The first look for Malayalam star Nivin Pauly's "Sakhavu" is out. Written and directed by Sidhartha Siva, the film is expected to release in 2017. The poster shows a determined Nivin with his arm raised, his eyes staring ahead, in the stance of a protesting comrade standing up to the powers that be. The red shirt marks out his political ideology visually too.
Politics finds its way into Malayalam cinema frequently even if the subject of the film is something else altogether. From tea shops to kallu shops, ordinary Malayali conversations often venture into debates about politics and current affairs. Unlike most parts of the world where communism is considered to be a dead ideology, the state has a powerful communist party (although at the national level, it has become near negligible) and a student body that is actively involved in politics. So much so that some amount of "viplavam" (revolution) is considered to be a necessary rite of passage for a young person.
In the past, films like "Rakthasakshigal Zindabad", "Sathyaprathinja", "Lal Salaam" and "Sandesham" among others, have dealt with the communist movement, the politics within the party and outside it, the sacrifices made by its leaders as well as the hypocrisy of those who don't practise what they preach. While some may have bordered on jingoism, others have been merciless in satirizing the subject.
Unlike the other South Indian industries where filmmakers tread very carefully and a political film is made with great trepidation and cushioned with disclaimers, Malayalam cinema has not been afraid to call out the political leadership of the day. Contemporary Malayalam films continue this tradition, with films like "Left, Right, Left" winning critical acclaim and becoming blockbusters.
Nivin Pauly has played a communist in his previous films too. In "Malarvaadi Arts Club", his debut film, he plays the volatile Prakshan who indulges in goondagiri at the behest of the communist party. He and his friends are exploited by the local leaders and get into trouble because of it. While the film was somewhat amateurish in its storytelling, it struck a chord with young audiences mainly because of the sincerity of its cast.
In "Ohm Shanthi Oshana", he is Giri, the hot-headed farmer revolutionary who is a do-gooder and works for social reform. He beats up a cop, speaks up against the dowry system and is generally the comrade to idolize (and no wonder Pooja, played by Nazriya, finds him irresistible). If "Malarvaadi Arts Club" showed how the party uses its young cadre for its own selfish purposes, "Ohm Shanthi Oshana" was about a young man who lives his life according to the principles he worships.
In "Oru Vadakkan Selfie", the same Nivin appears as Umesh, a wastrel who contemplates for a moment if he should oppose the bandh called for by the party. But when others explain to him why a bandh makes everyone happy, he gives up the idea immediately. The film has little moments like these when it takes pot-shots at the party ideology and practices.
"Sakhavu" is a socio-political film about a Left leader and from the looks of its promising poster, one can expect another crackling film from the versatile Nivin Pauly. The beard is back at any rate and nobody's complaining!