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‘Halal Love Story’ movie review: An ambiguous take on filmmaking within boundaries


Despite some great performances, the script, that does not have an emotional core like in director Zakariya’s sparkling debut ‘Sudani from Nigeria’, meanders to a tame ending

Boundaries — as to what can be shown and what should not be — are not something artists like to encounter in their creative process. In Halal Love Story, streaming now on Amazon Prime, we have a filmmaking crew working within the confines set by a not-so-progressive Islamic organisation, which has hired them to make a telefilm.

The cultural wing of the organisation, which campaigns through street plays and seminars, decides that they need to make a tele-film to reach out to more people. They hire filmmaker Siraj (Joju George) to shoot the film, but he has to stay within the boundaries set by Taufeeq (Sharaf U Dheen)’s ‘Halal’ script, written considering the delicate sensibilities of the intended audience and the strictures of the religious laws.

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Shareef (Indrajith), a deeply religious man who has dreams of being an actor, gets cast as the male lead, with his wife Suhara (Grace Antony) being forced to act as his wife in the film too, so that the halal laws are not broken. Director Zakariya and Muhsin Parari, who have co-written the film, uses this peculiar situation to draw out some humour.

Halal Love Story

  • Director: Zakariya Mohammed
  • Starring: Indrajith Sukumaran, Grace Antony, Joju George, Sharaf U Dheen
  • Storyline: A small-time filmmaking crew working within the confines set by a not-so-progressive Islamic organisation, tries to make a telefilm

It takes its time to get into its groove, especially in the initial parts where the show of religiosity is overdone, even considering the fact that a religious organisation is at the centre. The real-life issues of the actors and the director merging seamlessly into the film’s content makes for some of the film’s most interesting passages. Not to forget how reluctant-actor Suhara, with acting lessons from Stanislavsky, makes her actor husband envious, even as he hams up his scenes.

 

 

The smatterings of humour and the performances of Grace Antony and Joju George holds the film together to an extent. Yet, the script, that does not have an emotional core like in Zakariya’s sparkling debut ‘Sudani from Nigeria’, slackens later and meanders to a tame ending.

Although the film’s writers try to convey an impression that they are lampooning some of the regressive aspects of this religious organisation, there is a level of ambiguity on where they stand. When Taufeeq, the writer of the film within the film, passionately argues with the director that they also want to make films which can cater to the narrow sensibilities of the members of their organisation, one gets the sense of the film casting a very sympathetic, supportive light on him.

At a time when newer boundaries, previously non-existent, appear out of nowhere to hem in artists and even advertisement filmmakers, this rather positive, lighter take on ‘conservative’ filmmaking is somewhat problematic, despite some of the effective humour.

Halal Love Story is currently streaming on Amazon Prime



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