Tales told by the mystical headstones may not be a new concept for the Malayalis. Yet, it never ceases to enthral the audience with a mystical charm. A charm of the notion of a gateway that connects the dead to the living. Sufiyum Sujathayum is in that mould.
The movie, by Karie director Naranipuzha Shanavas, also marks a new dawn to Mollywood. It is the first Malayalam movie to be released exclusively on an OTT platform, reflecting the challenges posed by the Covid outbreak.
With the pandemic playing spoilsport shutting down film theatres across the world, online releases have become the new normal and Mollywood is making a slightly late and reluctant foray into a new domain. However, the wide-shot frames and the two-hour duration may prompt film buffs to think the movie was envisaged to be an archetypal OTT exclusive.
Set somewhere near the Kerala-Karnataka border, the movie shows a fictional village where the inhabitants are of a multitude of linguistic and cultural descent. In other words, a place where many languages are spoken. And spirituality is one of them.
Neither the plot, the setting or the characters may seem alien to the audience since the approach intentionally or unintentionally follows a set of familiar narratives. Books like Punathil Kunjabdulla's ‘Smarakasilakal’, Vaikom Muhammad Basheer's ‘Bhoomiyude Avakashikal’ and unmistakably O V Vijayan’s ‘Khasakkinte Ithihasam’ resonates somehow.
Yet, there could have been a more enthralling lure to take the viewers to a trance-like state the aforementioned books offered. The movie starts and ends at Meesan stones, the traditional Islamic headstones in the graveyard of a dilapidated Musim shrine -- an abode of death.
Sufi (Dev Mohan), who gives off some strong nomadic vibes, returns to ‘Jinn Pally’, where he left a piece of his heart. He is received by the shrine’s mukri played by a highly slanged Mamukkoya, a staple of Malayalam movies that revolves around a Muslim narrative. There, Sufi breathes his last, not before beguiling the dwellers with his enchanting voice delivering the 'Adhan'.
Faraway, a mute housewife Sujatha, enacted by Aditi Rao Hydari, wakes up drenched after witnessing a nightmare of Sufi falling off while ‘whirling’, the traditional dance of Sufi Dervishes. Soon after, Sujatha’s husband Rajeev is informed about the untimely demise of “Sujatha’s Sufi” which shatters the sense of comfort she had built up in the uneventful life with her husband and daughter.
Rajeev takes her to her home village to make her pay last respects to Sufi. The rest of the plot deals with an attempt to connect the starkly contrasting worlds of past and present, from Sufi’s Sujatha to Rajeev’s wife.
The filmakers have envisioned an entrancing realm of spiritual love going by the plot.
Despite a few glitches with dubbing, Dev Mohan did a fairly decent job portraying the complex, bearded bard-like Sufi, who falls for an innocent village girl.
Aditi Rao, on the other hand, failed to deliver an aura of freshness to a 22-year-old Sujatha. Nevertheless, she has flawlessly pulled off the adult Sujatha, who gets lost in mourning a man who wasn't her's.
Jayasurya’s Rajeev is the character that pulls the string and anchors the story to the present. He has managed to keep the balance between the suppressed jealousy of a husband and a man who yearns for his partner’s romance.
The frames were interwoven beautifully with soulful music and a handful of tracks by maestro M Jayachandran.
It is well in sync with the fairytale narrative. The song Alhamdulillah by Sudeep Palanad is likely to be a permanent addition to our playlists. Director Shanavas had set the bars for himself high with a brilliant movie like Karie.
In Sufiyum Sujathayum, the filmmaker tosses up a curious mix of a mystical storytelling etched in the genre of lingering romance.