Joju George finally remains alive in a film to tell the story of Fahadh Faasil who plays the role of a gangster-cum-smuggler, i.e. a cross between Velu Nayagan and Michael Corleone. Joju plays an IAS officer who is hit by a vehicle and left for dead by Faasil’s men in their quest for revenge for the death of their boss’s son. Joju George’s eponymous character had sacrificed himself in JOSEPH to nail the organ harvesters. In NAYATTU, he played a cop-on-the-run and an obsessive father, who poignantly hanged himself. In CHOLA, his character raped a girl, played by Nimisha Sajayan, and was slain by her boyfriend in a slugfest. Dhanush killed the benevolent don who used to arrange papers for illegal Tamil immigrants, that was Joju, in JIGME THANTHIRAM. One had given up on Joju surviving the climax in any of his film. Even in Malik, he duly gets knocked off by a vehicle at the fag end, but against all odds, survives.
He surprizes us with his recovery, and makes a comeback in the epilogue. Here he plays a well-meaning Sub-Collector of Ramadapally, who miscalculates the situation, overplays his hand and ends up creating rift between Muslims and Christians through ill-advised police interventions.
It is Joju’s involvement that leads to cleaning up of the area around the Mosque and opening of the School, which turns Fahadh, a petty smuggler, into Alikka, the uncrowned king of Ramadapally. And it is the Sub-collector’s kin’s revenge, as he lay vegetatively on a bed, that finishes off the saga of Suleiman Malik aka Alikka.
What can one add to what has already been said and written in praise of the Great Fahadh Faasil? His alert presence gives the chills. His intense stares put fear of death into you. His lines end up meaning a lot more than he desires. Fahadh Faasil is in his cinematic prime. This is the time to just stand back and admire his craft. The actor is even larger than the larger-than-life role of Alikka that he has played.
As for Nimisha Sajayan, no praise is enough for this girl who surprised in Thondimuthulum Driksakshiyum and left the audience shell-shocked in Chola. Her silence singed in Nayattu, and her rebellion in The Great Indian Kitchen was cheered by the whole country. At 24, she is an acting powerhouse. As Roselyn, Alikka’s Christian wife, she holds the show together while the Don himself is confined first within the Mosque, and then inside prison.
Dileesh Pothan plays a classic politician, one who specializes in art of double-speak and balancing of interests. He must profit from every eventuality. His hunger for land is insatiable. ALikka and the politician that Dileesh plays, grow and help each other throughout the film till the very end, when the politician must necessary betray the saviour of his community. The writer got a bit predictable there. Vinay Forrt, as David, Malik’s partner-in-crime, and later bête noire, has also played a fine hand.
After the death of his son in a riot instigated by his erstwhile friend David, Malik goes the Michael Corleone way and launches blitzkreig against the main plotters, killing or taking them out of action, in one hurried swoop. Of course, his rise to prominence in the world of smuggling and collusion with Coast Guard and Customs remind one of Kamal Hassan’s Velu Nayagan. Hence, the obvious comparisons!
The action begins with the patriarch, Alikka, in the autumn of his life, hiding in a Mosque, looking for a safe passage to the airport, and from there to leave for Hajj. But he is arrested, and placed in the same cell with his wannabe assassin, the son of David, his estranged best friend. Alikka is never portrayed as a Superhero, just as a ruthless, ambitious man, who wanted to grow and also help his community along the way.
Mahesh Narayanan is an ambitious filmmaker who has directed Take Off and CU Soon preceding Malik. That this long, epic-scale film never drags for a moment, and allows the talented cast to perform without being hurried is in itself a major triumph. The director ably resists the temptation to fall back on rhetorical dialogues and cheap thrills, this being a mafia film. The same restraint has been displayed by Fahadh, Joju, Dileesh and Nimisha.
The central dispute in the film turns out to be between the Muslim and Christian communities. The cops, Customs, Coast Guard and politicians seem incidental. Although the film conveniently tries to shift the blame on Police, politicians and vested interests in both religions, yet it seems quite natural for one community to feel left out and become jealous of the others who have prospered. Misunderstandings, jealousies, suspicion and petty politics leads to war between Alikka and David, despite the fact that David had gladly gotten his sister, Roselyn, married to the former, despite religious differences. David does feel shortchanged, and tries his utmost best to create trouble for Malik, and to an extent, succeeds. Malik shall be remembered for the performances of the top four, or more appropriately as a case study as to how an ensemble cast full of heavyweights, should conduct itself through underplay, or even short-selling themselves, in the interest of the film.
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