A History of Violence
Fahadh Faasil’s Malik reminds us that in cinema, crime does pay
TO UNDERSTAND the breadth of current Malayalam cinema— responsible for, perhaps, the most vibrant film-making in the country today—consider the last two collaborations be-tween writer–director Mahesh Narayanan and actor Fahadh Faasil. In 2020, with pandemic-generated restrictions on conventional filmmaking, they made the low-budget, experimental ‘computer screen film’ CU Soon, through video calls, online chats, and only very basic real-world sets (Faasil offered the use of his own flat).
Their latest, Malik, on the other hand, is a big-canvas gangster film spanning five decades, with a large cast of characters. It begins with a very long, single-take sequence that introduces us to the household of the ageing Sulaiman or ‘Ali Ikka’ (Faasil), as he prepares to leave for a Hajj pilgrimage. He is arrested, though, and plans are made to kill him in prison. This sets the framework for flash-backs—narrated by different characters—that detail the rise to power of a man who becomes a hero in the Ramadapally region. While Sulaiman, a Muslim, falls in love with and marries a Christian girl Roslyn (Nimisha Sajayan), he also finds himself caught in communal tensions exploited by politicians and police—leading to a parting of ways with his brother-in-law David (Vinay Fortt).
Though centred on the politics of a specific area, Malik (streaming on Amazon Prime Video) draws on templates and character types that have been genre staples since The Godfather (some scenes also feel like a homage to Mani Ratnam’s Nayagan). While crime-movie aficionados might find it over-familiar at times, on its own terms, this is a solid, well-acted film with a sense of the broad sweep of history and the intimate moments that forge that history.