Review: Laabam

Laabam makes a valiant attempt to educate people on labour & agriculture laws but director S P Jananathan’s sudden demise has had an impact

Film: Laabam
Director: S P Jananathan
Cast: Vijay Sethupathi, Jagapathi Babu, Shruti Haasan, Kalaiarasan and others.
Music: D Imman
Cinematography: Ramji
Rating: 2.5 stars

Director S P Jananathan, an active communist till his very last breath who tried to create an awareness on the disparities between the rich and the poor in our society, has sought to explain a number of economic, historical and social cultural concepts that not many know in his very last film Laabam.

The film starts off with Pakkiri(Vijay Sethupathi) returning to his village after touring the world to spend time with farmers and workers in different countries. Farmers abandoning cultivation and looking to migrate see a ray of hope in his arrival and decide to give farming one more shot.

While Pakkiri’s arrival brings hope and joy to farmers with small amounts of cultivable land and landless labourers, it stirs hate, suspicion and fear in the minds of a small group of landlords and businessmen who have been exploiting the village. The group is led by the former president of the Farmers association Vanangamudi (Jagapathi Babu), whose ill-gotten gains have got him political backing, administrative support and henchmen to enforce his will on anybody and everybody.

Pakkiri wastes no time in choosing to contest the elections for the Farmers association and for a change, he and his colleagues get elected unopposed as Vanangamudi, looking to play an altruist, withdraws his nomination.

He soon finds a number of irregularities in the association and looks to set them right. He also initiates a number of welfare measures including an effort to reclaim Panchami lands and introduce group farming. He makes an attempt to educate ordinary farmers about how businessmen acquire their produce for a petty sum and make millions by selling it in the open market.

All this results in losses for the landlords who were making a fortune. They decide to play their game…

Strange as it may appear, Laabam gives the impression that Jananathan was in a great hurry to transfer all his hard earned knowledge to the world before taking his final bow. As a result, he seems to have overloaded Laabam with too many economic concepts, many of which are dealt with too simplistically and superficially.

Vijay Sethupathi and Jagapathi Babu do justice to their roles. Both play their roles with conviction. D Imman’s songs are commendable and add zeal to the narration.

As in the case of his earlier films, the honourable intention of Jananathan to make people aware of how their labour is looted by wealthy capitalists comes across clearly in Laabam as well.

The fact that he has tried to explain what Panchami lands are and how they can be reclaimed, what group farming is and how it benefits the landless and the small farmers, what an agricultural union must do and how farmers must understand that their produce has zero wastage as every part of what they produce gets used in one way or the other is very commendable.

One cannot but feel the film would have been a lot more better had Jananathan been alive to finish editing it. The immensely respected director had unfortunately passed away mid-way during the film’s editing.

Nevertheless, Laabam makes a valiant attempt to educate the masses on labour and agriculture laws.