Malik fahadh faasil new movie : A short descriptor of Malik would be a Malayalam Nayakan. Like Mani Ratnam’s 1987 classic, this film is also a sprawling story of crime and punishment, spanning generations and decades from 1965 to 2018.
The sea plays a pivotal role. Nayakan is set in Mumbai, Malik is set in Ramadappaly. a fictional coastal village in Kerala, in both films the vast waters provide the backdrop for smuggling and romance, and in both the protagonists are criminals who lead lawless lives, but also have a strong moral center.
Velu Naicker and Suleiman Malik are benevolent monarchs of the area they operate in and protect. But their lives are tainted by violence and loss. They age as we watch and both are eventually laid low by tragedy and time.
At the end of Nayakan when Velu’s grandson asks him ‘are you good or bad’? he says ‘I don’t know’, I suspect that if the question was put to Suleiman, his reply would be the same. Malik begins with a virtuoso 13 minute plus continuous shot.
The sequence is dazzling in terms of craft, dexterity and ambition, the stitching is just seamless. But director Mahesh Narayanan and DoP Sanu John Varghese aren’t merely strutting their technical prowess.
The opening establishes Suleiman’s world, his contradictory life as a devout Muslim and a law breaker. His authority has a Godfather, who the poor and voiceless turned to, his fraught relationships with his family, it also establishes the overarching themes of Malik.
Religion, power, charity, morality, politics and politicians, who ultimately poison everything. The film then runs for a daunting 2 hours and 30 minutes, but the length doesn’t weigh down the storytelling. Mahesh who multitasks as director, writer, editor and second unit camera operator structures Malik like a novel.
The story begins in contemporary times, three flashbacks by different narrators bring us up to speed on what created the current circumstances. Multiple narrators enable us to see multiple points of view. The cast of characters is vast and I will admit, it took me some time to find my bearings.
But Mahesh doesn’t lose grip on the narrative, like the conductor of a grand symphony orchestra, he masterfully alternates rhythms and dramatic beats, creating an aching soaring saga. When we first meet Suleiman, he is a lion in winter, his face seems hollowed out by sorrow, his shoulders are hunched under the burden of what he has done and what he has endured.
When his wife reminds him that there is danger in going out, he says ‘I have quit all my ungodly work, whom should i be afraid of now’? and yet there is a certain majesty about him, the power he exudes is palpable.
This formidable spirit is in place even when Suleiman is a petty smuggler in the 1980’s, his career in crime begins with bringing in colognes and selling them for 15 rupees a bottle, he gives it away cheap, because he doesn’t know what it actually costs.
But even as Suleiman is breaking the law, he’s helping to clean up the garbage around the masjid in Ramadappaly and ultimately construct a school. Like Vijay in Deewar, Suleiman’s criminality fractures his relationship with his mother, but even she has a moment of pride when the school is built.
Suleiman is a nation builder and a humanist, he marries a Christian girl Roseline, but he doesn’t ask her to convert. Throughout his tumultuous life he resists parochial definitions of Islam, insisting that the school and mosque also serve the Christian community of Ramadappaly.
Suleiman’s life and actions are rooted in his faith, which looms large over the film. A key sequence is set against the Urus festival.
Religion and rituals both Christian and Muslim anchor the film and give the plot gravitas. The Malik in the title refers to Suleiman, but also perhaps to a higher power. Suleiman’s closest friend and partner in crime is Roseline’s brother David.
In one of the best scenes in the film, both sit under this looming statue of Jesus Christ, which is looking towards the mosque. but ultimately religion becomes a wedge, the Muslims and Christians of Ramadappaly are played against each other by police and politicians.
Poverty, illiteracy, the desperate desire for a better life make them susceptible and the relationships of a lifetime devolve into shrill conversations about our people and their people.
The ending also suggest that these not so sacred games played out in the name of God, continue to prevail. This vast saga is anchored by really strong performances, Vinay Forrt as David, Joju George as the collector Anwar, Sanal Aman as David’s son Freddie, Dileesh Pothan as the politician Aboobacker and Jalaja as Suleiman’s mother are all stellar.
Nimisha Sajayan is terrific as Roseline, an educated woman who’s capable of strength and strategy. She makes a formidable sparring partner for Fahad Faasil, who plays Suleiman.
This is the kind of role that actors perhaps dream of, the chance to play the lifetime of a character, from a sprightly 21 year old, to a senior citizen.
Fahad hits the right notes for each stage of Suleiman’s life. His belligerent youth, the sweetness of his passion for Roseline, the fatigue of his failure to stem the tide of violence and communalism and his sad longing to make amends.
Fahad combines delicate melancholy with majesty and becomes in every way a Malik.
The tragic interplay of religion and violence is enhanced by Sushin Shyam’s music, which is mournful and haunting, especially the gorgeous Theerame. Mahesh tips his hat to the classics of this genre, one sequence that cuts between a funeral and violence echoes the iconic cross-cutting of The Godfather.
But Malik is much more than an imitation, Mahesh has created a memorable portrait of the power of religion to save and scar.
You can watch the film on Amazon Prime Video.