Fahadh Faasil lost 10 to 15 kilos as his character ages from 21 to 58, says 'Malik' director Mahesh Narayanan

Mahesh Narayanan   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Growing up in Poonkulam, a few kilometres away from coastal Kovalam, Mahesh Narayanan had many friends who lived by the sea. He was not oblivious to their struggle for livelihood and their defiance in the face of exploitation. Those stories of perseverance remained with him and now a slice of their life is being transformed on to the celluloid in his second directorial venture, Malik.

The editor-director, who won commercial as well as critical appreciation for his directorial début, Take Off, a gripping drama based on the real-life rescue mission of Indian nurses stranded in Iraq, has made the canvas even bigger with Malik. The Fahadh Faasil-starrer is already riding high on expectations after photographs of the actor in a lean look were splashed on social media. The first look poster with the actor has also enhanced the hype.

The big-budget movie, written and scripted by Mahesh, is “set in a coastal terrain and is inspired by the life of an individual who lived in one of those villages. It is a fictionalised account, taking only certain instances from his life,” he says.

First look poster of ‘Malik’

First look poster of ‘Malik’   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

The film is based around an incident in the history of Kerala involving two coastal villages, which had its repercussions on the political, religious, judicial as well as social fabric of the State. “The real reason behind the incident remains a mystery. The film explores the tragedy and how it affected the minority community,” he says.

The protagonist is Sulaiman (Fahadh), who emerges as the godfather for the fisher-folk. “A migrant, he is addressed as 'Malik' or owner, for he is the one they all look up to. He motivates them to resist threats to their land, homes, beliefs and occupation. As natural and man-made calamities throw their life out of gear, the State and bureaucratic machinery either remain mute spectators or force them to evacuate, thus opening doors for corporate players to enter the fray. Sulaiman emerges the leader in such a situation and keeps the community united,” narrates Mahesh.

Problems sans boundaries

He observes that the problems faced by the fisher-folk are infinite. “When you talk about boundaries, that doesn’t mean lines of demarcation between countries alone. The ocean is also a boundary. There are border politics, issues of trade and sometimes problems within the community itself and with the authorities. The fisher-folk are sidelined when it comes to education as well. All these have been explored in Malik,” he points out.

He explains that the issues faced by the fishing community is the same everywhere, be it in Kanyakumari, Kolachel, Rameswaram or Dhanushkodi. How the bureaucracy handles their problems is also more or less similar. “Even though we hailed them for their rescue act during the floods, we often choose to ignore their problems,” he says.

Mahesh says that although he had discussed the project with Fahadh much before Take Off, it was put on hold because of the huge production cost involved. “Also, Fahadh didn’t have the stardom he has now. But the success of Take Off brought us a producer. Although we have taken up a sensitive subject, it has been treated in a commercial way,” he points out.

Location hunt

However, the biggest challenge was finding a location. “The story spans 1965-2018 period and so we had to show the transformation of places and people. We couldn’t do that in any of the coastal areas. Also, I didn’t want to shoot at the original location because there are people who still remain affected by the incident and some of them are my friends,” he adds.

So they finally zeroed in on a six-acre plot at Kalamassery in Kochi, where art directors Santosh Raman and Sajan put up the set. Scenes have also been shot along the coastal belt, “from Kanyakumari to Munambam”, Minicoy in Lakswadweep and Abu Dhabi. People from coastal areas were auditioned for certain roles as the characters speak in the slang of the fisher-folk from the coastal belt of Thiruvananthapuram. Pre-production took several months. A miniature set was created before the actual one was made.

Making the cut
  • As the editor of Malik, Mahesh says that he ensured that he shot only “those scenes that he wanted”. Among his upcoming works as editor are Martin Prakkat’s new film starring Joju George and Kunchacko Boban, Karachi 81, a spy thriller featuring Prithviraj and Tovino Thomas, and sequel to Kamal Haasan’s Thevar Magan

Mahesh says IV Sasi’s Ee Nadu was an inspiration to work on a large canvas. “It is a miracle that he shot it in 20-odd days. Not many filmmakers are taking up that genre now and I wanted to try that format in the present time with Malik,” he says.

Calling it the biggest project in Fahadh’s career, he says that the actor lost 10 to 15 kilos as his character ages from 21 to 58. “Like him, other actors also had to put on and lose weight, which they had to do in the 90-odd days we shot the film,” he says. Vinay Forrt plays a pivotal role and others in the cast are Nimisha Sajayan, Dileesh Pothen, yesteryear actor Jalaja, Joju George, Salim Kumar and Indrans, besides several new faces from theatre. Sanu Varghese, who shot Take Off, is the cinematographer. Lee Whittaker, Hollywood action director, has choreographed the action sequences. Music is by Sushin Shyam.

Talking about bringing another real-life story on to the celluloid, Mahesh says that Take Off and Malik fall into different zones.

“People have expectations about your second movie when you’ve had a successful outing with your debut. But I didn’t approach Malik in that way. It’s just that the success of Take Off gave me the confidence to do this one. I always want to tell stories that touch my heart. One gets a kick out of such subjects and that happened in the case of Malik as well. Thankfully, I had a team that stood by me. I want this work to be remembered for at least 10 years,” he says. The film is slated to release in mid-April.

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Printable version | Sep 27, 2021 12:04:46 AM |

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