Director: Amal Neerad
Screenplay: Sibin Francis
Lead: Dulquer Salman
Comrade in America starts with the dream of every young communist, a protest against a corrupt minister, blocking his way to Sunday mass, while the police, clearly antagonistical body language present, forms a protective cordon in front of the minister's house. A couple of punch dialogues filled with subtle and not-so-subtle warnings pass back and forth between the Sub Inspector (played by Sujith Sankar, the antagonist in last year's brilliant Maheshinte Prathikaaram) and two older comrades, funnyman Soubin Shahir and Dileesh Pothan (who directed the aforementioned Maheshinte Prathikaaram), and the police decide to 'lathy charge'. Scenes of carnage, which I suspect will make it to many communist party propaganda films to evoke sympathy and martyrdom, follow, and the students are chased away. Then, as the police looks at the few students who are beaten down and are unable to get up, our hero Aji Mathew (Dulquer Salman) arrives, in Neerad's patented slow-mo, stretching what would've taken 30 seconds to full-blown 10 minutes scene of courageous retaliation by the young communists, with a garish remake of an old communist anthem (that I love), as they break the hitherto unbreakable police cordon without any difficulty whatsoever, and nary a swing of the baton in the direction of Aji's handsome face. It later transpires that the minister they are protesting is the boss of Aji's father, who works for a party in the opposite end of the spectrum. Point to remember, this movie takes place in 2015, before the election, which put the communist party in power. Communist party people always love to be portrayed as fighting against the power, for some reason. Which is all right, but man, c'mon. This is Kerala, and how many times are you going to show that communist party is always fighting against the government, when half the time communist party themselves has been the ruling government? I digress. Anyway, comical situations ensue in the household, now that we know Aji and his father Mathew (Siddique) have opposing political beliefs.
One day, Aji's passport arrives, and we delve into an alcohol-induced hallucination, in which Aji talks to Lenin, Che Guevara and Karl Marx about why he needs it (to go to America), and for what he is going (surprise, surprise; love). Flashback sequences in the middle of hallucination sequence shows Aji's hand-to-hand combat abilities (fight scene with some bus drivers), his commitment to equality, liberty and fraternity (stops some seniors from ragging freshers), his god-awesome football skills (he wears Messi's No.10 jersey), and his relationship with the American Born Confused Malayali girl Sarah Kurien (Karthika Muraleedharan). Needless to say, Sarah's bourgeoisie parents disapprove of the communist Aji, and one night Sarah is whisked away to the USA on false pretenses. Determined to fight for his love, and egged on by a Malayalam poetry spouting Che Guevara hallucination, Aji decides to go to America and get Sarah. Unable to get the visa on such short notice, he decides to get into America illegally.
Now we get into serious business, or so I thought, after waiting till halftime for the decision to go to the USA, land of the free and plenty. Nothing wrong with taking your time, it helps in developing characters and arcs for those characters. But what follows later disappointed me, at least. The journey of getting to America illegally is one of the most dangerous things to do in the world, I hear, apart from being a beefeater in 13 of the states in India. Amal Neerad glosses over most of the journey from Nicaragua to Mexico in a taxi, driven by a (ex-LTTE, its implied) Sri Lankan. The journey seems too smooth for that beaten up cab, and Aji seems to carry a lot of US Dollars to not even haggle with the Sri Lankan cabbie or the agent who promises to get them over the border. A few other people from different nationalities join him, each with their own obviously sad stories, but Neerad's deficiencies as a director shows, as he is not able make us invest in these characters. There's the Pakistani Muslim, the Chinese guy wanting freedom, the Hispanic family of four, and the conveniently Indian pretty young girl. Neerad had one half worth of screentime, and plenty of characters with enough background to become compelling characters with a shade of personality thrown in. Yet, he completely fails to develop them beyond black and white caricatures. More damningly, he utterly fails to capture the difficulties involved in this dangerous and taxing journey, and even inducts a stunt piece where Aji once again gets to play hero, protecting the girl from getting raped, against four guys carrying semi-automatic guns. Some of the dumbest bad white guys I've ever seen. This deadly trail turned out to be a tough but not-so-deadly stroll through some random desert, with a thorny tree and a rogue agent turning out to be the deadliest foes they come up against. Where is the danger from the cartel and general law-and-order situation on the trail? Where is the dangerous trek across the wilderness which threatens the would-be immigrants mentally and physically? Where is the actual danger of being killed by the bullets of the cartel, the bandits on the way and finally, the merciless US Border Patrol? I'm supposed to believe that they got to the border in time, without facing all these perils, like a leisurely stroll down a random barren wasteland, without a guide, armed only with a made-in-china GPS? And the ability of the Border Patrol on show compared to the newfangled tech that they possess that I've heard so much about is much ado about nothing. I'm so disappointed by how a movie with such potential was handled by Amal Neerad, but I shouldn't be surprised, he has always disappointed me.
The last few scenes were light and funny, but the payoff isn't worth it.
First Half: 6/10
Second half: 3.5/10
Music: 5/10 (not very memorable)
Communist party people are the shiz, yo. They are socially conscientious, protests corrupt politicians, practices equality, liberty and such, they can fight like Bruce Lee, they can love like George from Premam. If only all the real life communists were like this.
Dulquer's characters always seem to leave their home/town/state/country for one reason or other.
Amal Neerad is still obsessed with slow-motion video technology.
If you're not sure if you reached America, consult the signboards.