Mollywood is breaking the rules to come up with winners and some duds too. But new themes and captivating narratives have given Malayalam cinema a new high.

The first half of 2014 has been an interesting period for Malayalam cinema with several filmmakers, including debutants, making films with themes that ranged from the bold to the boring. A bunch of young stars have changed the face of the industry by throwing caution to the winds and experimenting with characters and story lines.

Around 76 films reached theatres during the first half of 2014 and though that’s just 10 less than the figure for the same time last year, many of the films this year were low key projects, some of which had been waiting in the wings for theatrical release for long. With television channels exercising caution in acquiring satellite rights of films, the film industry was forced to examine its way of working and making movies.

Then again, there has been an increased footfall in theatres, with several films receiving above average box office collections. Abrid Shine’s 1983, Jude Anthany Joseph’s Ohm Shanthi Oshaana, Shyam Dhar’s 7thDay, Rafi’s Ring Master, Rosshan Andrrews’ How Old Are You and Anjali Menon’s Bangalore Days are the clear winners during the first six months of the year.

M. Padmakumar’s Poly Technic reportedly had a good show in theatres and Saji Surendran’s Angry Babies In Love is presently raking in the moolah.

A few other productions such as Law Point and Mr. Fraud have also ended up as winning propositions thanks to satellite earnings, while much-hyped films such as London Bridge, Gangster, Koothara, Salala Mobiles, 1 by Two, Balyakalasakhi, Praise the Lord, Happy Journey and Onnum Mindaathe failed to click with the audience, despite some interesting themes.

Again, it is the Young Turks in the industry who continue to make an impact, with many of the veteran stars managing to hang on, mostly thanks to their continued demand in the satellite rights market. “It has reached a point where the name and fame of a director, actor or producer doesn’t have much to do with the success of a film. Instead, content has become king. It’s a positive trend and I’m glad that such a thing is happening in the industry,” says actor Prithviraj, who chose to go with a newbie director for 7th Day, his first release of the year.

Actor Nivin Pauly, the flavour of the season in Mollywood for his stellar performances in three of the biggest hits of the year, namely, 1983, Ohm Shanthi Oshaana and Bangalore Days, agrees. “I think there has been a marked improvement in the quality of the films, of late. I, for one, look at quality before committing to a film and I am careful not to limit myself to any particular image.”

Many young stars have tried to break images by flouting convention. But not all the ‘new gen’ movies found takers.

Jeetu Joseph, director of last year’s blockbuster Drishyam, believes this change is because the audience has changed.

“Watching a movie at the theatre has become expensive and viewers these days tend to gauge a film’s merits, first from the trailers and songs, and then from reviews, before actually going to theatres,” he explains.

The overdose of drugs, booze and sleaze seems to have lost its charm for a large section of the audience. Abrid feels that the attitudes of viewers keep changing every so often and a new trend could emerge any moment. Jude, director of Ohm Shanthi Oshaana, himself a newbie, feels that it “is the right time for wannabe filmmakers to enter the industry as the key to successful projects is a good story.” He adds: “I think it is more prudent to think about what we can give to the audience than to figure out what the viewers want.”

However, Anjali, the lone woman in this group of successful directors, whose Bangalore Days showcased an urban milieu in a manner that was never seen before on Malayalam screens, disagrees.

“Compared to my maiden venture, Manjadikkuru, which was totally from the heart , for Bangalore Days I went forward with my intuition on what the audience would want and how they would react,” says Anjali.

With a number of high profile films set of release in the next half of the year, it seems anybody’s game really as to who will succeed. Meanwhile, the show goes on. Waiting in the wings are several much-awaited releases starring leading stars.

The next half will reveal the big picture of Mollywood in 2014.