A line from the classic Malayalam film Ee Naadu captures all too well the mood of Kerala in the 1980s “Everyone wants to go to Dubai! They think we are Sheiks there.” Though the Gulf Malayalee toils in the sweltering desert sun all the yearlong; for a brief while, on furlough he lives it up quite like a little Sheik. The period also saw the price of goods was not governed by market forces but by the whims of the Gulf Malayalee.
The dizzying growth of the manmade paradises in the desert kingdoms has the ineluctable stain of sweat and gore of the Indian migrants. And back home, Kerala’s economy, landscape and cinema was shaped by the Gulf migration. The enchantment with the Middle East which began in the late 70s peaked in the 90s and journeyed down the decades. Malayalam cinema, too, took the migratory route capturing the images of struggling migrant life with all its complexities.
Set in the political milieu of the 80s, Salim (Mammooty) works in the Gulf and comes home once in two years. Treated like royalty he finds his family and friends desert him when he loses his job.
Nadodi Kattu (1987)
Two friends Ramdas (Mohanlal) and Vijayan (Sreenivasan) fantasise about life in Dubai. They sell their cow, everything, to pay an agent for their dream jobs. They are taken on a fishing boat to Dubai but they soon find themselves on the shores of Chennai instead, scammed off their savings.
Nazar (Murali) returns home fed up with working 12 years in the Gulf only to discover his family finds his presence intrusive. Everyone wants to know when he will return. A peaceful life is illusory as the demands of his family become troublesome.
Aarabi Katha (2007)
Is the woeful tale of domestic help Ashwathi (Kavvya Madhavan) in an Arab’s house in Saudi Arabia. She flees the cruelty of her employees and her slavish job and roams the streets. With no passport and no place to stay, she is on the run from the police.
Diamond Necklace (2012)
Arun Kumar, a young doctor, working in Dubai pushes his credit cards to fund his heady lifestyle. High on credit and low on morals, Arun cannot help stealing a diamond necklace from a patient.