Just 4 films old. 4 distinctive films, 4 different stories, and one director. He is a filmmaker who has so far not seen a downward trajectory thanks to the various genres he has dared to explore since his first film was released. We are talking about Khalid Rahman, a name that has been the talk of the town since the year 2016, for he gave the Malayalam film-loving audience a film that is still considered one of the best slice-of-life films, “Anuraga Karikkin Vellam.”
“Anuraga Karikkin Vellam” was a sleeper hit. A film that caught everyone by surprise and put Khalid on the map as the film director to look out for in the coming years, which he proved right. Since then, Khalid’s filmography has succeeded and has gone only upwards. Khalid Rahman is a 29-year-old visionary, a young director with a fresh approach to stories, ideas, and concepts, who gives them an execution no one expects. Khalid is showing signs of a director who is in control of his craft and can’t go wrong when it comes to executing the screenplay on the screen. Khalid started as an assistant director on some of the most coveted Malayalam films of the last decade; “Usthad Hotel,” “North 24 Kaatham”, “Sapthamashree Thaskaraha,” “Parava,” and “Mayanadhi.” All these films have an individualistic flavor, which is why they stand out from the usual commercial potboilers. All the films mentioned above have been commercially and critically acclaimed.
Khalid Rahman, taking good things from all these films he assisted, came up with 4 films; “Anuraga Karikkin Vellam” (2016), “Unda” (2019), “Love” (2020), and “Thallumaala” (2022); all of them have his unique stamp on them. These films are a must-watch, by the way. “Anuraga Karikkin Vellam,” starring Biju Menon, Asif Ali, Aasha Sharath, and debutante Rajisha Vijayan, is a coming-of-age, slice-of-life story about Abhilash, who is oscillating between his work, life at home, and a complicated relationship with his girlfriend, Elizabeth. Elizabeth is loving and clingy, but she is good at heart, which Abhi is oblivious to. They soon break up, and Elizabeth has the toughest time getting over the breakup. Meanwhile, Abhi’s father, Raghu, a police officer with severe anger issues, mellows down when he comes in touch with his former girlfriend. His relationship with his wife, hardly a relationship, slowly improves once he starts conversing with Anuradha, who tells him to be gentle with his spouse and understand what she wants and likes. How Abhi and Raghu’s life stories cross paths forms the story of this amazing film, titled after a 1965 song sung by KJ Yesudas. The reason why “Anuraga Karikkin Vellam” works is the treatment of the subject matter, which is different from the usual romantic films that we see. The dialogues are realistic, and the situations and the characters are relatable, making the film better than most overtly exaggerated sappy films. As mentioned above, “Anuraga Karikkin Vellam” worked because the pace of the film was flawless, and the writing by Naveen Bhaskar made the film easy, breezy, and adorable. “Anuraga Karikkin Vellam” will always be considered one of the best films made in the romantic genre thanks to the very talented Khalid Rahman.
The stories of Khalid Rahman’s films go from romantic coming-of-age dramas to genuinely nationalistic films to toxic relationships and brawls that lead to friendships. His take on various characters in his films makes the audience look at them in a different light. His direction is sleek and traditional at the same time, giving a breather to the audience of every age group who loves cinema and can understand the stories he is conveying through this medium. The cinematography of his films is carried out by his brother, Jimshi Khalid. While his other sibling, Shyju Khalid, has helmed camerawork for some of the finest films ever produced in the Malayalam film industry (his filmography is impressive). Jimshi’s camerawork, coupled with Khalid’s direction, helps the audience peek into the minds of the characters we are watching on screen.
Khalid’s second film, “Unda,” which means “the bullet,” is a black comedy, a tale of a group of police officers sent to the remotest and most conflicted areas of Chhattisgarh to make sure the general elections go smoothly without any unwanted attacks by the Maoists. The police officers coming from various places in Kerala go through a cultural shock, face language barriers, and have difficulty adjusting to accommodation provided to them by the government. They stay for 40 days and have been strictly instructed to make use of bullets only when necessary. On reaching the location, the team realizes the gravity of the situation. They receive an earful from the military stationed in the area on why they should take this mission seriously. The military is surprised to see the limited number of bullets allotted to the police officers. How the Malayalam-speaking police officers navigate through such strenuous times forms the plot of “Unda.” “Unda” is based on true events, and what makes this film one of the best films ever is the satirical approach to the subject matter. The bureaucracy involved and the constant clash between the armed forces and police forces from Kerala show the ego all of them carry. They are least bothered by the volatile situation at hand. Khalid’s direction here stands out because the story involves talking about patriotism, the state of our nation, and the cultural shock, and not once does Khalid turn up the jingoism meter to put forth a point. “Unda” is one of Khalid’s finest works, and rightly so. Unda starred Mammootty, Shine Tom Chacko, Ranjith, Dileesh Pothan, Arjun Ashokan, and Kalabhavan Shajohn, who delivered one of the finest performances of their respective careers.
From hardcore nationalistic films to a film on toxic marriages and relationships, “Love,” released in the year 2020, is about Anoop and Deepthi, who are going through a rough patch in their marriage, and in the midst of all this, Deepthi announces she is pregnant. On reaching home, Deepthi and Anoop’s argument becomes violent. Anoop ends up killing Deepthi and tries to hide her body as, one by one, people start showing up at his place. How Anoop handles Deepthi’s dead body forms the plot. In the rawest manner, Khalid Rahman portrays a toxic marriage laced with suspicion, lack of trust, and infidelity. One of the first times in Malayalam cinema, a portrayal of a toxic marriage is showcased most realistically. The film throws light on mental health issues as well when we get to see Anoop’s sanity deteriorating as the film progresses. “Love” has a problematic ending because, as an audience, you are not sure if violence is the answer to violence. But again, Khalid Rahman’s treatment of the subject matter, the cinematography by Jimshi Khalid, the camera work, and the editing make “Love” technically brilliant. Shine Tom Chacko and Rajisha Vijayan are brilliant as Anoop and Deepthi.
Coming to his latest outing as a director after almost two years, Khalid Rahman’s “Thallumaala” has been the talk of the town for being the most technically brilliant film of the year. “Thallumaala,” which means “a chain of brawls,” is all about people getting into fights and then becoming friends. It is one of the first films in Malayalam cinema to have attempted a nonlinear form of filmmaking, which gets a tad bit exhausting, but the direction, camerawork, fight choreography, production design, costumes, and music make “Thallumaala” a must-watch. A film filled with colors and out-of-the-box cinematography; a different soundtrack gives the film an Edgar Wright quality. Wackiness is the theme of the film, and the film just gets better as the climax approaches. Starring Tovino Thomas, Kalyani Priyadarshan, Shine Tom Chacko, Lukman Avaran, Gokulan, Johny Antony, and Neena Kurup, “Thallumaala” simply works because a film like this has never been attempted before, and again Khalid Rahman is the one who goes out of his way to make a film so insanely vibrant from scene one till the last shot.
Khalid Rahman might only be four films old, but with just a handful of films in his kitty, Khalid has proved to be one of the only filmmakers who dared to travel the distance. He dares to give the audience what they least expect and surprises them. The music in his films, the characters that are written for his films, the dialogues, and the understanding of the characters come out naturally. His direction has a fresh approach where humor is blended with the narrative without making it slapstick. Khalid Rahman is a filmmaker to look forward to in the coming years. A genius filmmaker who takes a risk and does not stick to one genre.