Ali's Wedding movie review: This Netflix tragicomedy is a reassuring nod to the long-lost sub-genre

Bhaskar Chattopadhyay

June 19, 2018 10:53:13 IST

3.5/5

Directed by Jeffrey Walker and written by Osamah Sami – who also stars in the role of the protagonist – the 2017 Australian romantic comedy film Ali’s Wedding is the kind of rain-and-sunshine movie that is rarely made these days. It toes the thin line between comedy and tragedy, and inevitably ends up forcing a chuckle on our faces even as we struggle to hold back our tears. That is a feat far more commendable than we think and was the hallmark of such stalwarts of comedy as Charlie Chaplin himself. Over the years, this sub-genre of comedy has been forced into oblivion, with the advent of the new millennium threatening to strike the final nail on its coffin. It is refreshing and reassuring, therefore, that some people have still taken the pains to keep it alive.

A still from Ali's Wedding. Netflix

Osamah Sami in a still from Ali's Wedding. Netflix

The film, set in Melbourne, tells the story of Ali – the son of an immensely popular Muslim cleric, whose popularity stems from the fact that he is a wonderful teacher whose interpretations of the holy book spreads universal love and brotherhood. Ali’s father is the head of a mosque in the city and is revered by his followers. All members of the community look up to him, and as a result, there is also a certain amount of pressure on Ali, whose family expects him to be a doctor. When Ali fails the entrance exam for the medicine school, he cannot bring it upon himself to break this devastating news to his family, and as a result, he is forced to fabricate a lie that he has secured admission and is on his way to become a doctor. As is always the case, one lie leads to a dozen, and eventually the entire thing snowballs out of control, even as Ali’s family fix their son’s wedding to a ‘suitable girl’ in the community. Ali, however, has fallen in love with another girl, who – of all places – has secured admission to the med-school. The ensuing chaos, and the resulting bittersweet moments is what the film is all about.

Like a well-cooked broth, there are many ingredients that come together to make Ali’s Wedding the beautiful film that it is. The chief among this is the taut script which is both funny and pensive at the same time. While the laughs come from the wonderfully written characters (another salient feature of the film) and their idiosyncrasies, the really thought-provoking moments come from a deep study of life within a devout and orthodox Muslim family. There are no rights and wrongs here – only beliefs. And the strength of those beliefs sometimes makes and sometimes mars the destiny of those who are caught in the web of filial duty. They struggle to break free of the orthodoxy but it is easier said than done, not because trying to do so will incur them the wrath of their family members – but because succeeding will break those very people’s hearts.

One of the best things about the film is that it does not try to make any commentary on what is right and what is wrong. Instead, it merely places all the facts before us and lets us interpret them for what they are worth. Without exception, all the characters are wonderfully written – for instance Ali’s seemingly detached but, as we find out in due course, his most emotionally invested champion – his sister. It is almost a bit part, but beautifully sketched out. There are also Ali’s three friends, who he hangs out with – one of them being his younger brother. The three blokes stick with him through thick and thin, and their love for him is total and unconditional. There are also memories of an elder brother who accidentally stepped on a landmine and blew himself to bits, but not before cleverly saving his brother’s life. The shadow of this brother’s death hangs over him throughout the length of the film in a beautifully tangible form (you will see when you watch the film), and unknown to Ali’s well-meaning but not all-seeing parents, it weighs heavily on his shoulders. And, of course, there is the girl of his dreams – a girl from outside the community – but one whose beauty lies in the strength of her character. All of them love Ali, and it would not be incorrect to say that they literally pamper him, and it is the fear of breaking their hearts that makes Ali choose the path of deception at the crossroads of life.

Competently played by Osamah Sami, Ali will make you root for him in the same way you had rooted for Shah Rukh Khan’s Sunil in Kundan Shah’s lovely little film Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa. Right from the first scene of the film, Sami secures a firm grasp on your heartstrings and from thereon, continues to pull the strings to command your empathy as and when he needs it. He is the sort of loser that will win your heart, the man who makes mistakes but whose penance is true. You literally want him to jump back into the race he once abandoned and come out on the other side of the finishing line, irrespective of whether he wins or loses.

Shot in cheerful colours and with a breezy background score supporting it, the film never misses an opportunity to pull up before you certain ways of life in orthodox middle-eastern immigrant families – especially those involving the rights of women vis-à-vis those of men. These scenes have been handled with the required sensitivity and maturity, and they are clearly the best scenes of the film. There is no shouting from the rooftops, no going up in arms, no judgments – merely a simple presentation of facts. The effect is miraculous.

But among the many messages that the film sends our way, it is the unconditional nature of the love of your family that stands out the most. It tells us that no matter who we are, no matter what we do, our family’s love for us will never waver. Despite a slightly slow second half, I loved the film, and chances are – so will you.

Updated Date: Jun 19, 2018 10:53 AM