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Sara's: of marriage, domesticity & motherhood by Panjami Anand

Sara’s is a 2021 Malayalam feature film starring Anna Ben and Sunny Wayne. Director Jude Anthany Joseph’s films have had women playing central characters-strong and individualistic. He has always maintained that he is not intentionally out to make women oriented films. It just happened that the characters shaped up that way. That his films are entertainers, makes it all the more remarkable. Art house films are a different issue, but I don’t know of many entertainers who would to be able to bring in a theme like a woman’s control over her body.

What caught my happy attention about ‘Sara’s’ is the portrayal of an advanced, imaginary cloud (not too far away I presume) where the world appears to be a woman’s world. What entices you (or may be not) about the film, dear reader could be something else. The writer of the film, Akshay Hareesh has communicated a complex, social fibre that is changing drastically in what appears to be an uncomplicated and comic film. The ease with which the director, Jude Anthany Joseph has thrown light on a very controversial and unpopular ideology where motherhood as a MATTER OF CHOICE is highly commendable. Jude is an actor himself and has 13 films to his credit and this is his third directorial venture. There is a remarkable ease in the narrative even when the subject matter is nothing but a mirror on changing times narrated with utmost wit, straightforwardness, and flow. Perhaps Jude’s involvement in just about every facet of the silver screen both in and out of it, shows in his cinematic brilliance. There is so much joy in all his films. Sara’s is modern and looks amazing thanks to the production design by Mohandas and marvelous cinematography by Nimish Ravi. The music by Shaan Rahman though capture the mood and timbre of the film, none the songs stay with you. Malayalam movies, as rich in content as they are and as biased as a Malayali can be with such opulent movie legacy, is losing its music to whatever is being made today. Such amazing songs ridden with melody infused with magnificent poetry in lyrics… what happened to them? The irony is that, they would never even fit in with fast paced, new-gen themes of today.

Please note, Sara, the principal protagonist played by Anna Ben is a privileged girl who has the freedom of choice. Backed by her liberal father (Benny.P. Nayarambalam who is Anna’s father in real life) does not expect his daughter to adhere to the boundaries of socially accepted norms as she conducts her life, but he does expect her to marry a man of her own choice within a year. However, Sara is a girl who is passionate about her film career as a director, and she is rather clear about the obstacles family life can pose for that. She is averse to the drama, relatives create, and she is deeply aware that she is not a maternal, compliant woman who can set her robust individuality aside for the sake of relationships or motherhood. This is the defining point of the film that drives in the modern doctrine that ‘Motherhood is a choice.’

As destiny would have it, she meets Jeevan Philip, (Sunny Wayne) a youth in his early 30’s who is equally averse to the idea of parenthood. Before they even commit to each other, both are equally keen on exploring their emotional, mental and physical chemistry. There is so much premeditated clarity in the ratio of transaction and contribution the couple will put in once they marry to ensure that there are no surprises post their wedding.

As old school as I am, I was stunned and relieved in equal proportion to observe how candidly, nonchalantly the prospective spouses speak of their multiple sexual escapades. What is novel here is not having a rich personal history but the casualness in sharing it with a potential partner, where the involved parties begin marriage as an open book. Sara clearly states that an amazing sexual chemistry would be her primary criteria when seeking a partner in marriage.

The movie has created history and will forever be etched in Malayalam cinema as the film that warmly welcomed the career oriented, sexually liberated, equal partner of a successful woman who is openly NON-MATERNAL onto the Malayali silver screen. The reception of the film by the audience at large is an entirely different matter. It opened conduits of debates. Sara also yearns for the support of her father and unwavering assurance from her husband to carry out her resolution to stick to her guts and career. The men portrayed in the film amaze me. Jeevan readily agrees to cook 4 out of 7 days and share chores around the house. Both her father and husband submit to every whim as she thrives in her green, indoor garden bubble of a home in the city. I hope that the film will set an example of redefined masculinity because all of it looks like a beautiful dream.

Freedom granted is not freedom enough, but mindful acceptance and accommodation of individual freedom is food for advancement. My favorite character is that of the gynaecologist, Dr Hafiz (Siddique). He stands by Sara’s decision to disallow an accidental pregnancy define the trajectory of her life. He utters my favourite dialogue that echoes the deep doctrine that it is better not to be a parent than be a bad one.

I urge the audience to consider the idea of the non-maternal woman with warmth. Not positively or negatively or with the possibility, that she might change her mind later. But, simply consider the fact that it is inappropriate to push a lady who is not cut out for domesticity into motherhood. This era is a threshold for great change and the timing and theme of the film Sara’s is greatly relevant for the same.

Panjami Anand is an occult healer, poet and a cinephile, with a self proclaimed bias for Malayalam cinema, who believes even Al Pacino and Robert De Niro cannot do what Mammootty or Mohanlal can!

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