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Democracy brings together Gandhi, Godse, Marx, Jinnah and Ambedkar in Malayalam satire ‘Aabhaasam’

A fleet of buses named after political leaders, a life-altering journey, and satire in Jubith Namradath’s debut movie.

April 14 will be a big day for Jubith Namradath – it is the release of Aabhaasam, his debut film as a director. The trailer hints at an irreverent satire packed with troubled characters and clever one-liners. The title is an abbreviation of “Aarsha bhaaratha samsakaaram”, which means the glorious Indian Vedic culture. The cast includes Rima Kallingal, Suraj Venjaramoodu, Indrans and Alencier Ley Lopez.

Namradath has built his reputation on short films, such as Naalu Mazhapaatakal (2009), Democracy: To Each His Own (2010) and Aathmam (2014). Aabhaasam has been cleared with a U/A certificate and dialogue cuts by the Central Board of Film Certification, but the film might create a stir even after its release, Namradath told Scroll.in.

What are themes of ‘Aabhaasam’?
Aabhaasam
is a satire on what is happening in society, in and around us. There are five buses – Gandhi, Godse, Marx, Jinnah and Ambedkar. All these buses are run by the Democracy travel agency. The buses are a metaphor for different ideologies.

Aabhaasam charts the journey of the Gandhi bus from Bangalore to Kerala. The trip happens overnight. The main actors – Rima Kallingal, Sheetal Shyam, Suraj Venjaramoodu – are all travellers on the bus. It’s as much about their journey as that of the bus.

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Aabhaasam (2018).

Was satire the best way to tell your story?
Satire is an interesting genre. In Malayalam cinema, KG George’s Panchavadi Palam is a satirical comedy with an exaggerated storyline. It almost works as a political cartoon. That’s the thing with satire. You can say things you want to say and people will still enjoy it. They might get disturbed and think about it, but they will still laugh because it is not directly pointed at them.

But satire can also be a tricky genre to work with.
Yes, when you remove the humour and go to the dark side, then it becomes finger-pointing. But satire has a lot of possibilities too. Look at Satyajit Ray’s Shatranj ke Khilari. It’s a great narrative of political decay through chess and the players. Or, more recently, PK. Aamir Khan’s film was a commercial success in the satire genre that looked at how religion influences people. If done well, satire works on a lot of levels.

Aabhaasam is for everybody who is open to cinema. This film is about being open to people around you, to what is happening around you.

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Naalu Mazhapaatakal.

‘Aabhaasam’ has already created a fair share of controversy.
And I am expecting more trouble when the film comes out.

What happened to us in Bangalore was insane. We hired a bus from a local guy. This was the Jinnah bus, coloured green and with Jinnah’s picture on it. What we didn’t know was that guy was using the bus to ferry IT professionals every evening. Someone took the picture of this bus and posted it on ABVP’s Facebook page, saying the Karnataka government was in cahoots with the Pakistani government and chief minister Siddaramaiah must go. This became news. Thankfully it happened at the tail end of our shoot.

You’ve cast the transgender activist Sheetal Shyam in the film, which is quite unconventional.
The casting was crucial. In both Hindi and Malayalam cinema, transgender characters are typecast and are used to create senseless humour. We wanted to talk about men, women and transgenders because they all represent society. I have remained true to their characters.

Sheetal Shyam helped in the character formation of the transgender character when I wrote the script. Getting her to act in the film is a political statement.

Jubith Namradath (second from left), Suraj Venjaramoodu and Alencier Ley Lopez.
Jubith Namradath (second from left), Suraj Venjaramoodu and Alencier Ley Lopez.
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