Malik Reviews: This film is a success thanks to lead actor Fahadh Faasil, who works within a very limited but effective bandwidth.

Cast: Fahadh Faasil, Nimisha Sajayan, Vinay Forrt, Jalaja, Joju George

Director: Mahesh Narayanan

Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)

The sprawling story of a Godfather-like character who resorts to crime to fight the corrupt politicians, bureaucrats, and policemen of his small coastal town. Malik was written, directed, and edited by Mahesh Nayanan (Take Off C U Soon). It takes its own time to reveal its true hand. The film is aided by Fahadh Faasil, the lead actor, who works within a very limited but effective bandwidth.

Malik is available on Amazon Prime Video. It features Ahammadali Sulaiman (a school dropout who’s guts brought him into the crosshairs with the administration of Ramadapally). He is not a regular law-breaker. His misdeeds are clearly explained. He must pay the price. His fight against corruption and communalism makes friends and puts him and his family in grave danger.

Sulaiman, his community and the environment around them are both vulnerable to Nature’s fury as well as human machinations. In the film’s first moments, a destructive cyclone appears. The 2004 tsunami is later mentioned. The calamity does more than cause physical damage. It creates a divide between Christians and Muslims, two dominant communities in the region. Police and their political masters have the opportunity to fish in turbulent waters because of the unrest.

Malik is a 160-minute movie. Given the storyline with many characters, there will be some lapses. The screenplay hits every right button when crafting a commentary about our turbulent times. However, the narrative is alive enough to keep you on the boil until it reaches its end.

Sulaiman is determined to protect his home and its people, despite his flaws. He doesn’t seem to be aware of the religious dynamics that are at work here. He can’t wait to see if the political forces arrive to incite hatred to achieve their narrow ends.

Politicians want to make a fortune from illegal sand mining and lucrative but poorly-advised government programs. The people who stand to benefit from these contracts favor constructing a highway and harbor in an environmentally sensitive region. Sulaiman blocks them. These battle lines are drawn between individuals and agents of state power.

Malik‘s main theme is sectarian harmony. Sulaiman’s marriage to Roselyn, his best friend, and David’s sister, clearly signifies that religions are not taken lightly in this part of the woods.

He makes it a point of reassuring his Christian bride that he won’t ask her to cover her head or convert. He doesn’t forget to add, “I want your permission to do that,” when he states in the same sentence that “I want my children to be raised as Muslims.” Sulaiman’s ideal life balance is, however, severely disturbed.

The film opens in the home of an elderly Sulaiman. Sanu John Varghese, cinematographer, weaves his camera around the house in a dizzyingly and revelatory way. It captures the conflicting energies that circle the protagonist, who has been written with an acute sense of the fragilities human flesh inherits.

Sulaiman is a hero for his people, but he is acutely aware that not all of his actions in life are without reproach. He decided to give up his “ungodly” activities and embark on Haj. Roselyn Sajayan, his wife, expressed concern about his safety. He claims that he doesn’t have anyone to worry about except God.

As he prepares to board the plane, he is stopped by police and taken into custody. The present is represented by the 14-day remand period. The rest of the story takes place in the past, which spans several decades in the lifetime of a man forged in a raging flame.

Freddy, a 17-year-old Freddy (Sanal Aman), is the only son of David Christudas (Vinay Fort) and Sulaiman. He becomes the conduit for three flashbacks, which tell a story of friendship, courage, and betrayal.

The film takes us back to the 1980s to show how Sulaiman became a blindly trusted man by the people. He begins to commit small-time crimes, such as smuggling foreign goods. And he builds a mini-empire in Ramadapally. These actions elevate him to the position of a savior.

The cemetery where the father of the victim is buried is used as a rubbish dump. The mosque doesn’t have the money to build a wall. It stinks. The imam, Salim Kumar, laments the fact that no one visits the masjid anymore. He says that if this had been a temple, the situation would have been different.

Sulaiman jumps into action. Sub-Collector Anwar Ali, Joju George, is convinced to clear the area for the construction of a school. Sulaiman’s stock rises even more, when he murders a rival who has grievously harmed the entire town.

He dares his sub-collector to capture him from the midst of the people. He is so sure of the support that he receives. Exasperated by her son’s misbehavior, his righteous mother, Jalaja, has other ideas. She testifies against Sulaiman.

Freddy returns to Freddy and finds the injured boy in jail for throwing a bomb at Freddy’s school. Indrans is the Circle Inspector George Zacharia (Police) who conspires to use Freddy as a pawn against Sulaiman. Film’s script makes use of Freddy’s imprisonment to move the story forward or backward.

Sulaiman’s mother, Jalaja (Jalaja), tells Freddy why her son does not see eye-to-eye with her. This flashback is the longest and most important. Freddy’s father, David, is now on the scene to tell Freddy how Sulaiman (Dileesh pothan) and Aboobacker (Dileesh Pathan) have gone back a long distance.

As the circumstances change and the chicanery takes over the town, their bonding breaks down. The changing equations between the three men, once thick as thieves, reflect macrocosmic realities and show the detrimental effect ambition, disaffection, and violence can have on individuals.

In the final moments of the film, Sulaiman tells Freddy his story. This structure is neat and allows the writer-director to weave multiple perspectives into one, though somewhat stretched tapestry.