Comrade in America cast: Dulquer Salmaan, Karthika, Priyanka Nair
Comrade in America director: Amal Neerad
Comrade in America rating: 1.5 stars
The theme of Communism has become the flavour of the season in the Malayalam film industry. After Tovino Thomas’ Oru Mexican Aparatha, Nivin Pauly’s Sakhavu, Dulquer Salmaan’s Comrade in America (CIA) romanticises Kerala’s Communism. The title of the film draws inspiration from Che Guevara’s life story. Born in Argentina, he led the revolution in Cuba. Che was captured and killed in an operation led by America’s top intelligence agency, CIA. And the director’s revolutionary vision stops at naming the film. Writer Shibin Francis has not offered an intelligent and engaging war of ideologies between Communism and Capitalism as most of the audience would have assumed based on the first look and teaser of the film.
But, compare to two other above-mentioned films, the setting of director Amal Neerad’s CIA is seemingly politically more relevant both at home and at abroad. Aji Matthew (Dulquer Salmaan) is a popular youth communist leader in Kottayam. He falls for Sarah (Karthika Muralidharan), a US citizen, who is sent to Kerala for education. How often that happens in reality? She hops on to Aji’s motorcycle to rescue herself from boredom in the city that doesn’t offer a lot of entertainment like the US. Her parents and relatives don’t approve of her romantic relationship with Aji and take her back to the US.
With just two weeks to his girlfriend’s wedding, Aji desperately wants to get to the US, so that he can give a happy ending to his love story. The only problem is it is not easy to get a US visa.The story of CIA gets interesting when Aji begins his journey to illegally enter the US through Mexico. The first half of the film is a damp squib with occasional one-liners that draw some cheers and claps from the audience.
The issue of the illegal immigrants is a hot topic in the US. The Trump administration is hell-bent on building a wall along the Mexican border to stop ‘million and millions’ of ‘bad people’ pouring into the country. In reality, sneaking into the ‘land of opportunity’ is not as easy at all. People risk life, dignity and everything in between crossing the US-Mexico border. The struggles, ordeal and sacrifices of these undocumented travellers can be really gut-wrenching. However, CIA spares the audience of many details by not exploring the perils of this journey to its full extent. And that’s a shame.
During one scene, a guide who helps Aji and gang cross the border explains the risks that lay ahead of them in the journey. When he asks the women travellers to keep the condoms handy as there is a high possibility of them getting raped, the audience is quiet and anxious. But people erupt in laughter when the character played by Chandini Sreedharan asks Aji to buy condoms in case he is raped. I’m compelled to point out that the majority of people either think men are immune to sexual violence or find the issue very hard to even fathom or treat it as a joke.
The performances of the actors are pleasing. Dulquer Salmaan, Karthika, Priyanka Nair, Chandini Sreedharan, Soubin Shahir and others have done a convincing job. The director has tried to milk emotions through John Vijay’s character in vain. John fares badly as a Sri Lankan immigrant driving taxi in central America.
Amal has taken an interesting subject but has failed to do justice to it. The director hovers around the generic stuff, making the film less appealing than it already is.