12 Years Later, Fahadh Faasil’s ‘Malik’ Reminds Kerala's Beemapally of Trauma
Over 12 years after the police firing, the people of Beemapally are irked that the film had factual discrepancies.
The Fahadh Faasil-starrer 'Malik', directed by Mahesh Narayanan, is one of the most poignant films this year, but the people of Kerala’s Beemapally don’t approve of it.
The locals and film critics believe the film has several references to the 2009 police shooting in Kerala which had resulted in the death of six fishermen, including a 16-year-old boy.
Over 12 years later, people of Beemapally are irked that the film 'Malik' had many factual discrepancies that pinned the blame on the Muslim community.
The Real Story
Director Mahesh Narayanan has said the movie is a political thriller – and not a historical fiction.
"I haven’t really linked it to a real-life incident. If people want to read it like that, let them.(...) Like every film of mine, Malik is taken from surroundings but it’s still a fictional place with fictional characters. If those who watch it think it’s related to Kerala’s social atmosphere, I can’t find fault with that as well," Narayanan said in an interview to The News Minute.
But locals point out that the film's plot, of a victimised community facing police abuse, is similar to the 2009 incident. Malik is set in a fishing village in Kerala during the period of 1965 to 2018, involving two coastal villages of Muslims and Christians that had its repercussions on the religious and political fabric of the area.
According to the residents of Beemapally, trouble began on 8 May 2009, when a notorious criminal named Kombu Shibu from the Latin Catholic -dominated Cheriyathura region started a fight with the locals of Beemapally over a ceremony at the local mosque. Latin Catholics are a marginalised OBC community in Kerala.
The argument aggravated so much so that, on 16 May, Shibu and his gang allegedly stopped buses filled with devotees arriving for the ceremony. This allegedly led to clashes between Shibu and the Beemapally residents.
On 17 May, Shibu and his accomplices set fire to public property and pinned the blame on the backward Muslim community, residents alleged.
Reny Ayline, an activist who had visited Beemapally as part of a fact-finding team for the National Council of Human Rights Organisation, told The Quint, “The Muslims and Christians said they knew that the other community was not responsible for the altercation.”
But media reports stated that the police claimed that a ‘violent mob’ from Beemapally entered the Cheriyathura area with ‘explosives from Nagpur’ and tried to attack the Latin Catholic Church. They said that they had to retaliate with firing in an attempt to rescue the Latin Catholic community.
A few days after the incident, a forensic team recovered Neogel-90 explosives from the area, giving credence to the theory and justification for the police firing, which was unauthorised. The movie even depicts how guns were smuggled into 'Ramadapally.'
Locals Slam Movie for 'Wrong Representation'
The opening credits of the film state – “This is a work of fiction.”
"Primarily it’s the place I grew up. My house is near Kovalam. We don’t really address the border issues of the people, and this is about the conflicts in the coastal belt in that region," Narayanan had told in the interview to The News Minute.
But critics believe that when facts based on real-life incidents are projected in a film, it becomes impossible for the audience to not make the connection.
Malik tells the story of two communities, one Muslim and another Christian, living in close proximity to each other. It revolves around Sulaiman Ali's love for his community, smuggling and political involvement in protecting his people from corrupt politicians, which is set in a landscape similar to Beemapally.
The mosque in the film has been given the name 'Ramadapally', and looks strikingly similar to the architectural style of Beemapally.
The film also showcased the community as prone to organised crime and acts of terror by linking it to the police firing.
"The film had so many wrong facts. There was an accusation made in the film that we closed the gates of the masjid when tsunami struck because people from other communities had ran towards it. This isn't true at all," said a senior Muslim leader.
'Malik' Magnified the Blame Game?
The fact-finding reports by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties and the National Confederation of Human Rights Organisation said there were no 'communal conflicts' during the incident in Beemapally. However, the movie shows that Muslim communal forces were responsible for the altercation that led to the police firing.
It is important to understand that the Latin Catholic and Muslim fishing communities have coexisted in their respective neighbourhoods for quite a long time, with a few conflicts.
"This accusation stems from the police version that brought in the communal element by calling it the ‘Cheriyathura firing’ that created the false impression that 'the police fired at Muslim fishermen who were about to attack the Christian minorities,'" said a local. The film magnified this blame, he added.
An excerpt from a field report, translated by Ashraf Kunnummal, noted, “Paying attention to the politics of ‘naming’ of the Beemapally incident will help to unpack the police and dominant media versions. In the days following the incident, the police and the media referred to it as the ‘Cheriyathura firing’."
It further said, "This falsely indicates the misconception that the Muslim fishing community of Beemapally entered and attacked Cheriyathura, when the journalists and fact-finding teams who went beyond the police version found that there was no such thing as church attack or any Muslims entering into the area of Cheriyathura.”
Investigation That Held No One Responsible
Following the release of the film ‘Malik’, the Beemapally Cultural Committee on 22 July organised a protest against director Mahesh Narayanan, alleging that the film portrayed Beemapally as the place of robbers and frauds. The people also demanded strict action against the policemen responsible for the shooting.
In the aftermath, four policemen had been suspended and the city police commissioner was transferred. A judicial commission headed by district judge K Ramakrishnan investigated the incident and the Commission submitted a report to then chief minister Oommen Chandy in January 2012.
Following the report, the state government requested the CBI to investigate the explosives found at the location.
The report of the Justice Ramakrishnan Commission that conducted an inquiry into the incident has not been made public yet.
The Central Bureau of Investigation, which probed the source of explosives, filed a closure report four years later in 2013, saying no links could be established between the riots and explosives. They also failed to establish how it reached the area.
“The report has not been made public till date. Former Home Ministers Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan, Kodiyeri Balakrishnan and Pinarayi Vijayan did not do anything about this. It doesn’t matter if it is LDF or UDF as it is only the poor fishermen who are struggling with poverty,” said Ayline.
The Muslim leaders of Beemapally told The Quint that they intend to meet the chief minister soon to demand justice.
Senior police officials say that is a ‘shut case’ but for the people of Beemapally, the film has turned triggered memories of trauma and loss from a decade ago.
Subscribe To Our Daily Newsletter And Get News Delivered Straight To Your Inbox.