A notable feature of Zakariya's films is the gentleness with which he handles characters and situations - the humour is perceptible but sweet and even when he points out faults and flaws it is without a bite. Halal Love Story is a funny and delicate feature film that will enfold you into the exploits of the characters even as it makes you think about their actions.
The story centres around Sharif (played by an effervescent Indrajith) and Suhra (Grace Antony) a married couple whose unremarkable lives are disturbed by the local association's plans to film an Islamic telefilm.
Toufik (Sharaf-u-Dheen) and Rahim Saheb's (Nazer Karutheni) dream of a "halal" telefilm must go through several obstacles - the conservativeness of the society they live in, their own inhibitions and the day-to-day challenges of budget, casting and food. What ensues is a lovely little miniscape of characters and their interactions that give us a lens into their lives. Ajay Menon's cinematography captures the bright green of rural Kerala and the vibrant sunlight that permeates his frames is a delight to watch.
At one point, a character says that such a film is necessary "in this day and age where Islam is so misunderstood". Indeed, Zakariya's story takes us into a microcosm of rather conservative Islamic culture, which he presents to the audience with all its flaws and better side intact. There are many kinds of Muslims in Halal Love Story from Sharif, who ticks off a list of good deeds before bed or Siraj (a convincing Joju George) who drinks, smokes and regards their closed-in society with an eye of cynical humour. Joju's frustration in directing this telefilm is humorous and relatable. Neither is anyone justified nor is he glorified - they simply are. And this is the freedom to interpret the characters that Zakariya gives us so easily. We can see the way they develop and the changes they go through in the process of accepting and understanding new and sometimes strange happenings in life.
Every character gets his moment in the spotlight and shines. Their innocence and community spirit are highlighted as subtly as their flaws - in one instance a woman member of the association is interrupted by a man while speaking and the camera briefly focuses on her disappointment as she falls silent. It is in this silent way that Suhra too is given a voice to her quiet disappointments and inner frustrations.
Parvathy and Soubin too have entertaining cameos in this film that will surely delight the audience.
The music by Shahabaz Aman, Bijibal and Rex Vijayan is lilting and soft, especially the melodious "Sundaranayavane" which plays at the very beginning. Overall, it is an entertaining watch.