Mammootty (centre) plays the lead in the film Image Credit: Supplied

With director Salim Ahamad, you can expect a good story and one told sincerely.

Be it his maiden venture, Adaminte Makan Abu (a National Film Award winner), or his second, Kunjananthande Kada, Ahamad’s protagonists are common men with basic dreams.

Pathemari, his third film, featuring Mammootty in the lead again, touches you with its simple tale.

It is set in UAE in the early 1970s, when Malayalis migrated here for that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Travelling in dhows (an Arabian boat, called pathemari in Malayalam) without proper documents and saddled with uncertainty about reaching the shore alive, the Malayali found strength in his dreams.

Pathemari holds a mirror to the saga of many Malayalis of this era.

Pallikal Narayanan (Mammootty) and close friend Moideen (Srinivasan) board a dhow helmed by Velayudhan (Siddique), who deals in this business. Despite a journey marked with hardships and uncertainty, Narayanan and Moideen reach Khor Fakkan island and sneak onto the mainland. Soon they find employment and their families live comfortably.

But what about Narayanan’s dreams of building his own house in his native place and settling there someday with his family?

Striking a chord with Malayali expatriates in the UAE, Pathemari might stir up memories of fathers or uncles working in the Middle East and visiting home once in two years with a huge box of gifts.

The first half of the story is slow, very much like the pathemari, but picks up speed in the second half. Several moments in Narayanan’s life tug at your heart. In one scene, Narayanan makes a phone call to India on the day of his niece’s wedding and waits eagerly to hear news about the happy day, but the busy family members cut short the conversation. Another time, when he calls home, his two grown-up sons, not keen on talking to him, tell their mother to inform him that they are sleeping.

Yet Narayanan holds no bitterness. In fact, given another life, he would do the same things again.

Raising a toast to his life, Ahamad salutes the magnanimity of the average Malayali who lives frugally so that his family is comfortable back in India.

Narayanan’s shoes fit Mammootty perfectly. The veteran, with a subdued performance, brings an endearing Narayanan onscreen. This is the Mammootty we fell in love with in the 1980s. Supporting him is Srinivasan as Moideen. Siddique’s role, though brief, is memorable. A mature performance is noted in Jewel Mary, as Narayanan’s wife, who goes through different stages of life. Tamil actress Viji Chandrsekhar makes an impressive debut as Mammootty’s mother. Complementing Ahamad’s story are the splendid visuals by Madhu Ambat.