By Salini Vineeth
For a woman, the decision to terminate a pregnancy is never an easy one. The intensity of this dilemma might vary based on the woman’s social, cultural and economic backgrounds. The recent Malayalam movie Sara’S, directed by Jude Anthany Joseph, portrays a woman in such a dilemma.
Sara (played by Anna Ben) is an aspiring filmmaker. Right from her teenage years, Sara was clear that she didn’t want children. She is aware that her decision is unconventional, especially in a society that believes ‘a family without children is incomplete.’ So, she dodges many marriage proposals until she meets Jeevan (played by Sunny Wayne). He shares her views about parenthood. He proposes to her and promises that they will never consider having kids.
A year into their marriage, an unintended pregnancy occurs. Sara is by then working on her directorial debut, and she has no doubts about getting an abortion. But when their family ‘accidentally’ finds out about the pregnancy, equations change.
Jeevan and their families want Sara to continue with the pregnancy. Even though Sara repeats her resolve, they corner her and accuse her of putting her career above everyone’s happiness. This leaves Sara in an excruciating dilemma.
In the Malayalam movie industry, Sara’S is the first of its kind. Jude Anthany Joseph and the crew deserve a standing ovation for choosing such a bold theme. The movie’s central idea is powerful: it’s about a woman’s right to her body.
We live in a society where women are told how to walk, talk, dress and live. Society often has an opinion about everything a woman does with her body – her attire, height, weight, makeup, gait, and even cadence. Terminating a pregnancy comes at an extreme end of that spectrum.
The film also talks about the lack of sex education in India, inequality in Indian marriages, and how unprepared Indian couples are as they enter into parenthood. The movie clearly states that ‘it’s better not to be a parent than a bad parent.’ In the past few years, several cases of infanticide committed by parents have been reported in Kerala. Also, the rate of post-partum depression is rising.
While the movie addresses several serious subjects, it only makes a half-hearted attempt at conveying them to the audience. Dealing with such a delicate subject as abortion, the film should have taken the audience along with Sara on her inner journey.
Instead, the movie’s narrative is so detached from Sara that we only get a distant glimpse of her character. It fails to capture the complex scenario of a woman taking a decision to terminate a pregnancy.
While the movie celebrates the freedom of choice of a woman, it somewhat undermines her struggles to get there. The film also tries to emphasise that Sara’s primary consideration isn’t her career but rather her choice not to become a parent. But, what’s wrong if a woman chooses to terminate her pregnancy for her career? Why is it painted as a selfish move?
Most of the characters in this movie are underdeveloped. While there was a lot of scope to show Sara’s creative journey, her struggle is sized up in an almost comical song, which adds to the levity. So, even when Sara talks about her ambition at length, the audience might fail to empathise with her.
Her husband Jeevan’s character is even more underdeveloped. The character had the potential to be one of the most brilliant male protagonists in Malayalam cinema. Instead, he just remains a conflicted, sometimes supportive, sometimes condescending husband. Also, his thought process about abortion is completely omitted.
The movie has a fairytale climax that fails to convey how an abortion might impact a woman. Her possible physical and emotional trauma after an abortion is entirely ignored. It fails to assert the complexities and psychological nuances that such a decision might bring up.
In a nutshell, the film intended to portray Sara as a strong and independent woman but didn’t bother to go deep into her struggles or catharsis. The feminine perspective is missing.
There is no doubt that Sara’S has kickstarted a lot of discussions. It is promising to see people openly discussing contraception, unintended pregnancy, parenthood and abortion. However, due to its light treatment of an extremely delicate subject, the movie might not achieve the impact it could have had.
Salini Vineeth is a Bengaluru-based fiction and freelance writer. She has self-published four books. She loves writing short stories and has been published in various literary magazines.