The festival season heralds the arrival of some of the best films made that year. Both superstars and budding actors try to woo the audience with a wide range of films. Sreedhar Pillai

Traditionally, the film trade considers Onam as one of the best seasons to release a Malayalam film. And for all top stars, an Onam release is not only prestigious but also a must for their survival in commercial cinema. But the advent of satellite television channels have changed the rules of the game.

Now, one of the biggest problems facing the film industry is to get the family audience glued to their TV screens to come to the theatre on festival days? The easy way out is to release an Onam film a few days before the festival mood starts. This year, Mohanlal’s ‘Ali Bhai,’ an out-and-out mass masala entertainer, was released on August 15, 12 days before Thiru Onam.’

Major releases

The other major 2007 Onam releases are Shyamaprasad’s Mammootty-starrer ‘Ore Kadal,’ Lohitadas’ ‘Nivediyam’ with newcomers in the lead, and Suresh Gopi’s ‘Kichamani MBA’ and ‘Black Cat,’ which are all scheduled for the Onam weekend starting on August 24.

Although Mammootty’s Onam release was supposed to be the Joshy-directed family entertainer ‘Nasrani,’ it has been postponed to Ramzan as the shooting of the film could not be completed due to the rain.

Mohanlal is on a roll. His ‘Hallo’ is a blockbuster and the year’s biggest hit so far, and this Onam it will continue its run in main stations, after completing 50 days. ‘Ali Bhai,’ released in a record 77 screens spread over Kerala, is the highest ever saturation release for a Malayalam film.

It is a typical Mohanlal action adventure film where he plays Ali Bhai, a mass hero and the uncrowned king of Palayam market in Kozhikode, who takes up cudgels for the poor and downtrodden.

Says Antony Perumbavoor, the producer of the film: “The film will be an ‘Ona Sadya’ for Lal Sir’s fans. All the essential ingredients that make a Mohanlal film work with the audience are there.”

Adds Alex George of Central Pictures who are distributors of the film: “For the first 10 days ‘Ali Bhai’ has no opposition which will enable it to take a dream opening.”

‘Ore Kadal,’ starring Mammootty, Meera Jasmine and Narain, has got excellent pre-release reports and has haunting music by the veteran Ouseppachan, with ‘Pranaya Sandhya…’ sung by Bombay Jayashree being the pick of the lot.

The film plumbs the depths of the mind. Mammootty plays an internationally known economist who is an alcoholic and a loner. Meera plays a married housewife who gets emotinaly entangled with the economist.

Image makeover

Suresh Gopi is going for an image makeover with ‘Kichamani MBA,’ a comedy directed by debutant Samad Mankada. Gopi, who has a screen image as a crusader against corruption and mafia, is playing the role of a wheeler-dealer. Kichamani controls the corrupt system, and he can get any thing – postings, contracts, admissions and even bus routes sanctioned, of course, for a price!

Says Suresh Gopi: “I want to do something different and bring some variety into my style and mannerisms within the commercial format.”

The film also has Navya Nair,Priyanka, Jayasurya, Biju Menon, Cochin Haneefa among others. It has music by Alex Paul.

The other Suresh Gopi film, where he is paired with Meena and Karthika, that is likely to be a Onam release is the Vinayan-directed ‘Black Cat,’ where he plays a ‘goonda’ with a heart of gold.

Will Lohitadas’s Onam release ‘Nivediyam,’ which has many newcomers, be the dark horse like Lal Jose’s ‘Classmates’ in 2006?

‘Nivediyam,’ written and directed by Lohitadas, has two newcomers in Vinu Mohan, grandson of the legend Kottarakara Sreedharan Nair, and a new actor Bhama.

Remember Lohi had earlier introduced two of the finest actors in Malayalam cinema – Manju Warrier and Meera Jasmine. According to Lohithadas: “It is a romantic film that is set in an old Kovilakam and an adjoining temple whose members were once powerful. Music by M.Jayachandran is a highlight of the film.”

The many-years-in-the-making Jayaram-Jyothika comedy ‘Seetha Kalyanam,’ directed by T.K. Rajiv Kumar, is also likely to be released for Onam. Playback singer Sreenivasan has scored the music for the film.