Besides Soubin Shahir, with his impeccable comic timing, the other attraction of Sudani from Nigeria is Samuel Abiola Robinson, who has come all the way from Nigeria to play the lead in the Malayalam movie by debutant director Zakaria. But, Samuel, who plays a footballer, was totally unaware of Kerala, or Malayalam cinema until Zakaria contacted him. "In fact, when I spoke to Samuel, I understood that he was an avid Bollywood fan. He was so thrilled to be a part of Indian cinema that he had already learnt a few Hindi words. I had to tell him this was a Malayalam movie and we don't speak Hindi. Nevertheless, he was thrilled," says Zakaria.
The director says Samuel was zeroed in after a long audition process. "When I was scripting the story, my plan was to rope in an African player who arrives to play football in Malappuram. I hoped to find someone who can act. But, once things started rolling, the canvas grew bigger that we decided to bring in an actor itself. We auditioned many from Nigeria, US and UK, but it was Samuel who fitted the role. He has already done movies and TV series, which are available on Netflix," says the director.
Zakaria says Samuel sunk his teeth so well into the role that they had a great experience shooting for the film. "Language didn't matter actually, for his character speaks in broken English throughout. He even took football lessons," says Zakaria.
Sevens and friendship Hailing from Malappuram, Zakaria has
always known Northern Kerala's obsession with football. "The Sevens football season starts from October and extends till May. Every year, a lot of African players come down to Kerala to play. In fact, a few years before, it was a Kerala club who roped in a Sudani who was studying in Kerala to play for their team. That set a trend and soon many African players started coming in from other parts of the country. These days, a lot of them fly down from Nigeria, Liberia, Ivory Coast and Laos to North Kerala during the season.
Though they hail from many countries, all of them are generally labelled 'Sudanis'. And, Sudani from Nigeria is about one such player from Nigeria and the friendship he forms with the manager of the team, played by Soubin," says Zakaria.
The trailer is already a hit and the director says the movie follows a narrative laced with humour. "It is an ode to friendship. Though we have a few football sequences, much of the action happens outside the field," says Zakaria. Sudani from Nigeria hits the screens on March 23.