Movie Review: Sudani From Nigeria


Malayalam cinema has been charming me all over again in recent times. After the brilliant and powerful movies of the 90s, there was a lull in the 2000s until talent like Dulquer, Fahadh, Parvathy, Aparna Gopinath et al arrived on the scene. More recently, there have been some intense and noteworthy performances from slightly more under-the-radar actors, one of whom is Soubin Shahir.

I first noticed Soubin in Maheshinte Prathikaram and Anuraga Karikkin Vellam. At the time, although he made an impression it didn’t keep me from dismissing his acting as slightly over the top and leaning towards the slapstick variety. That’s why when I saw Sudani from Nigeria I was blown away. This is Soubin’s first full lead role and he has done it with aplomb.

Set in a village in football-crazy Malappuram, we are introduced to Samuel (Samuel Abiola Robinson), who has come to Kerala as part of a football team in the hope of a better life thanks to Majeed (Soubin), the team’s manager. Majeed who is enjoying a successful run has pinned his hopes high on the talented Nigerians he recruited for the upcoming tournaments. But it all comes crashing when Samuel has an accident and fractures his ankle. Majeed is forced to take him to his own house to recover to save on hospital expenses. Majeed’s mother Jameela (Savithri Sreedharan), and her best friend and neighbour Beeyumma (Sarasa Balussery) take care of Samuel, who is generally known as Sudu (short for Sudani) in the village, wholeheartedly and with warmth.


Image courtesy: Deccan Chronicle

What follows is some humble, clean storytelling that touches upon a whole host of topics in its short frame including friendships, family issues, and village politics. But the overwhelming message is that love knows no bounds. And language. Jameela and Beeyumma don’t know a single word of English but their kind gestures, their warm care, and their smiles speak volumes to Sudu who begins to call Jameela as Mamma. Sudu becomes something of a mini celebrity in the neighbourhood and every other day curious but caring neighbours pay him a visit trying to talk to him. Through gestures, mimes, and one-word replies everybody ends up having a good time.

The true-to-life performances from each of the actors is nothing short of stunning in its sheer simplicity. Savithri and Sarasa are totally endearing in their open-hearted embrace of Samuel into the fold while Soubin’s friends and the steady stream of villagers around them complete this charming montage. Samuel, in his first Indian foray, does an exceedingly great job given that his role demands less words and more emotive expressions. Lastly, but definitely not the least, Soubin’s measured and subdued portrayal of Majeed has been a treat to watch.

The one tiny cavil I have is that while Samuel has been accepted completely by the family, the film seems reluctant to let go of his status as an outsider. We know almost nothing about Sudu’s family except that he comes from a war-torn village in Nigeria, and that his family consisting of two sisters and a grandmother live in extreme poverty. All of a sudden, we hear that his grandmother has passed away and that he needs to get back his village pronto. The lack of a continuous narrative on Samuel’s behalf makes this abrupt interjection look like a mere plot catalyst, and just a base for the second half of the movie to stand on. Although we know that both Sudu and Majeed have a lot of financial difficulties, there’s not much background given about why Sudu is the way he is. Since language is not a barrier as the movie emphasizes I don’t see why we could not have been familiarized more with Sudu’s family as much as he was to ours.

Of course, this does not take away the delight that Sudani from Nigeria brings all through. Heartwarming and honest, and sprinkled with just the right amount of chuckles, this is a must watch for all movie fans in general.

Rating: 4.8/5

2 Responses
  1. Wow. This sounds amazing. I saw the soccer fervor in Kerala this month. Giant posters of the Argentine and Brazil team and stars like Ronaldo and Messi everywhere. I would love to watch this movie. Amazing review Gundu!

    1. Swati Nair

      Yeah Kerala is mad about football like Kolkata. Yes, I think you will love this movie 🙂 The characters were all so very natural and no theatrics anywhere.

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