‘Sudani from Nigeria’ weaves a tale around sevens football

Debutant Zakariya’s ‘Sudani from Nigeria’ is a poignant story set against the backdrop of sevens football

Published - February 15, 2018 06:00 pm IST - Thiruvananthapuram

 Soubin Shahir and Samuel Abiola Robinson in a still from Sudani from Nigeria

Soubin Shahir and Samuel Abiola Robinson in a still from Sudani from Nigeria

Malabar is the mecca for football in Kerala, especially sevens tournaments. The main draw at these tournaments are players from African countries recruited by various clubs. From November to May, which is the season for sevens tournaments, these players stay with local residents, adapting to their food, culture and way of life. For Zakariya, a wannabe filmmaker, the life of these footballers was worth a story. And thus was born his debut film, Sudani from Nigeria , which has become the talk of tinsel town after its trailer was released.

The film is about Samuel (played by Nigerian actor Samuel Abiola Robinson) and Majeed (Soubin Shahir), the manager of a football club who brings him down to play for his club. “It was amusing to see how these players tried to fit into our society. These clubs can’t afford expensive accommodation for the players and so most of them stay in the locality itself. They cook their own food; sometimes you find them in the market purchasing condiments. They may also join a motley crowd at a junction so that they become one among us,” says Zakariya, a native of Valanchery in Malappuram.

 Zakariya, director of Sudani from Nigeria

Zakariya, director of Sudani from Nigeria

All of them are called Sudanis, even though very few of them actually hail from Sudan! “Perhaps, there used to be players from Sudan. At present, the players are from Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Liberia among other countries. Yet people address all of them as Sudanis,” he says.

Exploring relationships

Zakariya points out that the film is not just about football. “It is a story set against the backdrop of sevens football. While Samuel finds a fanbase, an injury plays spoilsport and he has to stay with Majeed’s family for two months,” he says.

The laughs are provided when the naive residents get curious about Samuel and try to interact with him. Barriers of culture and language are there, yet they make an effort to make him feel at home. “The film also highlights how many sponsors often fail to think beyond the game when they ‘import’ these players. They are not prepared for eventualities such as injuries,” Zakariya says. This is Soubin’s first film as a hero. Sameer Thahir-Shyju Khalid team is producing it. Although he has directed four short films and has assisted in two films, Zakariya says that the presence of these senior hands is like a lifeline. “I realised that getting a film to theatres is an arduous process. If they weren’t there I might have ended up making the mistakes of a debut director,” says the 30-year-old.

 Soubin Shahir with Samuel Abiola Robinson in a still from Sudani from Nigeria

Soubin Shahir with Samuel Abiola Robinson in a still from Sudani from Nigeria

In fact his idea was to make an independent film with new faces. He had approached cinematographer-filmmaker Rajeev Ravi to find out if Collective Phase One, the producers’ collective, would produce his film. “But after listening to the story he suggested that I could make it on a bigger scale and that Soubin might be apt for the main role. In fact he himself called up Soubin! It was my friend Muhsin Parari (director of KL 10 Pathu ) who forced me to approach Sameer with the story. Sameer liked the story and agreed to produce it with Shyju,” he says.

Zakaria is the scenarist of the movie along with Muhsin. Rex Vijayan is the composer. Khurra..., a song from the movie, has already been released. “Shahabaz Aman had written and composed that number for a documentary many years ago. Rex re-arranged it for the movie,” he says. Two more songs are under production.

As for the cast, 19-year-old Samuel was identified by Zakariya himself after surfing the Internet. He is a professional actor and has done television and cinema. The film has many new actors such as Savithri Sreedharan and Sarasa Balussery, both award-winning stage artistes and Unni Nair, a veteran of many short films.

The film is slated to release next month.

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