Most of the dynamic and central conflict between the leading pair was however, essayed beautifully..
Years after a tragic heartbreak, young Haala finally gives in to her family’s wishes and agrees to an arranged marriage with Ameen, a young man working in Abu Dhabi. However, the days leading up to their wedding is anything but smooth, with the young couple having more than a few uncertainties about each other.
Love stories centred around arranged marriages have geared their head from time to time in cinema, edging and elbowing their way in the plethora of ‘falling in love’ tales. Sulaikha Manzil is one among them. Writer-director Ashraf Hamza is to be given props for choosing to weave his story around the concept and going against the flow. But despite the potential the premise offered to weave a tale that offered a relatable story, which was achieved to an extent, Sulaikha Manzil ends up subtly peddling certain regressive and potentially dangerous notions.
The film follows the story of Haala, a young woman who decides to move on from her tragic heartbreak and give into her family’s wishes by agreeing to get married to a young man named Ameen, a match found for her by her elder brother in Abu Dhabi. During the days leading up to their marriage, Ameen is seen to be much more comfortable and forward with Haala than she is with him. While Ameen makes sure to take time to call her and tries to get to know her, Haala seems less than enthused by the union. The duo’s seemingly opposite reactions to the union soon start to put a strain on their relationship.
Ashraf’s good intention to present a simple and relatable story of two people in an arranged marriage does glint with good intention through most of the film. For the most part, the film seems like a wholesome story of two people in an arranged marriage who try to work out the differences and uncertainties each of them have about their union. The way Anarkali Marikar’s Haala and Lukman Avaran’s Ameen try to communicate with each other about their wants and expectations, and how they sometimes fall into the pitfalls that every young couple do from time to time, are showcased in a realistic and relatable way.
Haala’s inhibitions and inner conflicts are brought out subtly. She rarely uses her words to explain her uncertainty, but her mannerisms, body language and facial expressions do a great job at communicating what she goes through, courtesy of Anarkali’s wonderful portrayal. Lukman too nails his part as Ameen, a young man who tries his best to make Haala come out of her shell around him. The writing does a great job at putting the duo’s frustrations with each other onto the screen, especially in scenes where Haala and Ameen lose patience with one another and say things in the heat of the moment. The visuals of the film, as well as the dynamic between the supporting characters with the leads are a delight to watch.
However despite the pros, the script seems to subtly sugarcoat and put veneer on what is essentially stripping a person of their personal choice. Basically what happened to Haala was nothing short of wrong, being forced to leave behind the person she loved and forced into an arranged marriage by her family. Her deciding to be okay with it meant that she turned a blind eye to some of the things about him that bothered her, chalking it up to the fact that he cared about the ‘happiness of other people’. A woman making compromises when it comes to choosing a life partner for the ‘greater good’, i.e. for family, is not a message that should be taught in the 21st century, no matter how subtly it is done.
The extremely slow pace of the film, especially the first half, is another downfall of the movie, with unnecessary details and jokes that don’t land, making the first half a dragging mess. Frigid acting also reigned supreme in the first half as well.
Sulaikha Manzil had the potential to be a simple, sweet, relatable and wholesome love story, had the writing not tried to peddle as dangerous a notion as supressing one’s freedom of choice through the film, no matter how subtly. Lukman Avaran and Anarkali Marikar however, try to keep the film afloat through their wonderful performances.