Prithviraj Sukumaran's The Goat Life (Aadujeevitham): A Look At The Shocking True Story
Prithviraj Sukumaran’s The Goat Life (Aadujeevitham): A Look At The Shocking True Story. (Photo Credit – Instagram)

Prithviraj Sukumaran stars as the main character in the survival drama titled “Aadujeevitham: The Goat Life,” directed by Blessy. Adapted from the acclaimed 2008 novel “Aadujeevitham” by Benyamin, the novel has garnered significant popularity as one of Malayalam’s best-sellers.

About The Movie

Director Blessy’s highly anticipated Malayalam film “Aadujeevitham” starring Prithviraj Sukumaran is set to release on March 28th after six years of production. The survival drama, adapted from Benyamin’s bestselling novel, faced various challenges leading to filming interruptions.

During the Covid-induced lockdown, the cast and crew of the film faced a significant challenge when they became stranded in Jordan while filming in the Wadi Rum desert. Despite the global lockdown, local authorities allowed them to continue filming with strict safety measures. However, filming was suspended indefinitely by the end of March. After being stuck in May, the cast and crew were repatriated to Kochi via Delhi from Amman on a particular flight.

In a recent statement, actor Prithviraj emphasized that the film’s quality remained strong despite the challenges. During a discussion with Film Companion South, he pointed out that not a single crew member settled for less.

He praised the crew’s dedication in Jordan, noting their primary concern was resuming filming. Recognizing the film’s significance to them, he acknowledged their commitment was paramount despite being behind the scenes.

About The Author

Before becoming a writer and returning to Kerala, Benyamin had spent years working in Bahrain. Sunil, a friend of Najeeb’s brother-in-law, knew Benyamin. Sunil informed Najeeb that Benyamin was searching for someone like him, with similar experiences, to write about the lives of migrant Keralites. They were introduced through Sunil.

Published in 2008, the novel catapulted Benyamin into prominence in Malayalam literature. Before “Aadujeevitham,” Benyamin’s recognition was confined mainly to literary circles. Nonetheless, the novel’s broad readership among the general populace secured him lasting acclaim as an author. Its themes struck a chord with individuals who had undergone the experience of working overseas while longing for their families back home.


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The Real-Life Story

“Aadujeevitham” narrates the genuine story of Najeeb, a Malayali migrant laborer compelled into servitude as a goatherd in Saudi Arabia. Enduring the harsh desert conditions for two years, he encountered no one except his brutal employer, who subjected him to torture. Deprived of spare clothing, he tended to 700 goats single-handedly. Eventually, he lost faith in his humanity, perceiving himself as akin to the goats he tended.

During a 2018 interview with The News Minute, Najeeb reflected on his first journey abroad to Saudi Arabia as a migrant worker from the village of Arattupuzha in Haripad, Alappuzha. This noteworthy expedition took place in 1993.

Like many other Keralites needing more extensive education, Najeeb left his home seeking employment opportunities for a better future. Assured by the agent of a job as a supermarket salesman, Najeeb soon discovered this pledge to be a deceptive falsehood.

Najeeb recalls that the journey from the airport lasted for two days, seemingly endless, prompting him to recognize it as a trap. He notes that someone from his village introduced him to the agent in Mumbai, who helped with the visa process.

Najeeb invested Rs 55,000 in the visa, leading to the sale of five cents of land to secure the funds. Had he retained the land, it could have yielded a significant sum now. Upon reaching the desert, on the second day of travel from the airport, he encountered solely his Arab Taskmaster and the Taskmaster’s brother. Despite his efforts, he did not receive any salary in Saudi Arabia.

Upon arrival at his destination, Najeeb was often in tears, a pattern that endured throughout his two-year tenure, driven by fear, distress, and powerlessness. His duties included tending to 700 goats owned by his employer, who kept a close watch on him through binoculars to deter any escape attempts. While the employer lived in a modest desert shack, Najeeb was compelled to sleep outdoors.

Despite witnessing Najeeb’s tears, the Arab remained indifferent and resorted to physical abuse. Najeeb had no choice but to consume stale kuboos, moistened with goat’s milk to make it palatable as it was too dry to eat otherwise. The unwashed goats emitted a foul odor that tainted the milk, yet Najeeb had no other food options, forcing him to endure the unpleasant taste of the kuboos with the milk.

As the Arab overseer took baths, he forbade Najeeb from using water for bathing or personal cleanliness. Najeeb wore only a long-shift dress, with no alternative clothing ever provided for him to change into.

As time passed, Najeeb became accustomed to the nauseating odor. His hair lengthened because he was forbidden from trimming or shaving it. In the barren desert and the isolated shed, the Taskmaster had access to creature comforts, while Najeeb was denied access.

The Arab’s older brother would sometimes visit to take the goats to the market for sale, and both treated Najeeb with equal harshness. Najeeb feared that his life would end there without any chance of escape. When Najeeb left home, his wife was eight months pregnant with their first child, causing him great distress as he remained unaware of the delivery’s progress and the well-being of his wife and the newborn, regardless of gender. Najeeb had little interaction with anyone other than his Taskmaster throughout his two-year stay. Initially unable to understand a single word of Arabic, Najeeb would be punished by his boss if he mistakenly chose a black goat instead of a white one.

Najeeb was left alone during an evening in 1995 when his Taskmaster and the Taskmaster’s brother were away for the latter’s daughter’s wedding. Seizing the long-awaited opportunity, he swiftly departed from the premises, driven by unwavering determination.

When Najeeb caught sight of his reflection in a distant stream after two years, fear consumed him. During his journey, he stumbled upon another Malayali enduring comparable hardships in a different area for goat-rearing. It wasn’t until the fellow Malayali approached him and whispered in Malayalam about their shared desire to escape that Najeeb recognized their common language and situation. However, knowing that the other Malayali was also closely monitored by his Taskmaster, Najeeb could only hope for his eventual escape without being able to offer any assistance.

The interaction between Najeeb and the other Malayali is a notable highlight in the novel. Following a one-and-a-half-day journey, Najeeb reached a road and stood there for hours, hoping to catch the attention of a passing vehicle. Despite numerous cars passing by, it wasn’t until one driven by a compassionate Arab finally stopped. The Arab kindly offered to give Najeeb a ride to Riyadh, the capital city of Saudi Arabia. Once there, Najeeb found a Malayali restaurant where he received food and new clothing. After two years, he could at last bathe, shave, and cut his hair.

In Riyadh, Najeeb discovered that some of his relatives resided there. He surrendered to the country’s legal system after reconnecting with them and meeting in person. This was the only recourse available to migrants like him who had lost important documents such as passports and visas and had fallen victim to deceptive agents.

Najeeb served a 10-day jail sentence. Despite enduring harsh conditions previously, jail felt relatively comfortable to him. Life in jail provided basic amenities such as food, cleanliness, and the ability to rest. Finally, the day came for Najeeb to return home. The boy was two years old when he reunited with his son, Safeer. Najeeb resumed his job as a daily wage laborer. Two years later, his brother-in-law facilitated his acquisition of a free visa to Bahrain.

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