Published: 04th August 2021
Meet this 27-year-old medical student who wrote the story of Sara's, the Malayalam film
We spoke to Akshay Hareesh, a medical student who wrote the story of Sara's, a film that deals with abortion and the choice to not have children
The first lockdown had just begun, unexpectedly. A 25-year-old Akshay Hareesh was waiting for his NEET-PG results, watching films and playing video games. On one such day, while randomly scrolling through Facebook, he stumbled upon a post by Malayalam filmmaker Jude Anthany Joseph, seeking story ideas from people that could potentially be developed into films once things got back to normal. He did not waste a lot of time. The film buff was quick to shoot an email to Jude with his idea.
Almost a year later, this MD Community Medicine student of Government Medical College, Thrissur, is well known as the writer of Sara's, an Amazon Prime original film that was directed by Jude. The film that spoke of abortion and the choice to not have children was well appreciated not just by critics but also by audiences. This is a kind of success that Akshay did not expect to achieve early in life.
"Being a medical professional has helped me a lot in crafting this particular story. I have met and spoken to a lot of women who have had no say in their pregnancy. Even if they wanted to abort the zygote, they may not have the support to do so. Helplessly, they give birth," says Akshay. The film's protagonist is Sara, a 25-year-old aspiring filmmaker who chooses to not have children. Parallel to her, the film also shows Lisamma, a woman in her late thirties, pregnant with her fourth child. Even though she does not get a lot of screentime, people may not easily forget a particular scene where the doctor scolds her for not opting for contraceptive measures. She doesn't say anything, but looks at him, helplessly. "These are quite common scenes in the gynaecology ward of a government medical college," says Akshay.
Sara's, Akshay says, was one of the first Malayalam films to be shot right after the lockdown restrictions were eased. "It was a 34-day-long shoot. The entire crew was in a bio bubble, constantly getting tested for COVID. The makers had to ensure that nobody falls ill because that would delay the shoot further," he says. By that time, Akshay had cleared his entrance examination and had joined the medical college. He says that he consciously made a choice to not visit the film's set until the last day. "I study community medicine, a stream that deals with testing people and vaccinating them. I did not want to be that person obstructing the shoot of his first film (laughs) by visiting the set and potentially infecting someone," he says.
Even though the film was lauded by many, it wasn't well-received by the conservative and religious circles. This did not surprise Akshay and he says that he somehow expected more people to criticise the theme. "People have asked all sorts of questions. They wanted to know why the protagonist married her boyfriend if they did not want to have children. The others said that contraception could have avoided the pregnancy. But all of them would get clearer answers if they actually watched the film," says Akshay. At the same time, he says it was heartwarming to have had so many women in their thirties and forties appreciating him for the theme.
On the other hand, a lot many pointed out Sara's many privileges, including a financially secure background and a supportive family and spouse. The writer says that he was well aware of these privileges, even before the film was made. "I had to convey a message and a commercial film was the best way to do so. This is a mainstream film and an entertainer. I could have written a morose tale, making Lisamma the protagonist. But that may not have gotten much reach among the masses," he says.
Now, let us come back to the email that Akshay had sent Jude in 2020. Did we forget to tell you that the story thread he pitched initially was not that of Sara's? "Even though I developed it as a story, Jude got back to me asking if I could work on a simpler story on relationships that would be easier to execute. Hence, Sara's was born," says Akshay.