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Malayalam movie Mālik is what mature cinema is all about, where nuanced filmmaking met a mature audience, where newbies and youngsters stood shoulder to shoulder with more seasoned actors.
It is a testament to the talent that we have in Malayalam cinema that we have leading actresses and ‘supporting role’ actors who can give even a consummate actor like Fahadh Faasil a run for his money. They do. And how!
Even at almost 2.5 hours, Malayalam movie Mālik is never boring. I have fallen asleep during other hyped up movies, even so-called horror and crime thrillers, so trust me on this. The premise set up at the start of Mālik is so full of suspense and intrigue, that I wanted to rush till the end to see what happens.
Will the police succeed in their hidden agenda to get a man killed while in remand so that he is never tried in court? Why do the police want him killed so badly? Why is he such a wanted man? Is he really the criminal that he is made out to be?
These are the questions that director, writer, and editor Mahesh Narayanan (of Take Off and C U Soon fame) sets up very effectively in the first 15 minutes itself. The answer is given to us in flashbacks through the memories of two key characters.
The character arc of most of the actors is such that we see them at three different ages – early 20s, middle age, and old age. And they have all excelled at this.
Whether its Dileesh Pothan, Vinay Forrt, Joju George, and so many others, Malayalam movies are in safe hands for sure!
Special mention to newbies Sanal Aman (the nephew) and Parvathy Krishna (the doctor) who had minor, but important roles to play, and did full justice to it. Where do they get such talented youngsters from?
I also want to make a special mention of a new actor who I believe (and hope) we will see more of in future because he has the screen presence, the looks, and the talent – Chandunath, who plays the cop with a conscience, as S P Rishabh. Really handsome guy too!
And what to say about Fahadh? He is someone who no longer astounds me with his acting. He has set the bar so high that he can never now go low. Whether it is through his eyes, his voice, or his entire body language, this is a guy who acts with his whole being. Powerful. I am so very glad that he happened to be born in Kerala, and am even slightly possessive when I see people from other states waking up to his talent. It’s like I want to protect him and say, ”No, he’s ours! We got him first!” LOL.
Now to Nimisha, who plays a spunky and spirited young girl, and a powerful and bold older woman. She lets no man rule her, whether it’s her brother or her husband. There were a few scenes where she fell out of character though – the hospital baby-naming scene and the baptism scene. But I can put myself in her shoes and assume many reasons for that, and since none of us are always the same in real life, I would give this a pass.
In Malayalam we would say ”oppathinoppam nilkkuka” which means ”stand shoulder to shoulder” and that’s what Nimisha does here, at just 24 years of age, with actors far older and more experienced like Fahadh, Dileesh, and Vinay. She is just brilliant. Imagine the stature she will reach given a few more years if she is like this at 24!
But special mention HAS to be made for Nimisha, the artiste. She is an actress I started watching after her interview with Annie in that infamous Annie’s Kitchen cookery show episode, where she was almost bullied for refusing to put on makeup for her roles. She had put her foot her down in that interview and said that she doesn’t think ordinary women go around with full makeup in real life, so she doesn’t see the need to look ‘glamorous’ for her roles, and would only use it if the character demands it.
Well, here she is in all her dark-complexioned, pimpled, and acne-scarred glory, and do we care? No, because she lives her character! Glad to see she walks her talk.
Malayalam cinema has certainly matured enough to go beyond skin colour and flawless complexion, to accept beauty beyond the norms, and more importantly, talent first. I don’t think the movie industries in other states have reached there yet as far as women are concerned.
Mālik opens with a sequence that reeled me in with a nostalgic hook. It looks like it was taken in a single shot – and this is extraordinary because it’s more than 10 minutes long, and has more than 50 people acting in it, with not one single person getting out of character!
I could almost smell the biryani from the ‘chembu’ and feel the ambience in that house. It took me back to the sprawling houses of my Muslim friends in Mahe, humungous houses just like the one in the movie, with the vast living rooms and numerous bedrooms, always bustling with life from the many joint families that lived there.
I appreciated the attention to detail in this scene because it is exactly how I remember those houses, whether I went for festivals or weddings, or on a daily basis to pick up my friend from her house en route to college.
I still remember how her umma used to feed her breakfast by hand because my friend was too busy getting dressed and didn’t have time to eat because she always woke up late! I remember the busy din from the kitchen with the ladies cooking, while I was also plied with breakfast even though I had already eaten. Her grandmother and grand-aunts and cousins and whonot would make small talk with me while I waited for her to get ready.
That opening scene took me back to the ambience of those old Muslim family homes, their warmth and hospitality, their open hearts and open homes. I marvelled at the ‘extras’ in that scene because they looked and sounded just like the loved ones of my friends. They reenacted the vibe of those ancient houses so naturally, that I was wondering if they were real people in the locality who were just roped in for this one scene! Absolutely could be…
I will end with one of the penultimate scenes of the movie, which incidentally is also a 10-minute continuous shot just like the opening scene.
This is powerful cinema. It was a heart-rending scene full of human tragedy and pathos. I just couldn’t imagine (and don’t want to imagine) anyone going through that. Both Fahadh and Nimisha have outdone themselves in that scene. Nimisha stands out with just her voice, even when we don’t see her. And just one single continuous shot? Simply outstanding!
By the end of the movie, all the threads of Ali’s life that were unspooled at the beginning are reeled in and tied up very neatly.
And a twist that was totally unpredictable.
Mālik is also a testament to the maturity of the Malayalam moviegoer and the state, because it is loaded with political and communal references to many real life incidents, most notably Beemapally. It would have been very easy to glorify or demonize a particular community, but that doesn’t happen here. The creators have walked the razor’s edge, especially in showing the police-political nexus, police brutality, and the politics behind communalization in India. I wish they had pushed the envelope a lot more, but even this, in the current political climate, is heartening to see.
After I watched this movie last night, I went very quiet. I couldn’t speak, couldn’t write. I had to let it marinate, soak in it for a bit, before I could write this.
I think that is one of the hallmarks of great cinema for me. I don’t feel like speaking afterwards. I just want to sit with it. The last time I had such a reaction to a movie was after watching Parasite in the theater.
If there’s one reason I wish I had seen this in a theater, it is for the amazing background score alone, by Sushin Shyam. Spine tingling and rousing!
This, my friends, is a magnum opus of Malayalam moviedom. Makes me proud to be a Malayali!
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Karishma has been writing short stories since she was 8 and poetry since she was
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