Set in the fictional fishing village of Ramadapally, Kerala, between 1965 and 2018, Malik tells the tale of a malik (master) Suleiman (Fahadh Faasil), who is the messiah for the fisherfolk of the village. The film begins with Suleiman AKA Ali Ikka in his 50s, set to take a pilgrimage to Hajj after renouncing illegal activities. He is leaving behind a life of crime that he has lead, but always with a strong moral centre. “I have quit all ungodly work, so who should I fear now? If someone above Him is waiting to kill me, let it happen,” he says, giving us a glimpse into his powerful yet flawed character. And also setting the pace for what’s in store for the audience.
At the airport departing for Hajj, Suleiman is arrested by the police under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA). And as the story unfolds from there, we come to know of Suleiman’s story. Slowly, each and every character comes into play. We meet Suleiman’s mother (Jalaja), who takes us through Suleiman’s childhood and how he developed the town that is Ramadapally. Though she wants her son to be punished for his deeds, she wants the law to take its natural course.
Mahesh Narayanan’s storytelling shows Suleiman’s rise to power and how politicians use religious tensions and tactics to turn two communities against each other for their own benefit. To add more character to the story, Mahesh weaves in the 2002 Tsunami. The story then goes on to show how politicians use people, in their most vulnerable state, after losing their loved ones, to start a feud that soon escalates into riots between Muslim and Christian communities of Ramadapally and Edavathura..
Malik beautifully depicts the arcs of each character, be it Suleiman’s wife, Rosalyn (Nimisha Sajayan), the sub-collector, Anwar Ali (Joju George) or Suleiman’s best friend, David Christudas (Vinay Forrt). Rosalyn is a powerful woman, who is the only woman in the village to have gone to college. Much more educated than her husband, Rosalyn has an arresting presence in every frame of the film. She is fierce and knows what she wants. A pillar of strength that stands by Suleiman through his rise, she doesn’t back down when it comes to telling her husband right from wrong. Be it putting political ally, PA Aboobacker (Dileesh Pothan) in his rightful place after the arrest of her husband or telling an uncooperative cop subtly what would unfold if her husband isn’t given enough security, she doesn’t mince her words at any point. The best scene has to be when Rosalyn makes the first move towards the man she loves. Nimisha Sajayan is a power-packed performer and an actress the film industry should look out for.
Anwar Ali plays an understated character, who in the beginning helps Suleiman in his quest for building a school named after his father, Ahammadalli Memorial School. Though they start at friendship, the two soon turn against each other after an unexpected turn of events. David Christudas’s grey character teaches us how a small seed of doubt by a third party can destroy childhood friendships. There is a beautiful scene when the two men are sitting on the shoreline and Suleiman points towards the statue of Jesus and how he is embracing the Muslim-dominated hamlet, Ramadapally, with open arms.
Suleiman might be a flawed character, but Fahadh plays it with such brilliance that the audience is rooting for the character till the very end. Suleiman is shown as an intelligent and well-intentioned man, who wants to do good for the people of Ramadapally. Whether it is building a school for the kids, cleaning the grounds near the mosque, which is being used as a garbage dump or shutting down a sand-mining project by the government that could endanger the lives of the fishermen living by the sea, he always puts the people of Ramadapally first. Though he has a skinny frame in the film, the manner in which he mouths his dialogues is sure to give the audience goosebumps. When he says, “If you can take me away from the people of Ramadapally, try and take me, sir,” especially stands out.
Cinematographer Sanu John Varghese and editor Mahesh Narayanan show the coastal belt and the life of fisherfolk beautifully. And we would have loved to see the film on the big screen. Sushin Shyam’s background score creates the right atmosphere. The song Theerame, which plays as the lead actors get married, will stay on your lips for some time.