After a lull, Malayalam cinema is going full throttle to take advantage of the festival season.

The Malayalam film industry is moving into top gear with four major films releasing this week. The countdown to Onam will see theatres flooded with some choice flicks by top directors of Mollywood. The mood is celebratory and there are great expectations about the four filmmakers and the stars who reach the marquee this week. The movies could not be more diverse in terms of themes and style of narratives. While two are directed by veterans Ranjith and Lal Jose, who have successfully crafted a signature style of storytelling, two are directed by comparative newbies Jeethu Joseph and Sameer Thahir, who have also captured the attention of movie buffs. Over to the filmmakers and their films…

KADAL KADANNU ORU MATHUKUTTY

Cast: Mammootty, Nedumudi Venu, Balachandra Menon, Harisree Ashokan, Alisha, Muthumani, Meera Nandan, Tiny Tom, Nandu

Was fuer ein verdammtes Land? (What an awful country it is?) says Mathukutty, essayed by Mammootty in Ranjith’s new movie that reached theatres on Thursday. That statement of Mathukutty in German summarises his attitude towards his present homeland.

“I am confident about Mathukutty, one of Mammootty’s best works to date. He plays a laidback, lazy husband and family man,” says a confident Ranjith. He adds: “It is about the socio-political scene in Kerala as seen through the eyes of a nostalgic Malayali who lives in Germany with his materialistic wife, Jansamma,” adds Ranjith, one of the finest scenarists and film directors in Malayalam, about his multi-starrer.

He feels that only Mammootty could have done justice to this role and believes that it will outdo Prachiettan and the Saint, their previous film together.

Produced by August Cinema, a portion of the film was shot in Germany. “While most non-resident Keralites I met in Germany had no plans of returning to Kerala, Mathukutty hankers for his friends and family in Kerala. On the pretext of organising a programme featuring Malayalam film stars, he reaches Kerala and that is when he is forced to confront the reality of present-day Kerala.”

Mathukutty, says Ranjith, personifies the typical Malayali and his insecurities. He says each of the characters in the film has been donned by a pantheon of actors who lived their roles on screen. “Be it Venu chettan or Menon chettan or younger actors such as Harisree Ashokan and Tiny Tom, each and every actor has done a superb job,” says Ranjith.

Mohanlal, Jayaram and Dileep appear as themselves in guest appearances. Muthumani, Alisha and Meera Nandan play the female leads. Music has been scored by Shahabaz Aman.

PULLIPPULIKALUM AATTINKUTTIYUM

Cast: Kunchacko Boban, Namitha Pramod, KPAC Lalitha, Suraj Venjaramoodu, Bindu Panicker

It has been smooth sailing for Lal Jose for quite some time. For the first time, this captivating storytelling moves to Kuttanad to tell the story of a guide in the picturesque backwaters of Kerala. But thereafter the weather played spoil sport. “However, it was a memorable experience. We were working during one of the heaviest monsoons in more than three decades. Kuttanad never looked so beautiful or so verdant. But there was flooding and many a time we were standing in knee-deep dirty water during the shooting. Fortunately, none of the nearly 100-member cast and crew was hurt during the shooting. Chackochan was there for all the 65 days and not once did he or Namitha complain about the difficulties,” says Lal.

Namitha steps in as dancer Kainakari Jayasree who performs for tourists. Bindu Panicker plays her mother Kainakari Revamma, while KPAC Lalitha plays Gopan’s mother, Madhavi. There are several stars in this movie that is infused with humour. Its trailers and songs are garnering likes and shares on social media.

Lal says the script is king and the filmmaker has to rise above the script to make his work stand out. “Scenarist T. Sindhuraj is from Alappuzha and so he could easily sketch a lush background in this story about Gopan (Kunchacko Boban), a youngster with three elder brothers who are small-time ruffians of the area. Actually, the story could happen anywhere in Kerala but we wanted a new place and a fresh setting. That is how we decided to make Gopan a tourist guide in Kuttanad,” says Lal.

He teams up with his favourite music maker Vidyasagar. Two of the songs, especially a peppy duet sung by Shankar Mahadevan and K.S. Chitra is making waves.

MEMORIES

Cast: Prithviraj, Meghna Raj, Mia, Nedumudi Venu, Vijayaraghavan, Madhupal

Writer-director Jeethu Joseph unveils the mystery behind a series of murders in Memories, in which Prithviraj plays the hero.

“Just like my earlier films, this story is also based on relationships and emotions, even though this is an investigative thriller. Sam Alex (Prithviraj) is a cop, who has hit the bottle as he is haunted by memories of his wife and daughter. His alcoholism affects his equations with every one, including his mother, brother and his profession as well,” explains Jeethu.

Meghna Raj plays the role of Prithviraj’s wife and Mia acts as a journalist who has a crucial role in solving the case.

With quite a number of high profile films releasing at the same time, how tough is the competition? “Even while making films, I would like to watch movies from the perspective of a viewer. They will have their own priorities based on the genres that they like but what I am anxious about is the availability of theatres when new films queue up in the coming weeks even before the ones in theatres get the time to make an impact,” says Jeethu.

Prithviraj is also the producer of Kadal Kadannu Oru Mathukutty. Which film will the hero support the most then?

“A diplomatic answer would be ‘both’, but I would like to believe that it would be Memories, considering the efforts that he has put into the making of this one,” pat comes the reply.

NEELAKASHAM PACHAKKADAL CHUVANNA BHOOMI (NPCB)

Cast: Dulquer Salmaan, Sunny Wayne, Surja Bala, Dhritiman Chatterjee

Cinematographer-turned-director Sameer Thahir calls his film, a road movie, “a riding movie”, which he feels “can be called a sub-genre of a road movie.”

“Two friends go on a trip on their bikes to Nagaland. There are several events that happen during this journey,” he says.

Kasi (Dulquer Salmaan) and Suni (Sunny Wayne) are friends and bike fanatics who take to the road after completing their engineering.

Manipuri actor Surja Bala plays Assi, who, in the film, is a Nagamese student studying in an engineering college in Kerala.

“When we decided to make this film, we wanted to shoot at the real locations and were ready to put in our best. So we shot at the original places, covering seven states, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, West Bengal, Sikkim, Nagaland and Kerala. Of course, we all had great fun making this and there was no strain whatsoever as it was such an enjoyable process,” he says.

During the course of the journey, the two friends explore the interiors of Kolkata and there they meet the character, which is being played by acclaimed Bengali actor Dhritiman Chatterjee. “In fact, they meet only one Malayali during this whole trip, once they go beyond Kerala,” says Sameer.