni Vavavo’ playing on the radio when a couple goes through a tense moment. It could be a couple inside a cinema hall observing a mother trying to calm her crying child and then dragging the disappointed husband with her instead of letting him enjoy the movie alone.
Let’s look at this last scene, for instance. Many single folks, who dread the idea of a life where they have to sacrifice many of their hobbies once kids come into the picture, would relate to it. I did. And what if you happen to be a hardcore movie buff? Imagine the nightmare of waiting many years for your kids to grow up so that you can finally go to the movies again. Now that I’ve brought it up, Sara belongs to the world of cinema. She happens to be an associate director who harbours ambitions of directing a film herself. Someone calls her “the next Anjali Menon”. She is working on a script which she is in the process of pitching to producers. Her profession brings up some interesting parallels. How can you tell a woman who is busy with creating her ‘baby’ (movie) to use that time to consider birthing a human baby instead?
The film’s central conflicts come in the form of a difference of opinions when her husband, Jeevan (Sunny Wayne), initially found to have much in common with Sara, begins to have second thoughts as he moves up the corporate ladder. Like Sara, Jeevan had once expressed his inability to take on the terrifying prospect of bringing up kids. When we first meet him, he is in the middle of babysitting his sister’s kids. It’s a hilarious ordeal. Funnily enough, Sara is also subjected to a babysitting ‘tutorial’ by Jeevan’s intimidating mother (Mallika Sukumaran).
Sunny Wayne is wonderfully effective at conveying his character’s evolution as the film progresses. We begin to wonder if he suddenly became mature or if he is trying to please his mother. It’s a dilemma affecting most couples when they are under the influence of their family members. There is a strikingly noticeable contrast between his and her parents. Sara’s father, played by Anna’s real-life dad Benny P Nayarambalam, is more open-minded and supportive, while Jeevan’s mother makes you claustrophobic. The environment of Jeevan’s home is stifling regardless of its pleasing decors. Speaking of, this is a warm, gorgeous-looking film with inviting colours—predominantly greens, browns, yellows, and whites—thanks to the director of photography, Nimish Ravi, and art director, Mohandas. (Nimish’s previous work, Luca, was a great-looking film too. I can’t wait to see his work in Kurup.)
Aside from talking about a woman’s agency in choices concerning her body, and her physical and mental well-being, this much-needed film asks a simple question that many of us have often asked ourselves. Do we need children because we need someone to remember us and look after us? But where’s the guarantee that they will do that once they get busy with their careers and personal growth?
Sara’s goals are more work-oriented. She hopes to create a memorable, enduring piece of work that people would remember her by. When Sara reminds Jeevan’s mother of her choices to pick kids over her passion, the latter breaks down. You finally see the vulnerable side of someone who has been, until that point, going around bossing and lecturing everyone around her.
Now, this is not a film against the idea of having children. It’s against the idea of having them when one is not ready. Towards the end of the film, Siddique, who plays Sara’s doctor, employs the analogy of entrance exam preparations. He asks why there is no such preparation for parenthood. “It’s better not to be a parent than be a bad one,” he says. It’s such a simple, comforting statement. We remember all the young people who were hurled right into parenthood because they didn’t want to upset their parents. The film questions the need for such a massive risk when one knows deep down that one is not capable of it. Sure, parents can be asked for help when things get too heavy, but how would one manage when they leave us one day? Sara’s wants us to reflect on these thoughts over and over and over again.
Director: Jude Anthany Joseph
Cast: Anna Ben, Sunny Wayne, Mallika Sukumaran, Benny P Nayarambalam, Siddique
Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video