Usthad hotel is definitely one of the best Malayalam movies I have seen in a while. For the benefit of those who don’t understand Malayalam, here is an attempt to transcript one of the iconic scenes in the movie, the scene where Karimikka (the grandfather) and Faizi (the grandson) talk about love.
Karimikka and Faizi are sitting by the beach, and Karimikka is brewing Sulaimani, as they discuss about the bank loan. Faizi attempts to convince Karimikka to let the bank put up the hotel for auction, in order to repay the loan. Karimikka hints that if Faizi stays, they could turn things around with the hotel. Faizi points out that no one else would have the committment that Karimikka has towards Usthad Hotel, and that maybe it is better that Karimikka himself ends, what he had started.
“Fate is an undeniable truth of life, Faizi. Let us see what happens.”
Faizi moves closer to Karimikka, “Aren’t we the masters of our own fate? I have to decide what should happen in my life. No one else can decide it to for me”.
“If that was true, would you have been here now? Wouldn’t you have been settled happily in London, instead of being stuck here listening to an old man’s problems?”, responds Karimikka with a smile.
Smiling, Faizi rests his head on Karimikka’s shoulders. Karimikka says, “It’s all fate, my child”.
“Sometimes I feel its pointless dreaming about London”, muses Faizi.
“Here”, Karimikka hands a glass of steaming Sulaimani to Faizi.
As they silently sip the Sulaimani, Faizi’s eyebrows go up in surprise. He asks, “There is something different about this. Did you add cardamom? Or is it some other spice?”. Karimikka laughs. “I’ll tell you the ingredients that I’ve used, but what was more important, was that thought in your mind, that there’s something special in it”.
As they walk towards the ocean, Karimikka continues, “Every Sulaimani must be made with a little bit of love added to it. When you drink it, the whole world must come to a standstill, at your feet. Like this…”, gesturing to the calm ocean in front of them.
They stand there, their eyes closed, sipping the Sulaimani. Faizi’s mind flashes back to that night when he and Shahana had escaped the truck drivers, running hand-in-hand, laughing. He could still feel the touch of her hand, still see her beautiful, laughing face. As he tries to push the memories away, he opens his eyes, and is amused to find Karimikka too standing with his eyes closed, a half-smile on his face.
He waits for Karimikka to come out of his reverie. “Grandpa, tell me about your love affair”. Karimikka looks at him shrewdly. “Why are you so sure that I had a love affair?”. Faizi replies, “Only someone who’s had Sulaimani, knows how it tastes”, and they both laugh.
Karimikka takes slow steps, his eyes taking on a dreamy quality as he recounts the great love affair of his life. “I was eighteen then, apprenticing under my master. We had gone to prepare biriyani for the Maulavi’s daughter’s wedding. As I sat there, stirring the biriyani, smoke got into my eyes and I turned away. At that moment, I saw a beauty sitting at the window, looking sad, like a bird in a cage. As her gaze fell on me, she noticed and gave me a smile. Something started thrashing inside my chest. Our eyes remain locked. It was like my whole life had lead me to that moment.”
With a mischevious grin, Faizi nudges Karimikka and asks, “Who was that beauty?”
Karimikka smiles and says, “The Maulavi’s daughter. It was for her wedding that I had come to prepare biriyani”. Faizi bursts out laughing. “What happened then?”. Karimikka responds with a smirk, “What do you think happened?”. Faizi continues laughing, “Obviously, she got married, had your biriyani and left. What else could have happened?”. Karimikka smiles. “What about you Faizi? Do you love someone?”. Faizi’s face immediately darkens. “Love! I don’t feel that towards anyone”. Karimikka gives a disbelieving smile, turns and starts walking towards their house. As Faizi watches Karimikka walk back towards the house, a half-smile on his face, Faizi realizes that Karimikka is still lost in his memories.
That night, as Faizi prepares to go to sleep, he calls out to Karimikka, “One thing is certain, grandpa. You still haven’t forgotten that beauty, have you?”.
Karimikka replies, “Faizi, do you know who that beauty is? It is your grandmother!”.
“WHAT?!“, Faizi sits up astonished. He gets up and goes to the living room, where Karimikka’s wedding photo rested on the wall, and true enough, there was young Karim and the Maulavi’s daughter, in their wedding attire.
With a broad grin, Faizi continues looking at them, still unable to let go of his amazement. When he goes to Karimikka’s room, he’s already asleep, a smile on his face.
Apologies for not having done justice to this awesome scene. It would take a far superior skill than mine to capture such beautiful cinema in words.