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Times of India
A garbage collector struggles to make a living and bring up his son in a city, where people like him are 'nameless'
Dr Biju's Perariyathavar (Names Unknown) can be watched and appreciated by all, contrary to the notion that it is an 'award film.' The film presents the darker side of the city and the lives of those who inhabit these spaces, sans romanticism. They are a group who are very much visible - garbage collectors, migrant labourers, gypsies, street children - but have no names.
The story is seen through the eyes of a garbage collector (Suraj) and his motherless son, who accompanies his dad to work every day as he is not enrolled in a school. The doting father showers his son with love and tries to hide the misery of their lives, reminding you of the heart-warming father-son moments in the Italian film Life is Beautiful.
They survive, by being there for each other; the bond between Suraj's character and Chaami, played by Indrans, is the most poignant. The boy is seen narrating his days and his various queries to his mother, who he believes is listening to him from the heavens. The film presents a stark contrast between rural and urban spaces, and portrays in dull and colourless shades the 'wasteland' that is urban Kerala, where only the wealthy are welcome. On the other hand, the forests, the homes of the adivasis are a rich lush green space contaminated only by ugly plastic left by tourists. In the city, a street child is found raped one morning, while the little girl in the tribal shack is safe even when alone. Suraj is only able to watch helplessly as he comes across misery and callousness in different forms, with the victims invariably belonging to the lowest sections.
Suraj as a sensitive citizen and doting father would come across as a surprise. Not once does he slip into his comic mode, a feat in itself. The characters stay in your mind - Nedumudi Venu as the automobile workshop owner who gets drunk every day and Sona Nair as a shanty dweller who refuses to be evicted.
The pace of the film is slow, and it requires patience and reading between the lines to appreciate it in its entirety. There are many cliched scenes like the toy store owner brushing off the poor man while welcoming the rich. The film cannot be called extraordinary or faultless and the protagonist doesn't change anything about the system. But then, that is what the filmmaker intends to do. As a participant of a strike in the film says: "The only way I can protest is through art."