By John Cheeran
If only religion could resolve men’s troubles.
Now here is a film about a film that is in the making exclusively for a religious community—meeting all the safety standards of the sensitive community, unspoilt by the intrusion of other men, women or any other creatures.
Oru Halal Love Story has provoked debates—about the movie’s and moviemaker’s intent, need and ideology to come up with such an effort in the only state in India where Muslims can live with confidence and without fear.
The one significant criticism is that the film has been made at the behest of Jamaat e Islami to buttress its cultural and social interventions. For Jamaat e Islami, films are a strict no-no. Its newspapers and news channel do not run advertisements for films, for it considers it as a vice.
The key people—the brain trust—behind Halal Love Story are Muslims, including some of them with certain ‘revolutionary’ credentials so they could be paraded as future candidates by CPI(M) in an assembly or Lok Sabha election. Zakariya is the director who won critical acclaim with his compassionate treatment in Sudani From Nigeria, set in northern Kerala Muslim milieu. Though essaying only a slice of a role brilliantly, Saubin Shahir is the finest contemporary actor in Malayalam. The writers, too, are halal.
Now, why there should be a halal film?
In the very beginning the man in an the impresario role—Rahim sahib–makes it clear the need for a halal film—for adhering to the sensibility of Muslims in Kerala. That is an admission that Muslims—at least some section of them—are not getting halal cuts in theatres. Rahim—who much like the crazed, anti-American CPI(M) politburo members—can only watch Iranian movies (Children of Heaven) and is in the forefront of the absurd stir against Coca-Cola in Plachimada (here again, many campaigns of Jamaat e Islami and CPI(M) have many meeting grounds, but that’s another story).
Here is the admission: I enjoyed Halal Love Story since I found it as a spoof.
How do you make movie a halal?
First, all your characters should be Muslims. The role of husband and wife should be played only by a Muslim couple. The film should be funded by halal money.
How could you not find it funny that a man who generously funds the movie says no to Coca-Cola and prefers ‘kattan chaya’? If you turn your back to American and western influences, products, gadgets and vaccines, one must applaud that level of absurdity in life. But the choice is yours.
I wanted Zakariya to have a character in the film who would tear the poster of a Ronaldo and Messi, and replace them with Mohammad Salah and Zinedine Zidane.
As already many have pointed out, the only deviant character (the director of the film) in Halal Love Story, Siraj, is a drunkard and has a strained relationship with his wife. That is in stark contrast to the hero who makes and sells halal coconut oil (Thelima, purity). Again, you get another chance to laugh at the Muslims in the movie. The halal movie makers do not accept money earned as interest as contribution. Again, if only the Muslims who hold bank deposits donated the interest they earn to their own community’s welfare, Kerala economy would have been far more buoyant.
Halal Story is fun, but dangerously so. Despite the film portraying actor-trainer Haseena (Parvathy Thiruvoth) without covering her mane, a practice that is frowned upon by the likes of Jamaat e Islami and the compromise arrived at in picturizing that denouement in an embrace between the husband and wife in foggy confusion, to those who want to get a ‘halal blood’ infusion, their moment has arrived.