The Goat Life Review: A Saga Of Pain

Aadujeevitham (The Goat Life) is undoubtedly one of the most successful experiments in Prithviraj’s journey as an actor, applauds Divya Nair.

What would you do if you found yourself stranded in an unknown place with no access to food, water or people?

Imagine the place you are stranded in is an Arab land, miles away from the comfort of your home and the only way to survive is well, to find ways and reasons to stay alive.

National Award-winning director Blessy brings to life the story of Najeeb Muhammad in Aadujeevitham (The Goat Life), borrowing its title from the author Benyamin, who wrote the book.

Najeeb Muhammed is a daily wage labourer, who emigrates to the Gulf hoping to find a better job to support his family in Kerala.

The day he lands in the Gulf, he is kidnapped by an Arab who eventually separates him from his co-traveller and forces him to work as a goat herd in an illegal shelter somewhere in the middle of a desert.

After days of failed negotiation and resistance, Najeeb realises that he is trapped and that there is no going back.

Thus begins an arduous, harrowing journey of loneliness and survival through various moments of torture, slavery and gradual loss of identity and dignity.

Najeeb has no one to talk to or share his story with, so we journey through Najeeb’s humble past and his purpose of travel during episodes of absolute desperation and exasperation in his new workplace.

Najeeb yearns to reunite with his pregnant wife Sainu while reminiscing moments of their last days together.

The contrast of the two lands — of Najeeb’s modest but colourful world in Kerala and his present barren, hopeless state — are masterfully blended in imagery, jolting us back to the pain and suffering of the protagonist, whose life and fate are not so different from the goats he rears.

They not only share ruthless masters but both are now aware that ‘you live so long as you serve a purpose.’

As years pass by, there is nothing much left of Najeeb that feels like him anymore.

His aching, limping body has long given up the fight and whatever is left of his soul and spirit is slowly catching up. The first time he glimpses his dishevelled look in the rearview mirror of his owner’s vehicle, the realisation is shattering.

The limitless sights of his barren workplace are a stark reminder of his endless woes.

Yet, each broken recollection of home ignites the rare hope and human strength to fight and escape the present.

As an actor, Prithviraj has given his heart, soul and body to become the Najeeb you empathise with and also secretly admire.

To simply imagine that this is someone’s real-life experience makes it even more difficult to watch.

So whether he is simply begging for some water to drink, fighting off the vultures or enduring the whips of his relentless master, you feel every emotion and anguish with the same intensity of a helpless, bonded labourer who is denied his basic rights.

A R Rahman’s poignant score is unsettling and lingers on filling in spaces of silence and solitude of the characters.

For an alert audience who knows how to distinguish real life from reel, K U Mohanan’s skillful cinematography is another incentive. Otherwise, how long can audiences endure the vast, beautiful sands for hours at a stretch?

To capture three unstylish men walking through monotone dunes hoping to find the end of a road is no mean task but Mohanan intersperses it with his aptitude offering plenty of remarkable scenes.

Aadujeevitham may not necessarily be the mass entertainer that Prithviraj has been capable of delivering so far.

Yet, it is undoubtedly one of his best and most successful experiments in his journey as an actor.

Meanwhile, Blessy, who is well known for making his audience weep through films like Kaazhcha and Thanmathra, kind of lost touch in the second half.

While a great deal of time is spent on Najeeb’s haunting experiences of escaping from captivity, the second half finds an alternate hero in the form of another emigrant named Ibrahim Khadri (Jimmy Jean-Louis). His charismatic presence and leadership, to some extent, also diluted Najeeb’s journey, taking the focus off him for a while.

Aadujeevitham may seem excruciatingly long for a story of an ordinary man caught up in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Like, someone in the audience said: ‘This is so difficult and disturbing to watch’ and the companion added: ‘Simply watching him made me feel so thirsty and hungry.’

Yes, we are all grateful for the lives we have.

But for those who are willing to endure this saga of pain, it is well worth your time and experience.

Aadujeevitham (The Goat Life) Review Rediff Rating: