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Aditi Rao Hydari and Dev Mohan in 'Sufiyum Sujatayum'. Image Credit: Supplied

Since time immemorial, parental pressure and culture has kept lovers from uniting. Debutant director Naranipuzha Shanavas’s ‘Sufiyum Sujatayum’ follows the life of Sujata (Aditi Rao Hydari) — a speech impaired young woman — and her love for a Sufi (Dev Mohan).

The film opens with Sujata and her family — husband Rajeev (Jayasurya) and daughter — living in the Middle East. The following morning, Rajeev receives a message. His wife’s former lover is dead and the burial is planned that evening.

Aditi Rao Hydari in Sufiyum Sujatayum (2020)1-1594187254208
Aditi Rao Hydari Image Credit: Supplied

Rajeev does something not many men will do. He flies to India with Sujata so that she can pay her last respects to her Sufi. Rajeev hopes that it will bring closure to a past that has been intruding into his present.

Shifting between the past and the present, Shanavas stays true to the genre while resisting temptations to making it a melodrama. Neither is he keen on biting the bait of a communal line lying underneath.

‘Sufiyum Sujatyum’ opens with promise, falters midway but finds its feet ultimately to usher in a dawn filled with love. While the narrative is told from Sujata’s perspective, the Sufi remains an enigma. What inner turmoil does he go through when in love? ‘Sufiyum Sujatayum’ could have reached its full potential if more focus had been given to the Sufi.

Sufiyum Sujatayum
Dev Mohan Image Credit: Supplied

You can’t help remembering another Malayalam story, ‘Ennum Ninte Moideen’, where religion came in the way of love. ‘Ennum Ninte Moideen’ found its rightful place solely due to its brilliant writing and pathos-filled scenes executed perfectly by Prithviraj and Parvathy.

Yet, Shanavas’s maiden film deserves praise on several counts. There are aspects in his screenplay and staging that indicate he is a talent to look out for. The town where the story is placed is in harmony with Hindus and Muslims living together. Sujata often visits Aboob — Sufi’s mentor — and her father (Siddique) is fine with it until she falls in love.

Small details make many scenes real. The burial scene is shot in a methodical manner. When Rajeevan tosses a handful of soil in the grave, he is burying a past. For a moment, he almost slips into the grave but is pulled back by someone. A simple touch added there.

Aditi Rao Hydari in Sufiyum Sujatayum (2020)2-1594187255665

Siddique’s emotional outburst in a scene left me with goosebumps. The veteran was spot on as Sujata’s father. Kalaranjini complements Siddique well. You can’t help but smile at this naive woman. In one scene, she brings a cap that she stitched for her grand-daughter and gives it to Rajeev. When he remarks that it was a bigger size, she has an answer-‘a safety pin will correct that.’

Shanavas sprinkles humour during tense moments-the cab driver when intercepted by the police for speaking on his mobile, blabbers about his wife being suddenly pregnant instead of ‘pregnant wife had to be suddenly rushed to hospital.’ The driver made me smile in another scene where Rajeev calls him up to check for his lost passport. The driver says that the passport was not in his car, but before calling off, he shares news of his wife’s delivery. Who comes up with situations that mirror life?

Aditi Rao Hydari brings in the vulnerability of a woman hindered by speech yet fearless in love. Looking beautiful with barely there make up, Hydari lights up every frame. Remarkable is the scene where she breaks down following a close family member’s death.

Dev Mohan is earnest in his role and impresses on debut. As the Sufi, he carries a warm glow. Manikandan Pattambi whose character turns the course of the story is a spontaneous performer. The graveyard scenes involving a search for something lost keeps the adrenalin going with a dread, ‘What if?’

When curtains fall, it is Rajeev who lingers long. Jayasurya’s subtle body language conveys well Rajeev’s relationship with Sujata. Though frustrated with his wife’s past and bristling with anger inside, Rajeev’s love for Sujata surpasses everything. Jayasurya is fantastic.

M Jayachandran’s music is soulful melody. The son, ‘Alhamdulillah’ is divine while the lyrics of Hindi song ‘Kya Karoon’ are beautiful. DOP Anu Moothedath’s frames are spectacular from the word go-every frame created with care — and some are surreal.

‘Sufiyum Sujatayum’ is not about love only but in understanding the one you love.

Don’t miss it!

‘Sufiyum Sujatayum’ is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.