As in his debut film “Dozakh – In Search of Heaven”, which was officially released in 2015, director Zaigham Imam’s “Alif” is a well-meaning, simple, yet layered story that highlights the need for Muslims to rise above their ghetto mentality. It mirrors the society with complete honesty.
Set in Varanasi, the film is narrated from Ali’s point of view. Ali is the son of Raza, a Hakim — a physician using traditional remedies prominent among the Muslim communities. During his formative years, under duress Ali is forced to attend a madrassa. How he breaks free to educate himself and becomes an allopathic doctor, forms the crux of this tale.
Written and directed by Zaigham Imam, the narrative is uncomplicated and sincere. The screenplay unlocks simply, through the realistic lives of its characters, bringing to the fore societal pressures like guilt, redemption, prejudices and romance in a society fragmented by religion.
Every character is intricately well-etched and the actors leave an indelible mark with their performance, albeit at times with an over-the-top recital. Nevertheless, there are a few scenes that touch the right notes. Saud Mansuri as the young Ali slips into his character with ease. Though his performance seems a bit staged, he is naturally endearing. It is equally delightful to watch his friend who plays the character Shakeel.
Apart from the kids, it is Danish Hussain who delivers a realistic performance as Raza. He portrays his guilt, angst and resentment, in an understated manner. He is every inch the remorseful brother who tries hard to attain redemption.
The kohl-eyed Aditya Om as Jamal, the newly appointed teacher at the madarassa, Bhavana Pani as Raza’s wife, Simala Prasad as Shamim – Raza’s niece and Jamal’s love interest, are all equally effective.
In a pivotal role as Zahara — Raza’s Pakistan-based sister, Neelima Azeem although an otherwise versatile actor, is an eye-sore in this film. She hams throughout the film.
Jaya Bachchan’s voice-over is distinct and adds gravitas to the narrative.
Apart from a few sound synchronization issues, the film is astutely mounted with moderate production values.
This is a well-made film that would appeal to cinema lovers who throng the festive circuit.