Malik Movie Review: 3.5/5
Mahesh Narayan’s Malik is a difficult watch, but a very honest one. It leaves you reeling with feelings of loss, anger and satisfaction. Set in Thiruvananthapuram, it explores the lives of two groups of people living in communal harmony, the Christians of Edavathura and the Muslims of Ramadapally, until instances disrupt this harmony. Sulaiman Malik (portrayed by Fahadh Faasil) becomes the vehicle through which this story of love, harmony, violence and corruption plays out.
Despite its contradictory title, Malik is not a character-driven story. It is a tale about locations, events, circumstances, religious beliefs, difficult choices and the people who make them. Under its many layers, we are also left with a crime thriller that roots you at the edge of your seat. But, you wonder who exactly you are rooting for.
Malik will shock you. What it stands for is not a far-fetched reality, but the reality we close our eyes to every day. It throws light on how precarious our religious beliefs are and how easy it is to provoke them.
Malik is the story of the marginalised told through a young man. We meet a large cast of characters, but, it is impossible to determine who to root for. The film delivers well-rounded, three-dimensional characters with real problems and chilling stories of struggle and violence.
People are forced to take up arms, murder, kill and lie to save themselves and others, but the film treats them with kindness and sympathy. It stands on one truth alone, humanity is morally grey, nobody is right or wrong, only motivations matter.
As for the best character arc in Malik, Dileesh Pothan has surpassed our expectations. He oozes villainism, and he portrays it with ease throughout the movie. Indrans, too, was amazing. We’ve gotten used to seeing him as this meek character, especially his police roles. His performance as a typical policeperson in Malik has to be mentioned because once you see him act out his character, you can relate to it quite a bit. Hats off to Dhanya Balakrishnan for designing the costumes for Malik, and bringing the characters to life
Usually in movies that involve flashbacks, one of the biggest shortcomings is how the character narrating the act is able to give psychological and emotional details experienced by another character. But by having three different characters do the flashbacks and explain their perspectives, the movie avoids this “god mode”. There are instances where the same incident is shown from different vantage points and it helps us empathise with the characters and why they do what they do. And how they’re all puppets of the system.
What usually makes films enjoyable is their ability to take reality and defamiliarise it, making it easier to bear. Malik, however, throws you straight into the middle of the hypocrisy that we live in. There is no pretence or sugarcoating of the truth here. Without much commentary, it tells you the straightforward story of two groups of people living in communal harmony until they are not.
Natural disasters, corrupt governmental authorities, casteism, religious beliefs, lies and riots test the relationship between the two groups as they try to survive and make a space for themselves. It is an allegory of the life of the marginalised, a story we often ignore or silence.
We have to give due credit to Santhosh Raman for spearheading the production design of Malik. Mahesh Narayan is one person who gets his set design on-point, and it clearly shows that his investment in Santhosh Raman was on-point. The streets of Ramadapalli (where we spend a good bulk of the screen time) was a designed set. But for the most part, it looked like a lived space.
Sulaiman Malik is only a medium through which these stories are told and the voices are heard. He takes a life of his own, however. Fahadh Faasil gives a devastatingly beautiful performance as Malik, a young man, initially a goon, rising to power amongst his people. Narayan plays with the trope of the chosen one here. However, Malik is different from the conventional ‘chosen ones’.
He escapes destiny and death multiple times, starting from his childhood, but he is also self-made. Forged in the struggles of the marginalised, his life is an unsung song of defeat and triumph as he slowly begins to bear the weight of an entire community on his shoulders. As the film progresses, we begin to understand how romanticised the notion of the chosen one is. Malik is left to grieve the loss of everything he wanted, what he builds and what is left behind.
One of the flaws of Fahadh Faasil’s character is that you don’t end up understanding why Sulaiman Malik is the ‘Godfather’. This might be a conscious decision on the Director’s part to avoid ‘hero-worship’ of the character. However, his rise to power is very textbook. Parts of the story, beats, and entire sequences in the movie looked like they were lifted directly from the Godfather movies. It felt more like a homage to those great movies than anything.
The Love Story
This is merely a subplot of the film, but it is an experiment in simplicity and a commentary on the coexistence of religions. Roselyn (played by Nimisha Sajayan) is a powerful figure despite the little screen-time she receives. In the midst of the fast-paced action and the intriguing plots of corruption and violence, the love story gives you time to breathe, to reconsider and ask questions.
Malik and Roselyn are a testament of religious harmony and respect, which is further propounded and established by the beautiful song, ‘Theerame’. But, when you look at the movie in its entirety, the Minicoy sequence did feel a bit out of place.
Why Should You Watch Malik?
This is a must-watch, an experiment with truth and reality about the lives of the marginalised, living silenced along the sidelines and the power their rebellion holds. The film complimented by a thrilling background score and natural cinematography, making reality hyperreal, leaving us with chills. Sushin Shyam’s and Sanu Varghese’s work fit the movie like a glove.
That said, it is not easy to watch either, it requires you to forgo your assumptions as you meet the goon Malik and glimpse into his life (and those of the people of Ramadapally and Edavathura). Malik is a small vignette of a big problem that remains unsolved and unaddressed, violently suppressed and it could not have come at a better time than now.
The film delivers exactly what it promised, but the climax leaves you underwhelmed. However, we expect the climax and our expectations meet justice. This is a Mahesh Narayanan movie. We guess it’s very hard to not leave a mark when you write, direct and edit the movie yourself. His sharp execution and decisive cuts tend to elevate the movie into a technically sound one, but what bogs down the movie at places is the writing. Mahesh did mention in multiple interviews that this is his most mainstream movie yet, and it’s true. He delivers exactly what he promised.
This is our review of the movie Malik. Do give it a watch on Amazon Prime and let us know your thoughts!