25 Years of ‘Sandesham’ – A biting and hilarious political satire that still remains relevant

“Polandine kurichu oraksharam mindaruthu!” (Don’t utter a single word about Poland!) It will be hard to find at least one Malayali who isn’t aware of this line. Even some non-Malayalis came to know about this film recently when Buzzfeed posted this line along with a map of Poland. Those who haven’t seen this film may fail to find the humor in it but once you see the film and the context in which it is said, you’ll get it. The line is from Sandesham (Message), one of the best political satires ever made. I don’t imagine a classic like this can be made today.

Wildly hilarious and replete with plenty of classic jokes and one-liners, the film was the brainchild of actor Srinivasan, who wrote the screenplay and also played one of the main leads. Directed by Sathyan Anthikad, who made few other cult classics like Nadodikkattu, its sequel Pattanpravesham, Gandhi Nagar 2nd Street (all three starring Srinivasan and Mohanlal) etc, the film revolves around a recently retired Railway station master Raghavan Nair (Thilakan) and his two stubborn and self-centred sons – Prabhakaran (Srinivasan) and Prakashan (Jayaram).

Both sons are staunch members of two rival political parties – Prabhakaran belongs to the leftist ‘RDP’ aka Revolutionary Democratic Party and Prakashan belongs to ‘INSP’ aka Indian National Secular Party – and despite being fairly educated and well-qualified, waste their time by indulging in the various activities of their respective parties. There are numerous occasions where the brothers get into heated arguments on whose party is doing more for their state. Prabhakaran can’t stand the fact that INSP has won the election and Prakashan is doing his best to stop RDP from getting the upper hand in the next election.

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These brothers make things worse not only for their parents but also for everyone else who tries to interfere in their petty fights. They try to take advantage of every situation that would benefit their party. Eventually, it becomes too ridiculous and things really get out of hand. There are enough situations in the film that one can do a parody out of. In one classic scene, Prabhakaran asks a prospective bride if she has read all his favorite books and even tells her about the many risks she’ll have to handle if she decides to get married to a “dangerous” man like him. Needless to say, this irks her father and he kicks him out of his house.

It goes without saying that RDP is the movie equivalent of the CPI (Communist Party of India) and INSP of the Indian National Congress – two parties that were predominantly strong at the time. However, Srinivasan doesn’t take any sides and his script is critical of the hypocritical ideologies and corrupt practices of not just these two parties but also every other political party in India and other parts of the world. In one scene, Prabhakaran’s mentor reminds him that marriage is a big no-no for their party and Prabhakaran retorts by letting the old man know that he is aware of his “little secret”.

The film serves as an appeal to youngsters of every generation to not make the foolish mistake of joining politics and ruining their precious lives. Even though it’s been 15 years since the film came out, it still enjoys a cult status because of its strong message, phenomenal writing and memorable performances especially from Srinivasan and Thilakan who played the part of the embarrassed and distraught father so well. No matter how many times I see it, I never tire of it. It remains fresh and relevant even to this day.

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