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Aadujeevitham (The Goat Life) movie review – Prithviraj Sukumaran delivers career best performance; film’s a mixed bag of hits and misses

Directed by National Award winner Blessy, Aadujeevitham (The Goat Life) is the cinematic adaptation of a popular novel that recounts a true-life tale

Aadujeevitham (The Goat Life) movie review – Prithviraj Sukumaran delivers career best performance; film’s a mixed bag of hits and misses
Prithviraj Sukumaran as Najeeb in Aadujeevitham

Last Updated: 02.02 PM, Mar 28, 2024


Aadujeevitham story: Najeeb (Prithviraj Sukumaran), a daily wage labourer from Kerala with a Gulf dream like many other aspirational Malayalis, lands in Saudi Arabia, only to be caught in a slavery racket, when he’s picked up by someone who’s not his visa sponsor, and dumped in the arid desert to tend to goats amid the most unimaginably deplorable conditions, with hardly any access to even basic amenities like food and water.

As Najeeb is reduced to skin and bones and no hope of ever making it back home alive, an opportunity for the freedom he so desires presents itself, but the journey is arduous. Can Najeeb survive it, after all?


Aadujeevitham movie review: Since its first publication, the book Aadujeevitham has had very many reprints, in the Malayalam original, with the English version also fairly popular. That, and the fact that the real Najeeb has made multiple media appearances, does not yield much novelty to the cinematic adaptation Aadujeeevitham in terms of the story. Most of us know what happened and how it eventually turns out. The expectation from a cinematic adaptation then is a jaw-dropping big-screen experience, an overwhelming visual and auditory sensation.

Does the film deliver on that count? Well, Prithviraj Sukumaran, who plays Najeeb in the film, had said that the objective of adapting Aadujeevitham was to present a visual depiction of Najeeb’s emotional journey during his dark days in slavery. The actor submitted himself completely to that process, so much so that you do see way beyond his physical transformation, at the end of which he’d lost a whopping 31 kilograms and was more skin on bones. He even gets a nude shot (don’t get any ideas, it’s a back shot) in that state. But does it tug at your heart strings or leave you with a gut-wrenching feeling?

If I am being completely honest, Aadujeevitham did not do that for me. I wondered if it had to do with the fact that I knew where this story was going, but then I knew for Manjummel Boys too and yet was rooting for Subhash all the time that he was down the pit. My heart just did not go out as much for Najeeb, which could also be because his story is only one of many. I have personally heard horror stories from women who’d gone as nannies and were treated nothing short of slaves.

Like Najeeb, there have been countless others. Yet, these tragic tales of oppression have never ever diminished the rosy lure of the Middle East. Every day, scores of Malayalis – mostly unskilled and semi-skilled – dreaming of a better tomorrow for their near-and-dear ones, put in every last penny of their savings or take out loans, for that visa that they hope will change their lives around. Well, even Najeeb dared a second trip despite the hell he endured the first time around.

What stood out for me was Prithviraj Sukumaran. It is difficult for an actor like him to shake off the star vibe he has, but try he does to a fair degree of success. Kudos to the makeup department, which greatly elevated the actor’s performance, be it the sun burnt skin and hair, jaggedly grown out finger and toe nails, discoloured teeth, etc. There was a lot of attention to detail here and that deserves a special mention.

KR Gokul as young Hakeem is also spectacular, almost stealing Prithviraj’s thunder during their escape. Jimmy Jean-Louis was very reminiscent of his outing as The Haitian in the sci-fi show Heroes – he doesn’t get much to do and makes one wonder why they needed a popular name for the role. The rest of the supporting cast, including Amala Paul, as Najeeb’s wife Sainu, gets limited screen space and does what’s required of them. This is, after all, a Prithviraj vehicle and 99 per cent of the screen time is about him.

When you have AR Rahman on board as music director, I guess you have to milk him for every dime he’s been paid, or so it seems with the film, which, at just short of 3 hours has elements that could have either not been shot at all, or been abandoned at the editing table, like, for instance, Jimmy Jean’s ‘musical piece’ with a bottle. The songs pass muster, but the overall ARR effect is not on the bright side for Aadujeevitham. The score doesn’t really linger once you leave the movie hall and that’s a big fail.

Another issue that I had with the film was the absence of subtitles for much of the Arabic dialogues. Blessy and team provides some context only where absolutely necessary. A little more consistency in this department would have gretly helped. That apart, the Malayalam version has no English subtitles, so, if you are not Malayali/do not understand Malayalam, and want to watch it, you will have to catch a show in your chosen language. If you are in a city like Bengaluru, where the Kannada version has a sum total of 6 shows, well...   

Aadujeevitham movie verdict: Aadujeevitham is a film that has to be watched for Prithviraj Sukumaran. It’s not ground-breaking, but will count as his best work to date that goes beyond his performance as Najeeb. If only the film was just as stellar; what a combination that would have been. There, unfortunately, Blessy misses the mark.

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