Sakhavu (2017) is a recent Malayalam film meaning “Comrade” in English. It’s an all-out story about a Communist Party worker, so go for it expecting a generous dose of worker rights & leftism. Starring Nivin Pauly in a dual role and Aishwarya Rajesh it’s a well-made film that is enjoyable. In the last century, just after independence, communist ideology was the trend in the country. Sensing the mood of the public, Indian filmmakers doled out films showing the exploitation of workers by wealthy zamindars and estate owners. In Sakhuvu too, we have the “old” hero, Comrade Krishnan, a communist party leader who fights for the workers’ rights in a tea estate (it has to be a tea estate always), then across industries in the region before retiring from public life due to old age and illness. Coming after a gap of a few decades, Sakhavu limits the use of force shown and tries to appeal intellectually to the youth of “capitalist” India.
The film starts with showing the day in the life of (present-day) Comrade Krishna Kumar, who is a Communist party student wing leader, ignorant & selfish Krishna Kumar is only interested in using the party name and power that comes by in it for his own good. Uttering Sakhavu (Comrade) is only lip service for him. On this day he is deputed by the local party office to go to the district hospital and donate blood for a fellow comrade. There he finds everyone around in genuine grief and selfless respect for the patient who is struggling for his life. The hospital staff take their own time in collecting the blood, due to which Krishna Kumar is forced to stay there for the entire day. To kill time, he asks around about the patient, that’s how he learns what a great man Comrade Krishnan was.
The flashback is one contiguous story but is told disjoined from different people’s perspectives of Comrade Krishnan, which makes it interesting mitigating the risk of it being a documentary of happenings. The first fight for the tea estate workers is shown in detail, then the marriage of the lead couple, finally jumping a few decades ahead to the accident that put Comrade Krishnan’s life in danger. Everything else in between is left to our imagination. The cinematography of the bygone era is done well, with the tint of Gevacolor enhancing the visuals. Aishwarya Rajesh has limited dialogues but has done full justice to her role.
The film could’ve benefited if the editor has reduced the running time by 20-30 minutes. The present-day incidents, in the beginning, felt long. Overall, a good film to watch if you like the synopsis or you are a fan of Nivin Pauly.