‘Need to accept alternative platforms for cinema’: ‘Halal Love Story’ director Zakariya

The director of ‘Sudani from Nigeria’ is ready with his second film ‘Halal Love Story’ that will release on Amazon Prime next Thursday.
Zakariya Mohammed
Zakariya Mohammed
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Looking back, the month of October might bring with it a load of memories to Zakariya Mohammed and Muhsin Parari, two filmmakers from Kerala, known for their respective works. Three Octobers have given them stories to think about in years to come. The first one came two years ago, when a renowned poet passed away in Kozhikode. Zakariya and Muhsin were there for a commemoration of the writer and heard people talk about him. One of those speeches would bring the idea of a story to their minds. A year later, on another October day, they would make a film of that story. Yet another year later, again in October, the film would release. That’s the short version of how Halal Love Story got made.

From the set of Halal Love Story

Next Thursday, the film will release on Amazon Prime, a premiere coming six months too late. “We had planned it as a Vishu release, in April,” says Zakariya, the director of the film. By late March, the country went into a lockdown owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. The film had to be shelved along with 60 odd others in the Malayalam film industry.

Zakariya and Muhsin, a fellow scriptwriter, waited for months before opting for an over-the-top (OTT) release. The two have always been involved in each other’s works, it’s a decade-long friendship, says Zakariya. “We were working on the script of Kakkathollayirathi Irupathi Onnu, a film Muhsin is directing, when we took part in the commemoration gathering of the writer two years ago,” Zakariya says.

Muhsin and Zakariya

In March 2018, when Zakariya made his debut film that would bring him a ton of accolades, it was again Muhsin who co-wrote the script with him. That was Sudani from Nigeria, with Soubin Shahir being one of the few familiar faces in the cast. There were many newcomers, including the two elderly women (Savithri and Sarasa) playing two loving mothers, who would go on to win a lot of love from the audience.

It was only after the movie came out that we knew they’d become so popular, says Zakariya. So he can’t say if any such “surprise package” will come out of the new movie.

In the new film, the cast has some established actors – Indrajith leads the show with Joju George, Parvathy Thiruvothu, Soubin, Sharaf U Dheen and Grace Antony. “This film is made on a bigger budget than Sudani and these are some actors I have always wanted to work with,” says Zakariya.

Sharaf U Dheen and Joju on the set

Like the trailer shows, the film is about the efforts of a few people making a movie, told in a humourous way, he says. It is set in Kozhikode, an hour away from Malappuram. It would not be a Malabar story like his first, he says.

Watch: Trailer of Halal Love Story

Zakariya has been attracted to films since he was a high school student in Malappuram. Ever since he turned 18 and eligible to attend film festivals, he took a train to Thiruvananthapuram every December to attend the International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK). Fifteen years later, he featured his own movie – Sudani – at the fest and won the FIPRESCI award for Best Malayalam film.

A man who loves to watch films with people would definitely miss the theatre experience when Halal Love Story premieres but he realises the importance of alternative platforms. “It has become necessary to accept new and alternative platforms to bring out cinema,” Zakariya says. He too had gorged on quite a lot of OTT content during the lockdown, he says.

There is also the expectation of a film coming from one who’s achieved success with his debut– Sudani was both a hit in theatres and critically acclaimed. But more than the anxiety of a new film coming out on a new platform, Zakariya says it is exciting for him. “The excitement of how it will be accepted,” he says. 

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