‘Her love for Him, made her the Almighty’ the opening lines of the film set the tone for a tale of love that’s divine
My first, real encounter with Sufism happened on a school trip to Fatehpur Sikri. On the second day of our three-day excursion we visited the tomb of Salim Chishti. The walk to the shrine from the mighty Fatehpuri Darwaaza was anything but pleasant. There were touts, shopkeepers, self-appointed guides who kept tugging at our sleeves asking us to avail of their services. The scorching summer heat only made things worse.
But the chaos of the outside suddenly gave way to a splendid serenity as you entered the mazar. The dainty white monument standing in the middle of a sprawling premise – built entirely of red sandstone – was an oasis of peace surrounded by a seemingly never-ending mayhem. All it took was one step inside the tiny gate.
The trope of the Almighty as your beloved was intriguing and enchanting at the same time, but what happens when a mere mortal falls in love with a Sufi.
Legend has it that Akbar the mighty Mughal emperor would bow before no one, but Jodha Bai – his wife and mother of his son Jahangir – wanted him to pay his obeisance to the Sufi Saint in a more pronounced manner. After all the revered saint had predicted the birth of their son who would go on to become the next Mughal emperor. So while Akbar himself commissioned the dargah as a mark of honour for Salim Chishti, Jodha Bai secretly got the masons to build an entrance that was really low, so low that the already short Akbar too would have to bow to enter the mazaar.
My admiration of Sufism only grew in the coming years. I spent many a Thursday evening listening to qawwalis at Nizamuddin Dargah, made countless visits to Kaki’s mausoleum tucked in the narrow lanes of Mehrauli, listened to Abida Parveen croon Chaap Tilak on YouTube on loop for days. The trope of the Almighty as your beloved was intriguing and enchanting at the same time, but what happens when a mere mortal falls in love with a Sufi.
Sufiyum Sujatayum is a movie that explores one such love story. Sujata – a mute Hindu girl falls in love with a young faithful named Sufi. It’s a kind of romance the likes of which is rarely seen in movies. Pious, serene and spiritual. It starts with a rosary bead and a call to prayer, advances like lessons from the Quran, reaches a crescendo like the swirling dance of a Sufi, and ends with a tragic bereavement.
Sufi leaves his imprint on Sujata – like the green leaves of Henna that bleed a beautiful red colour on her palms- an imagery used in the movie.
The film is like a painting. It deftly uses broad strokes of maroon and green in the cinematography – the costumes, the jewellery, the colours of home. But this palate consisting of a deeper shade of saffron and green do not reinforce a religious divide as they often otherwise do, instead they compliment each other. Like the emerald and ruby in Sujata’s anklets or the crimson red turban and green kurta that cleric Aboob wears, or the green rosary beads against a brown leather diary that Sufi owns. Two different worlds coalesce to create something beautiful. Sufi leaves his imprint on Sujata – like the green leaves of Henna that bleed a beautiful red colour on her palms- an imagery used in the movie.
Aditi Rao Hydari is breathtaking in the film. Her character can’t speak but her brilliant acting doesn’t even require her to utter a sound. Her eyes do the talking, the jingling of her payal screams mischievousness and her hollow cry at her grandmother’s death rings louder than any wail that I have seen on the big screen. She is complimented by Dev Mohan – a debutante – who plays Sufi. His graceful presence is like that of a sufi saint on the big screen.
Their love story took me to Konya of the thirteenth century, where Shams and Rumi were fabled to have met in a busy marketplace and how that destined encounter changed their lives forever. Sujata and Sufi are much like Shams and Rumi, an incomplete love story devoid of passion as we might know, but replete with devotion.
Directed by Naranipuzha Shanavas
Produced by Vijay Babu
Starring Aditi Rao Hydari, Dev Mohan, Jayasurya
Release date 3 July 2020
Art: Sravan Kumar @ instagram/sravezzz
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