'Deira Diaries': Dubai-shot Malayalam film showcases different side of life in the Gulf

The drama, which features mostly fresh faces is now available to stream

A South Indian movie that offers an intimate look at the lives of middle class residents in the UAE, and was entirely filmed in Dubai, has just been released on streaming service NeeStream.

Directed by Mushthaque Rahman Kariyaden and shot in Malayalam, the language spoken in Kerala, Deira Diaries focuses on five unrelated people whose lives are unknowingly changed by one person.

The film was shot over two months in 2020, right before the coronavirus-imposed stay-at-home measures. With the exception of lead actors Abu Valayamkulam and Shalu Rahim, known names in the Malayalam film industry, Deira Diaries features mostly fresh faces, many of whom are UAE residents.

Dubai radio presenter Arfaz Iqbal also features in the film.

"The simple worlds or acts of somebody whom we know well may influence us greatly, but they often go unnoticed. Deira Diaries is about five different lives that were touched by Yousuf, an ordinary, simple expat. And those people come to this realisation only when Yousuf disappears from their lives," says director Kariyaden, adding that he also wanted to showcase a different side to life in the Gulf, away from the glitz and glamour often portrayed in Indian movies.

“We wanted to showcase what life is really like for the middle class expat here."

Kariyaden, who has lived in the UAE for 27 years, has directed a number of TV series and shows in Malayalam. This is his first feature-length film.

Shooting in Dubai and around the Deira neighbourhood was a breeze, he says.

“We had so much support from the UAE government who went out of their way to make sure everything was in place. It’s no wonder that many Indian films are being shot here,” he adds.

The film’s 20-day schedule was tight since most of the cast members also had day jobs, explains production manager Reju Anthony Gabriel, who also plays a small role in film.

“We had to shoot mostly on weekends and holidays, but we somehow made it work,” he says. “And because many of us knew each other, it was like a big picnic.”