Sufiyum Sujatayum Movie Review: A tepid romance with some fine performances
The film, starring Aditi Rao Hydari, Jayasurya and Dev Mohan, doesn't have enough romance to supplement its soulful music
Some of the most interesting moments in Sufiyum Sujatayum take place on a burial ground; and, oddly enough, the film's most significant character is a gravedigger (Manikandan Pattambi). It is he who narrates the story and plays a major role in the film's closing portions.
Sufiyum Sujatayum begins well. There is an otherwordly feeling to the film's atmosphere. There is a lot of nice detailing, and one of the advantages of a direct OTT release is that one can go back and check a particular detail that was missed on the initial viewing. We are not told where the story takes place, but we can tell from the characters' accents that it is set somewhere between the Kasaragod and Mangaluru border. But in a film like this, the location doesn't matter. This is a film aiming for a global or, at least, national reach. The presence of Hindi songs hints at that.
Director: Naranipuzha Shanavas
Cast: Jayasurya, Aditi Rao Hydari, Dev Mohan
Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video
Sufiyum Sujatayum shows some promise in the opening scenes which carry a sense of foreboding. Much attention has been paid to how the environment should react to certain events. There is a poetic quality to everything. When the young Sufi priest (Dev Mohan) makes his entry, there is an aura of mystery around him. An ancient lamp at the 'Jinn Mosque' has not been working for years, he is told by the caretaker. But when Sufi (his real name must be something else) places his hand on it, it suddenly comes alive, much to the amazement of the onlooker. It recalls a scene in The Godfather-II when Fanucci enters his apartment and finds the corridor bulb behaving oddly. Fanucci meets with a terrible fate moments later, and so does Sufi. At the same time, Sujatha (Aditi Rao Hydari) wakes up, disturbed, in Dubai. A distant ambulance siren can be heard on the streets. It's a nice touch. Another lamp comes alive magically in the film's closing moments and creates a similar sense of unease. The outcome is for you to find out.
But the effort spent on world-building is not quite seen for the characters. It's a romantic musical, sure, but there is not enough romance to supplement the soulful music. This is not exactly a fresh story. I wouldn't be surprised if Mani Ratnam's Mouna Ragam shows up in discussions, or Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. One can even go way, way back and recall the Naseeruddin Shah-Anil Kapoor-Padmini Kolhapure film, Woh Saat Din. All these have a husband discovering, much to his chagrin, that his wife had once loved another man. Sufiyum Sujatayum only gives a small twist to a familiar template.
The film's biggest problem is its depiction of the central love story. I didn't buy the romance between Sufi and Sujata. We don't spend enough time with the lovers to gauge the depth of their love. "It's pure love," the gravedigger remarks at one point. But is it strong? Why is it so hard for Sujata to move on from something that carries as much depth as a college infatuation episode? Or was it deeper than what we assumed it to be? We can only talk about what we are shown, and that isn't enough for great love stories. Our vision is as limited as that of the gravedigger's.
The actors, especially Aditi, Jayasurya and Manikandan Pattambi, deliver fine performances, but their limited character development doesn't help things. One can sense that newcomer Dev Mohan is an actor with some potential, but he doesn't get enough space to explore his character. Yes, he is very charismatic, but that's about it. What is it about him that strongly drew Sujata to him?
Though a large share of the credit for brightening up the film goes to the effervescent and adorable Sujata, thanks to Aditi's effortless performance, one wishes her character had much more to offer. At times, she resembles a Mani Ratnam heroine — not Leela from Kaatru Veliyidai, but Roja. Sujata is essentially a mute version of Roja. If Sujata could speak, I imagine she would sound just like Roja. Jayasurya, despite his short screentime, manages to make his character Rajeev more memorable than Sufi. I liked how Rajeev isn't as overdramatic as Ajay Devgn's Vanraj from Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam.
The film's best moments belong to the final 30 minutes. An ample amount of tension is generated thanks to Rajeev's absent-mindedness and stubbornness. These character traits, coupled with Manikandan Pattambi's rare talent for dark humour, take the film on some unexpectedly refreshing tangents, but only for a disappointingly short time. I wish the rest of the film were as effective.