Since the discovery of huge oil reserves in the region of Eastern Arabia in the 1930s, the migration of natives from the South Indian state, Kerala, has been tremendously growing. The mass migration of Keralites to the middle-eastern countries happened during the years from 1972 to 1983, which is referred to as the ‘Kerala Gulf Bloom’. The increasing unemployment in the state and blooming job opportunities across the Arabian Sea tempted Malayalis to move to the various Gulf regions.
The attractive earnings and better monetary health of the migrants’ families increased the popularity of Gulf jobs. Malayalis started to believe in the notion of the Gulf as the land that would fulfill one’s economic aspirations and dreams. Malayalam cinema and literature had a significant role in representing the Gulf Malayali as the rich man with his newly found wealth and social status. The Gulf was thus symbolized as a treasure pot almost as equivalent to the American dream.
Let us take a look at some of the Malayalam movies that showcase the Gulf Dream.
Vilkkanundu Swapnangal (Dreams for Sale)
The 1980 movie directed by M. Azad and written by M.T Vasudevan Nair is touted as the first gulf movie in Malayalam. The movie begins with a voice-over that tells the audience that ‘thousands of youth now found a dream to cherish- Dubai.’ The movie centers around the protagonist, Rajagopala Menon, who is an illegal immigrant in Dubai. Though the movie depicts the hardships of the protagonist, it also states that the Gulf can make you rich beyond your dreams.
Nadodikattu (Gypsy Breeze)
The satirical-comedy film directed by Sathyan Anthikad in 1987 tells the story of two penniless young men Ramdas and Vijayan, who after a brief spell of unemployment in Kerala, deciding to migrate to Dubai to make their fortunes. The Gulf Dream of attaining better job opportunities and promising income are portrayed in the movie. The young men, who struggle to reach across the shore, eventually get duped by a cunning agent.
Akkare Ninnoru Maran (A Groom from Elsewhere)
This movie reflects how the Gulf element and the Gulf Dream have taken over the Kerala community. The film directed by Girish in 1985 tells about a lover who fakes as a Dubai-settled guy for the sake of his love. He even brings an Arab, who is his friend in disguise, to make people believe his pretension of working in the Middle East.
Along with these above-mentioned movies that tell the audience about the prosperous side of the middle-east, there are movies like ‘Arabikkatha’, ‘Gaddhama’, ‘Pathemari’ and much more that dismantles the stereotype of the rich Malayali Gulf man. Pathemari (Dhow) directed by Salim Ahmed and released in 2015, portrays the life of Palikkal Narayanan, who is one of the early migrants to middle-east and the hardships of a gulf Malayali. The world of slavery in the Gulf is explored through the movies ‘Gaddama’, directed by Kamal and ‘Arabikkatha’ directed by Lal Jose. ‘Perumazhakkalam’, ‘Varavelpu’, ‘Mampazhakkalam’ and a lot more Malayalam movies trace the life of Gulf Malayalis and their struggles.