Malayalam cinema is in the process of a creative churning that is throwing up interesting trends and twists.
Malayalam cinema never had it so good. It has been raining films during the first half of the year. Around 85 films have already hit the screens by now and movie buffs are still counting.
“Yes, the industry is active in terms of productivity but the cumulative loss could go up as well with so many films at various stages of completion. I feel that too many releases may not benefit in the long term,” says director B. Unnikrishnan, who is general secretary of the film technicians’ outfit, FEFKA.
“Actually, we mean proportionate earnings compared to the budget, when we talk about emerging trends. When films such as Subramaniapuram and Mynaa are making profits that could match up with superstar projects in Tamil, this kind of a box office reception for small-budget films is yet to happen here. Of course the coming of new talents and the rising popularity of some fresh faces are positive aspects,” he adds.
Among the releases, while a few went on to set the cash registers ringing, some just about managed to recover the investment mainly due to satellite rights given to TV channels.
The first half has also seen at least 30 new directors try their luck at the box office. But many of their dream projects nosedived at the box office and only a few could catch the attention of movie watchers. In the meantime, veteran Lal Jose proved that he was the filmmaker with the golden touch as his films continued to romance the box office with slickly made movies. In this world of dreams and make belief, this could be a transitory stage that will lead to the emergence of new trends.
Thematically, Malayalam cinema is going through a creative and experimental phase that has seen a wide variety of themes being turned into films. Romance, family drama, adventure, suspense, political thrillers, fantasy, horror, comedy and even a stoner film played out in theatres to varying responses. But the significant factor is that these films were made and there were audiences to watch the films. Sound Thoma, Romans, Amen, Annayum Rasoolum, Celluloid, 5 Sundarikal, Shutter, Mumbai Police, Kili Poyi, Emmanuel, Neram, Papilio Buddha, Natholi Oru Cheriya Meenalla and Left Right Left stood apart. If some of the flicks listed above won critical acclaim, some won over the box office. Lijo Jose Pellissery, whose Amen is regarded as the finest film of the year until now, agrees that “for me, this kind of response is beyond my wildest dreams and perhaps like the miracle that is happening in Amen. The viewers here are intelligent enough to accept films with all its merits and demerits,” he says.
Of the eighty-plus movies, the two big ‘M’s – Mammootty and Mohanlal, featured in only five films, leaving the field open to a bunch of actors who are scorching the screen with different acts that have garnered them awards and accolades. The credit for the big hits go to actors who have honed their talent over the years. Leading the group are Prithviraj, Fahadh Faasil, Indrajith, Kunchacko Boban, Nivin Pauly and Jayasurya. These actors are now pitching themselves to be the frontrunners in Mollywood. Offbeat characters and clever choice of films have helped them showcase their considerable talent. In the meantime, Dileep proved that there was no one to beat him in his kind of comedies that blended slapstick with a little bit of romance and action. “This industry is very uncertain. You could wake up to be nothing one fine morning,” laughs Fahadh, who had not less than six releases in the past six months.
THE HEROINE IS BACK
Finally, after languishing on the sidelines of several so-called action movies, script writers and directors have rejuvenated the heroine in Malayalam cinema. Author-backed roles and a sense of reality that times have changed have given the heroine the space to do more than shake a leg, bat her eyelids and break into a song. So we have seen spunky acts by Rima Kallingal, Remya Nambeeshan, Sajitha Madathil, Lena, Mamta Mohandas and the like.
The lines between different areas of filmmaking have never been so blurred with versatile artistes and technicians wearing different caps at the same time. If there was one Balachandran Menon in the eighties, now there are many to be his heirs. The versatile Lal is at the forefront as he proved himself as an actor and popular director. Then we have actors writing scripts, composing lyrics, and singing songs; singers donning the grease paint; cinematographers doubling up as directors and vice versa, directors taking their bow before the camera as actors…thus proving that cinema attracts some of the best creative minds in Kerala. If Indrajith, Biju Menon, Lal, Murali Gopy and Dulquer Salmaan turned playback singers, directors of photography such as Rajeev Ravi, Azhagappan, and Shyju Khalid called the shots as directors.
(with inputs from Vijay George)