‘Sudani from Nigeria’ bagged five awards at the 49th Kerala State Film Awards 2018. The film directed by new-comer Zakariya Muhammed bagged the prizes for the best popular film, best debut director, best actor (Soubin Shahir), best screenplay (Zakariya Muhammed and Muhsin Parari) and best character role for female (shared by Savithri Sreedharan and Sarasa Balussery). The best actor award was shared by Soubin Shahir and Jayasurya (‘Captain’ and ‘Njan Marykkutty’). ‘Kanthan – the Lover of Colour’ directed by C Shareef was selected as the best film. The awards were decided by the 10-member jury headed by Kumar Sahni.
The film released in March 2018 has bagged several awards earlier too, including the FIPRESCI (International Federation of Film Critics) Award for the best Malayalam film at the International Film Festival of Kerala 2018. Director Zakariya Muhammed got the prestigious Mohan Raghavan Award 2017-18 for the best debut director and the award for the best director at the first Fez International Film Festival held in Morocco in February 2019. The film won five awards at the Cinema Paradiso Club Awards 2019 for the movie, script, cinematography (Shyju Khalid), editing (Noufal Abdullah) and best actress in a character role (Savithri Sreedharan). The film was screened at the Indian Panorama section at the 49th International Film Festival of India held in Goa and at the Cinema of the World Section at the 17th Dhaka International Film Festival. Shyju Khalid and Sameer Thahir produced the film while music was composed by Rex Vijayan and Shahabaz Aman.
Malappuram has not been painted well in the Malayalam film arena so far. Malappuram which is a Muslim-majority district was always referred to as ‘Malappuram kathi (dagger)’, ‘bomb’, a place where women are oppressed etc. in the mainstream cinema.
But ‘Sudani from Nigeria’ released in 2018 has changed the negative definition of Malappuram and Muslims in Malayalam cinema. The film tells the story of a local football team manager and his player from Nigeria. The film received critical applause as well as good box office performance.
The hero of the film is Majeed, a Sevens football (played by seven members in a team, common in Malabar with its own tournaments) team manager played by actor-director Soubin Shahir. He has a few African players (commonly called as Sudanis) in his team and one of the players – Samuel Abiola Robinson from Nigeria- has to take rest for a month after an accident. And he is taken to the house of Majeed, the team Manager, who is already struggling to make both ends meet.
Majeed’s mother and a neighbour take care of the foreign player despite not knowing each other’s language. The story revolves around the problems and situations they face like Majeed’s step-father who rarely visits the family because he knows Majeed doesn’t like him; Samuel (fondly called ‘Sudu’ short for Sudani) whose family lives in a UN refugee camp in Ghana after fleeing the civil war in Nigeria; the educated girl who refuses to marry Majeed who is not that learned; the care that each character gives to the ailing Samuel; the police interrogation when they come to know via a newspaper article about the foreigner living in the village etc.
One most heart-touching scene is the way the two women (Majeed’s mother and the neighbour) react to the news of the death of Samuel’s grandmother – they say ‘Inna lillah’(the Muslim way of invoking Allah during a calamity), arrange a prayer session with the clerics recite the Qur’an and visit the mosque at Mampuram to pray for the deceased.
Another is the neighbor Beeyumma waiting for her son to come back home, which is drawn from real life where a mother of the same name (at Parappanangadi) is awaiting the release of her son Zakariya who is an under-trail for his alleged involvement in the 2008 Bengaluru blast case from prison. The film truly portrays the real Malabar – be it the love and care, passion for football, involvement in social affairs etc.