When I call “Malik”, a masterpiece, I am factoring in Mahesh Narayanan, the Director’s ability to weave a complex narrative in a 2 hour 40 minute format. The story is centered on Sulaiman or “Ali Ikka” as he is fondly referred to by his community members and played beautifully by Fahad Fasil. In the very opening minutes of the movie, which I believe is a single shot without cuts, the cinematography takes you through Sulaiman’s family and automatically narrates his position today in his community. The how and why follow later.
In terms of legal adversary, Sulaiman’s mother is his worst enemy apart from Abubacker, the local Political representative, played by Dileesh Pothan and how he circumvents the system (Police and its force) to accomplish his own goals when Sulaiman becomes a barrier.
The characterisation is simply terrific. Apart from Fahad, Nimisha as Rosaline, who plays his better half, Joju George as Collector Anwar, Vinay as David and Fahad’s friend and associate from his early years, have played key roles. The story weaves through the organic growth of Sulaiman and his Muslim community from making a living from selling the fishes brought in by the adjoining fishermen of Christian community to a small satellite suburb.
The Muslim and Christian communities inherent distrust with the System due it is divide and rule policy based on communal differences. In fact, the communal difference is more amplified and pronounced with economically well off people and these people are fairly interwoven due to their low economic stature and interdependency as is evident with a no-bloodshed marriage between Sulaiman and Roseline in spite of Roseline’s parents’ strong disapproval to her marriage.
The scene of Police firing reminds you that the System can take extreme actions only against the socially oppressed groups and politically inconsequential communities. The karma is interconnected. Every action has a reaction how it affects them in the long run is beautifully narrated and is more evident towards the end. No human is immortal and it is his legend that continues to live even after his physical departure from his community.
Ali Ikka is no exception to that rule.
Now coming to the question of why it is “Jegame Thanthiram done in a delectable way”?
As you might have heard of or watched Jegame Thanthiram (JT), a half-cooked and forgettable film from acclaimed Director, Karthik Subburaj, it is a classic example of how an inexperienced team of Assistant Directors put together a complex issue of refugees/asylum seekers fleeing persecution in their country of origin, related rise in right-wing politics and concocted it with Madurai (a historic city based in South India) style Gangster escapade in London.
Both JT and Malik released to worldwide audience in the OTT platform. JT was completely senseless and took its sensible OTT viewers to its mindless 80s to early 2000s counterparts who flocked to cinema halls just to have some glimpse of their favourite larger than life movie stars. Dhanush, who plays the Madurai based hitman as well as a Parotta stall owner, can easily replace Fahad as Sulaiman in Malik. Such is the charisma and ability of Dhanush to carry a complex movie on his shoulders in spite of his not so convincing physique.
Karthik Subburaj clearly exposed his limitation in areas outside of his realm and made the Sri Lankan refugee crisis, a laughing stock. The Sri Lankan gangsters battling against “sons of the soil” gangsters led by a right-wing ideologue, James Cosmo as Peter. Whilst James Cosmo is convincing, the Director and his writing has completely let down several characters in the movie. There is no proper character arc and no convincing stories to develop an attachment to the characters that occupy our senses.
Vadivukarasi as a mother who is oblivious (or pretends to be blind) to her son’s activities does her usual best! Joju George is completely wasted as Sivadoss, the Sri Lankan Tamil don based in London. The emotional scenes are very superfluous thereby making the film melodramatic without conveying any significant impact to a tasteful movie lover. In fact it does more disservice to the issues that it had tried to raise by glorifying gun violence.
Does it fit into the category of Godfather or Lock,Stock and two smoking barrels? Did Karthik Subburaj attempt a fusion of Guy Ritchie’s movie with something to the likes of Francis Ford Coppola or Martin Scorcese? It is a question best left to Karthik Subburaj and why he failed in this attempt to portray some very important issues in an unconvincing manner.
Malik, is a classic study of how you can narrate a complex story in a sub 3-hour format without missing a heart beat! I only wish that Karthik Subburaj and his team learn from Malik’s making experience.
A good movie should have a good story and a Director who can offer a great narrative of the story! Congratulations to Mahesh Narayanan and his team!