Aadujeevitham Review | Blessy Wins You Over With a Visually Compelling Interpretation of Benyamin’s Work

Aadujeevitham, the book by Benyamin has a first-person narrative, which makes it extremely personal for the reader. Also, the first-person narrative is a tool that gives the writer an elaborate scope to divulge into subplots and also establish the character with all the details in the world. Prithviraj had rightly pointed out in his interviews that micro detailing is one major advantage the book has over the movie. The biggest challenge ahead of screenwriter-director Blessy was effectively translating all the emotions in the minds of the central character without being excessively verbal as he was showing the movie to the world in the third-person narrative. What makes this movie special is how he pulled off that task, which felt like walking on an extremely slippery slope.

For those who have read the book, this whole paragraph is irrelevant. Najeeb, a commoner who left Kerala in the early ’90s and went to the Middle East in order to support his family, is the central character of this movie. But upon reaching there, Najeeb and Hakkim, who struggled with language, ended up in the wrong place, and they were forcefully made shepherds in the desert. What we see in Aadujeevitham, The Goat Life, is all those hardships that Najeeb went through in those desert years.

I read the book only after Aadujeevitham filming started, and because of the concept art posters and other materials that were floating online, I read the book imagining Prithviraj as Najeeb. What was interesting about Blessy’s version of Aadujeevitham was that he knew where to emphasize more because of the change he made in the narrative. Even though the movie is titled The Goat Life, what we get here is majorly The Escape Life. And that makes sense because that was the patch in the story that instills hope in the readers.

The creative inclusions, minor deviations, and restructuring actually help Blessy as a filmmaker to make this film his own version of the story. It almost feels like he did script editing after writing an elaborate script based on Benyamin’s source material, and then he opted to clip subplots and ideas that weren’t essential to the survival story aspect of the movie. For instance, in the book Benyamin mentions that each goat was given a name based on their looks or behavior. But that entire track is skipped in the film. Frankly, even though a part of my head wanted Prithviraj calling a goat Mohanlal, the cheesiness of such a scene actually made me cringe. There are several instances in the film similar to this that were either chopped or trimmed because it wasn’t really serving the purpose, and this shows how good Blessy is in reading the audience.

As I said, they have trimmed a lot of the micro-detailing available in the book, and they have given emphasis to the other tracks that occupied the least number of space in the book. The Sainu track is one major example, as Blessy decides to unleash his inner Padmarajan in a very passionate love dynamic between Najeeb and Sainu. What was even more impressive was that the contrast of Najeeb’s life was linked using this love track. In the desert, Najeeb is starving, and he doesn’t have sufficient water. But back in his homeland, he used to be a guy who did sand mining manually. And there is this terrific transition from a stream of overflown water in the desert to an aerial shot of a riverside in Kerala, which was just exquisite. The most impressive bit in the film in terms of cinematic experience and dramatic elevation was the desert storm chapter. Unlike the book, since this was pitched as a survival story, the prominence of this event was high, and it was a fantastic blend of cinematography, sound design, editing, and visual effects.

The cinematography by Sunil KS is not seeking grandeur for the sake of it. The desert in Aadujeevitham is not supposed to look beautiful, and Sunil’s frames always maintained that dreadedness. The only issue I felt was in certain sequences where the DI work somewhat stood out in differentiating Najeeb from the backdrop. The shot choices were excellent as they directly represented the mindset of the characters. The pacing of the movie is done really well, and for a film that is 172 minutes long, I checked my watch only once. And I felt Sreekarprasad was merciless as an editor from a DOP point of view as he has not sustained the much talked about camel eyeshot for that long. The soundscape of the movie is important, and it was done brilliantly. And I loved how Blessy used the bottle to show a major plot development by invisibly maintaining Ibrahim Khadiri. The placement of the main theme music of Aadujeevitham by AR Rahman was just brilliant; optimal, minimal, and precise. While Benyamin did micro-detailing through the thought process of Najeeb, Blessy tried the same through makeup. From dried-out lips, swollen feet, lengthy hair, and tanned skin, Ranjith Ambadi’s work in this film is also noteworthy.

Prithviraj Sukumaran’s transition from the young Najeeb to the slim Najeeb actually felt like a transition of his acting prowess. I have always had a problem with his usual style of playing down-to-earth, middle-class characters where he constantly uses a lot of “Ah”s and “Eh”s. So in the flashback bits, we see that Prithviraj, and frankly it is a bumpy start. But as the transition starts to unfold, you can practically see this character pushing Prithviraj as an actor to explore or enter a space he never really tried. The weaker version of Najeeb has very less dialogues. But there is a phase in the film where the thin Najeeb communicates with Hakkim. The dialogue delivery felt a bit odd in those patches, but gradually when the movie gives you that space to understand where that character was emotionally, those areas started to feel less jittery. It was very interesting to see the look of Prithviraj when he wakes up at Kunjikka’s dormitory. He looked really similar to the real-life Najeeb.

Jimmy Jean-Louis, as Ibrahim Khadiri, had that grace and empathy in how he carried that role. KR Gokul plays the young and naive Hakkim in the film. The inherent innocence in his face was indeed helping him in making that character likable, and the desert storm bits of Hakkim were just heartbreaking to watch. Even though the screen space is minimal, Amala Paul, as the driving force Sainu, shared a great chemistry with Prithviraj.

If you ask me whether I am overwhelmed by the brilliance of this film, the answer would be no. As someone who has read the book, the lost-in-translation moments were happening sporadically; the death of the first shepherd for example. But when I approach it as a cinephile who would have had a visual take on the whole thing while reading the book, I felt extremely happy with the creative tweaks Blessy made to make the 43-chapter novel into a 172-minute film.

Final Thoughts

As a cinephile who would have had a visual take on the whole thing while reading the book, I felt extremely happy with the creative tweaks Blessy made to make the 43-chapter novel into a 3 hour film


Green: Recommended Content

Orange: The In-Between Ones

Red: Not Recommended


By Aswin Bharadwaj

Founder and editor of Lensmen Reviews.