Director Ashraf Hamza, through Anarkali Marikar and Lukman Avaran’s roles, raises pertinent questions about the institution of marriage.
Sulaikha Manzil (Malayalam)
Ashraf Hamza’s Sulaikha Manzil is a shift from the director’s earlier films Thamaasha (Joke, 2019) and Bheemante Vazhi (Bheeman’s Path, 2021) which dealt with serious issues conveyed more lightly.
Sulaikha Manzil talks about marriages and the inner feelings of the couple before they get hitched. Anarkali Marikar and Lukman Avaran play the roles of Haala Parveen and Ameen respectively.
The movie showcases Muslim marriages in the Malabar area of Kerala, a topic that’s not much explored in Malayalam cinema.
Thallumaala (Ballad of Brawls, 2021) is an exception to this as the film portrayed both marriage and the silly fights held between boys.
Though Ghazal (1993) and Malappuram Haji Mahanaya Joji (1994) were set against a Muslim backdrop, these films weren’t directed by a person hailing from the Malappuram district. Hence, artificiality in dialogue was evident here.
Nevertheless, Sulaikha Manzil is realistic in this part.
Sulaikha Manzil has various elements like marriage, family relations, the feelings of a bride and groom, and an estranged relationship between a brother and sister.
This time, Ashraf Hamza tries to make his venture more colourful with songs and settings in a marriage house.
It is set in Ponnani, a small town in Malappuram. Haala Parveen has a love affair in her teens and ends it after a funny incident.
The director uses old album songs like “Mappila Pattukal”, a trend in the early 2000s, to give a mood to teenage romance.
However, Haala has no good relationship with his brother Samir played (Chemban Vinod Jose). Samir takes care of the family. He tries to marry his sister off but she isn’t willing to.
Finally, Haala agrees to marry Ameen. But they have only 14 days to their wedding as it was a sudden decision.
Despite several attempts, Ameen wants to know Haala but fails to strike up a conversation with her as the latter shows no interest. Ameem thinks Haala neither cares for him nor respects him.
The wait is over!
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The movie is a sincere effort to showcase the feelings of these two characters.
Big fat weddings are part of Indian culture and the money used for these marriages often gets wasted after divorce.
The director tries to talk about the issue at a time when the divorce rate is already on the rise in society. However, the film isn’t preachy. It subtly raises the point and discusses it.
The female characters are strong. After a conflict with Ameen, Samir’s wife tells Haala that they will marry her off only if it’s her choice.
Towards the climax, Haala’s stand that she is ready to live with a person who doesn’t want to humiliate others for his personal choice needs to be appreciated. In another scene, she expresses herself when Ameen makes statements that Haala is being judgemental.
In another engagement sequence, Samir is asked to check if Haala is willing to marry Ameen. This is a welcoming shift from usual scenes where men’s choices only matter.
Having said this, it needs to be mentioned that Sulaikha Manzil has scenes that reflect male dominance in Muslim families.
Being the head of the family, Samir commands respect from everyone. He makes decisions for all his family members and so do other men but not women, which holds true in reality, too.
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— Think Music (@thinkmusicindia) April 21, 2023
Music is the soul of the movie. After his successful composition for Thallumaala, Vishnu Vijay scored some soulful tracks for Sulaikha Manzil.
Choreography is another highlight. The dance numbers bring Muslim weddings alive onscreen.
After her amazing performance in the recently released B 32 Muthal 44 Vare, Anarkali Marikar gets a noteworthy role here. She perfectly portrays Haala’s emotions and confusion. Her dance moves in the “Jil Jil” song are appealing.
Lukman Avaran shines as Ameen who has high dreams and hopes about his marriage.
Chemban Vinod, who also produced the flick, is decent.
Ganapathy as Adil who acts over-smart in a family is good.
Shubha Sreedhar (as Sulaikha) doesn’t get much screen space, though the name of the film is Sulaikha Manzil.
Sulaikha Manzil daringly asks a pertinent question — is marriage a celebration or an understanding between couples?
(Views expressed are personal.)