Director - Naranipuzha Shanavas
Language - Malayalam
Streaming On - Amazon Prime Video
Two things that strike a newcomer to Malayalam cinema are, the frame and the music. The frames are literally a visual treat while the music is a treat for the ears. No doubts about that. What takes time to register is the pace of storytelling they employ in their movies. It took me 5-6 movies to realize that, with Sufiyum Sujatayum being the latest. English, Telugu and Hindi movies generally tell stories at such a pace that you would be forgiven if you thought the world was going to end. Malayalam movies, on the other hand, narrate the stories in such a way that they have all the time in the world. No doubt both are effective but since we are humans, we are more partial to beauty. Isn't it? If English/Hindi/Telugu cinema is Virender Sehwag, Malayalam cinema is VVS Laxman. If English/Hindi/Telugu cinema is Raheem Sterling, Malayalam cinema is David Silva.
Sufiyum Sujatayum also tells the story of a Sufi and Sujatha in the same way, languid and at its own sweet pace. But it tells too less of it. And this is where it slightly comes up short. How would you feel if Sterling made a hash of Silva's inch-perfect pass? Make no mistake, Sufiyum Sujatayum's is replete with good performances, eye-pleasing visuals and soothing music (as I said above). But somehow it doesn't provide an exhilarating experience. Imagine VVS Laxman playing beautifully and then somehow managing to run himself out? This is what happened in the movie.
Sujatha(Aditi Rao Hydari) is a mute girl who for 10 years has been married unhappily to Rajeev (Jayasurya). When she gets the news of the death of her ex-flame, the Sufi (Dev Mohan), Rajeev thinks that seeing him one last time before he is buried would help her and in turn, their marriage. Sujatha is obviously heartbroken and begins reminiscing the time she was deeply in love with the Sufi.
Aditi Rao Hydari brings an angelic innocence to her role and does a fabulous job. You just can't take your eyes off her on the screen. Her eyes and body language is spot on. The best part? You can understand what she is conveying through her actions. Dev Mohan is brilliant and nails the role of the whirling dervish beautifully. It feels so real and authentic. I read somewhere that he took nine months to learn to whirl. I wish the movie had more of those whirling sequences and a lot more of him. Jayasurya also does well in the limited time he has.
The love story between Sujatha and the Sufi is beautiful, to say the least. They bond over their love for dance. Sujatha is impressed with the way the Sufi dances and requests him to teach her. The pairing between the mute girl sand the Sufi seems very interesting. But it is not given enough time to blossom. As a result, we don't feel much for the characters when a wedge is driven in their story. In a movie touted as a love story, the actual love story feels like a cameo. And this is the biggest fault of the movie.
There are only two songs in the movie - Vathikkalu Vellaripravu and Alhamdulillah - but they are so beautiful. The accompanying visuals for Vathikkalu Vellaripravu enhance the beauty of the song to a different level. But the time, or the lack of it, dedicated towards the love story is the biggest stumbling block towards making Sufiyum Sujatayum a really delightful watch. It sparkles in parts, but only just.
As Ek Aboob, the Sufi's master says, "The Rooh (soul) is everything. Listen to it". Now, if only Shanavas had done that.
Bottomline - The Rooh (Soul) of the film is not brought out properly.