Was impossible to make 'The Goat Life' 10 years ago: Prithviraj Sukumaran

The movie is based on the 2008 bestselling novel "Aadujeevitham" by Benyamin


Actor Prithviraj Sukumaran says it took him and director Blessy a decade to mount their passion project "The Goat Life", a real-life survival drama, as revenue models in Malayalam cinema weren't as streamlined back then as they are today.

  Based on the 2008 bestselling novel "Aadujeevitham" by Benyamin, the film follows Najeeb, a Malayali immigrant labourer who finds himself forced into slavery as a goatherd in the secluded farm of Saudi Arabia.

It was never about funds, said Prithviraj as Blessy has also pulled double duty as a producer.  

"Even in 2009, Blessy's vision for the film was grand. Back then, it was impossible to do the filming in Malayalam and be hoping to find some sense in the business model. It took us 10 years to finally get to a point where we could think of doing this and maybe think of making the money back.

"The revenue streams have opened up and the industry has changed. Finances were never in question because Blessy is producing it himself and I know, in all honesty, that he has put his life savings into it," the Malayalam star told PTI in an interview here.

Prithviraj said he had also heard about Benyamin's book as it became a smash hit soon after it hit the stands, and it was Blessy who handed him a copy of "Aadujiveetham". 

"I was in the middle of doing multiple films at that time, and I had not yet got the time to get around reading it. But Blessy gave me a copy, and that's the copy I read, and that was in back 2009," he recalled.

The actor, known for films such as Ennu Ninte Moideen, Kaaviya Thalaivan, Lucifer, and Aiyya, described "The Goat Life" as a glorious manifestation of the "alternate human spirit".

"The fact that this is a true story and there is someone who lived through this and survived. This who's amongst us alive and well today to be able to tell the tale is just incredible. 

"The spirit of survival is something that cannot be articulated, but what this film will make you feel when you see it. That is the essence of the human spirit of survival," he said.

When they started shooting for the movie, the pandemic broke out. The crew was stranded in the Jordan desert for 70 days from March to May 2020 due to pandemic's restrictions. 

"We had to suspend shooting for almost two years. Then we got back to finish the shoot. We went back to Algeria and Jordan, and then to Kerala. I guess that is the story that this film had to live through. This film had to be made," he said.

To prepare for the role, the 41-year-old actor said he met with Najeeb, whom he described as the "epitome of human strength".

"I've met him more than once. Imagine the amount of strength he must have carried within himself, the faith he must have had to (keep)."

Prithviraj, who is also distributing the film in Malayalam through his banner Prithviraj Productions, said Malayalam cinema is slowly finding a distribution network.

"The Malayalam industry is still very much in the nascent stage with our distribution networks and systems, especially outside Kerala, which we call the rest of India market, and the rest of the world market. 

"We have a fairly healthy network in place in UAE and GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries, and North America's fast catching up. Once we achieve full potential, the numbers are going to shoot up. Because thankfully, we make great content, and I believe when great content travels well, it will be received."

The actor, who will next be seen in "Bade Miya Chote Miyan", said he is happy to be working at a time when somebody sitting in Srinagar can find out about a fantastic Malayalam film that is available on a streamer.

"That's where this sort of diffusion of talent and the migration of content is becoming easier, more consistent, more regular. In the not-too-distant future, we will all be just making Indian cinema, which is great," he added. 

Produced by Visual Romance, "The Goat Life" also features Amala Paul, K.R. Gokul, as well as Hollywood actor Jimmy Jean-Louis and Arab actors Talib al Balushi and RikAby in pivotal roles. 

Academy Award winners A R Rahman and Resul Pookutty have given music and sound design, respectively. The film is set to release in theatres worldwide on March 28.

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