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Aug 29, 2011

Gaddama (Khaddama)

Women in flight (no, not Amelia Earhart), escaping their wretched existence make good movie material. If they are fleeing Middle-East, the place already has a shady reputation when it comes to women’s rights, it is even more convincing. Or ask Betty Mahmoody. Hollywood took a stab at this subject with Mahmoody’s real life escape from Iran with her little daughter in the film "Not Without My Daughter" adapted from her book of the same name.

Kerala, the Indian state which sends the largest number of workers to the Gulf countries in the Middle East should definitely have some stories, right? But who cares about the stories of maids and ayahs, drivers and construction workers unless there was a Cinderella factor at the end.

Looks like Malayalam director Kamal does. He knows a sellable story when he sees one.  He chanced upon the harrowing real life story of a maid named Subaida from a Malayali journalist in the Middle East, K.U.Iqbal . It had the makings of a best-seller, no doubt. If it was in the US a paperback would have been out first. To Kamal’s credit he put Subaida’s story on fast track, skipping the book stores and direct to the big screen.

Kavya Madhavan gets to play the role of Aswathy, the Khaddama(Gaddama or the house maid), the lead character. Since it is a story of escape, the captors(or the employers) are not shown in a flattering light. Suck it up, one family does not make a country, the director is not here to make generalization he is presenting a story, of which he does a commendable job. He is aided by a set of talented actors including Kavya, Sreenivasan, Suraj Venjaramood and Murali Gopi. Kavya as always, has acted well, she is such a seasoned actress. Then again this is like "the" default role for a Malayalam actress – defenseless, teary eyed, at the mercy of man- her protector, speaking volumes with huge helpless eyes rather than using real dialogue.

It was interesting to get a peek into the social fabric of Middle East composed of two distinct layers (maybe more if you count the Western expats, but I am not going there)– one, of the rich natives and a nether world of their coterie of servants and aids, two streams running parallel but never polluting each other by crossing. Khaddama is a window in to this sub strata of Middle Eastern society, made up of foreigners, whose survival in the desert is at the mercy of their rich Arab employers. Definitely worth a watch.