Sara’S movie review: Anna Ben, Sunny Wayne film educates, but feels inadequate

Sara'S movie review: Every character in this Anna Ben starrer is agreeable to a fault. The conservative characters and setting fail to create any dramatic tension in the narration.

Director Jude Anthany Joseph’s latest film Sara’S, which released on Amazon Prime Video on Monday, follows his trademark narrative style — telling the story from the woman’s perspective. Given that Sara’S revolves around a woman’s right to abortion, there is no other way of telling this tale. It is Sara’s decision and so we get to experience this film through her eyes. If you wonder why there is an apostrophe and s after her name, it is the director’s way of giving her agency and emphasising that it is the woman’s decision.

Sara (Anna Ben) is blessed with a happy family that supports her at every turn, except when it comes to her marriage. Screenwriter Benny P Nayarambalam, actor Anna Ben’s real-life father, also plays her on-screen father in the movie. He wants to be the ‘cool dad’ who backs his daughter’s dream of becoming a filmmaker, but gives her a 6-month deadline to find a suitable boy for marriage. After six months, he says, he will be forced to pick a boy for her. Maybe he’s worried that his daughter is already 25, and her prospects in the marriage market are limited. So much was for his progressive outlook.

Benny’s character is just one of the male characters in the film who think they give enough freedom to women in their lives. Like the producer, who announces he is ‘not sexist’ but doesn’t want Sara to handle such a big film project. “You’re a girl, you will find it very difficult,” he says.

Sara’S is populated by a number of such ‘progressive, non-sexist’ men. Popular film actor Anjali has quit cinema to attend to her duties as a wife and a mother. She seems to find happiness in her everyday chores at home and chooses little moments with her family over an offer that can fetch her a National Award. Or at least that’s what she tells herself.

She is reluctant to accept a meaty role in Sara’s film, which would be perfect for her comeback. “I had already permitted her to do some television ads or become a judge in reality TV shows,” says Anjali’s husband, full of entitlement. He conveniently seems to forget that Anjali has her own free will.

Screenwriter Akshay Hareesh seamlessly navigates Sara’s story through the cesspool of blatant misogyny and this sort of casual sexism. When men support women to pursue their dreams, it always comes with a set of terms and conditions. In case there is an impasse, it is upto the men to decide what’s best for women. The ironies in this film need no explanation.

As much as this film is Sara’s story, it is also the story of her husband Jeevan (Sunny Wayne). When Sara accidentally gets pregnant, she treats Jeevan with contempt. Jeevan, who never wanted to be a father, has now mellowed and wants to keep the baby. It is not an easy decision for Jeevan and it is supposed to be an emotional roller-coaster ride for him. But, the film hardly makes an effort to let us in on Jeevan’s thoughts and emotions.

The film’s half-baked comments on realities that drive the business of mainstream films in Malayalam is another letdown. The film wastes time repeating the obvious and well-known facts for the sake of sounding bold and conscious.

The major drawback of Sara’S is that every character in this film is agreeable to a fault. The conservative setting, the outdated belief of women don’t need a life outside family, and hardliners in Sara’s family, who believe in women’s traditional roles, fail to create any dramatic tension in the narration.

Sara’S works as an educational film. It could start a conversation in conservative households on subjects that are touted as beyond discussions. Like a pregnancy is God’s will, and humans, especially women, don’t get to have a say in it. But, artistically, it feels inadequate.

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