Footprints On Water Movie Review: Adil Hussain, Nathalia Syam Film Is A Moving, Harrowing Take On Illegal Migration

Featuring Adil Hussain, Nimisha Sajayan, Antonio Akeel, Lena, and Danny Sura, the movie was filmed amid the challenges of the pandemic. It sheds light on the struggles faced by illegal immigrants in the United Kingdom.

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Footprints On Water

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Footprints On Water Movie Review Adil Hussain Nathalia Syam Film Is A Moving Harrowing Take On Illegal Migration

About Footprints On Water

This is not the first film that the brilliant Adil Hussain has done on the migrant’s experience. I recall Iram Haq’s brutal What Will People Say in which Adil played a much more unforgiving father to his truant teenage daughter.
The mood in Footprints On Water is gentler and less punishing. Adil, of course, is, first-rate as Raghu, the migrant from Kerala who flees his home with his second wife Sudha(Lena) and daughter Meera(Nimisha Sajayan) to the UK only to find himself in another altogether unmanageable crisis in London.
The narrative moves at a trot traversing that tricky space between socio-cultural comment and a kind of Costa-Gavras thriller where Meera goes missing. The inconsolable broken father is helped by an Afghan immigrant who was in love with Meera before a misunderstanding drove them apart.
To me, this film is as much about a father’s search for his daughter as about two illegals trying to find a common ground. Both Hussain and Antonio Akeel who plays Rehan, the kind helpful Afghan immigrant, play against one another with exceptional empathy.
There is a moment in the frenetic search for the truth(whatever it may be) when the two sit down to have a meal, Rehan tells Ragu how he lost his entire family in Afghanistan. Raghu listens. He then opens the food packet and gently slides it towards Rehan. That small gesture conveys so much empathy.
By the end of the search, Raghu has gotten over some of his biases against his daughter’s ‘Pakistani’(actually Afghani) friends, like Manoj Pahwa and Sunny Kaushal in Mili.
Thankfully this is not a film that preaches cultural assimilation or makes a pulpit-styled hue and cry about the migrants’ plight. There is an elegance to the film’s anguished call for empathy towards migrants.
Even when the plot gets clunky(for example the entire thriller bit is not as smoothly done as the rest of the film) there is so much to admire in this small Indian film with heartfelt performances from the entire cast. Even in the smallest roles(for example, the distraught Sri Lankan woman played by Ketaki Narayan who has left her infant baby behind) the actors merge in the underbelly of London that that cinematographer Azhagappan captures with a detached tenderness.
Given its limited resources Footprints On Water achieves a worthy threshold of dramatic inference from a mood of understatement and compassion.
Adil Hussain’s towering performance of a broken pained boozed-out immigrant looking for his daughter is reason enough to watch this hidden nugget of a film. That it has more to it than its central performance is just serendipitous.
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