Reels of change in Malayalam cinema

How Malayalam cinema fared in 2018

Published - December 27, 2018 05:00 pm IST - Thiruvananthapuram

‘Njan Prakashan’

‘Njan Prakashan’

2018 was the year of the debutant. More than 100 newcomers made their debut as directors. Four women directors released their dream projects, all mainstream movies, which met with varying responses at the box office. While superstars continue to be in their own orbit, young actors came in droves and became scene-stealers. If indies showed that stars and big budgets were not a necessity to make good cinema, actors like Fahadh Faasil, Tovino Thomas, Shane Nigam, Soubin Shahir and Antony Varghese, Manju Warrier, Parvathy, Nimisha Sajayan, Aishwarya Lekshmi, Samyuktha Menon and many more breathed life into a wide range of heroes and heroines. Several character actors became the toast of Mollywood.

It was also the year when Malayalam cinema bagged several national and international awards. True, the flood, expensive projects that nosedived at the box office and piracy had vexed filmmakers. But the industry bounced back and the year-end marked a happy 2018 with almost all the releases doing well.

Away from the bright lights, many aspects reeked of the malaise in the industry’s patriarchal and misogynistic set-up. Trolls, cyber attacks, denial of work and character assassination failed to silence members of the Women in Cinema Collective that continues to question chauvinistic attitudes in the industry and male-dominated trade associations.

As Mollywood stands on the threshold of a new year, here is to new beginnings and a more equitable playing ground.

Making their mark

‘Eeda’

‘Eeda’

Some of them wowed viewers; some turned out to be damp squibs and some should go back to film school to begin anew. Whatever their fortunes at the box office, many of the films ushered in a new wave of narratives and themes.

Multiple award-winner B Ajith Kumar made a mark with his hard-hitting Eeda , which looked at political violence in Kannur sans any rosy spectacles. Dijo Jose Antony managed a sleeper hit with Queen , albeit it was panned by critics. Prajesh Sen’s kick-off with Captain , a biopic on footballer VP Sathyan, with Jayasurya getting into the shoes of the character, scored at the box office too. Tinu Pappachan and Shaji Padoor made a mark with SwanthanthryamArdharathriyil and Mammootty-starrer AbrahaminteSanthathikal respectively. Ramesh Pisharody tested new waters with Panchavarnathatha . Gireesh Damodar’s Uncle and Vishnu Narayan’s Maradona did not send fans into a frenzy but scored with them nevertheless.

Fellini TP chugged into theatres with Theevandi , starring the in-form Tovino Thomas while Rafeek Ibrahim’s Padayottam had its moments. All that bluster and big talk looked like it would sink Odiyan but audiences did not give up on V A Shrikumar Menon’s Mohanlal-starrer. The year ended with Jose Sebastian, a newbie, making a name for himself, with EnteUmmante Peru .

Some of the debutants to look out for include Shamdat Sainudeen (Street Lights), Sharrath Sandith (Parole), Mridul Nair (BTech), Jean Markose (KuttanpillayudeSivarathri), Jubith Namradath ( Aabhaasam) , Nirmal Sahadev ( Ranam), Prasobh Vijayan ( Lilli), and Vijesh Vijay ( Mandhaaram).

Nine new directors made their bow at the International Film Festival of Kerala. Vipin Radhakrishnan, Vinu AK, Unnikrishnan Avala, Sumesh Lal, Binu Bhaskar, Goutham Soorya, Sudeep Elamon and PK Biju Kuttan were among the filmmakers who showcased their maiden Malayalam feature films at the IFFK.

On a roll

‘Bhayanakam’

‘Bhayanakam’

It has been a year when Malayalam cinema won international and national recognition. Beginning with Jayaraj’s Bhayanakam , which won three national awards and two State film awards, the year saw Lijo Jose Pellissery’s Ea.Ma.Yau . winning a rich haul of awards.

The find of the year was undoubtedly Zakariya Mohammed, the director of Sudani from Nigeria . In the meantime, D Bijukumar’s Painting Life became a globetrotter by winning a place in several prestigious film festivals. Sanal Kumar Sasidharan’s much-lauded S Durga finally was officially released in India after a lot of controversy on account of its title.

Women at the helm

‘Mangalyam Thanthunanena’

‘Mangalyam Thanthunanena’

BR Vijayalakshmi’s bi-lingual Abhiyum Anuvum was followed by Roshni Dinaker’s My Story and Anjali Menon’s blockbuster Koode . Then came youngster Soumya Sadanandan’s Mangalyam Thanthunanena . The presence of these women should see more women telling their stories in the visual medium. May their tribe increase.

The year that went by was also the period when many women in cinema all over the world found their voice. As #MeToo sparked off a fire that refused to be put down, it consumed many big names in cinema. It spread to Bollywood and Tollywood too. Mollywood simmered but #MeToo has not yet spread in Malayalam cinema. The Women in Cinema Collective spoke up for women in cinema although they had to tackle trolls and face a backlash from the film industry itself.

However, while most of Bollywood turned their back on the tainted actors, directors et al., mainstream Mollywood seemed to have no qualms in welcoming even those accused of heinous acts against women.

Masters of the game

‘Oru Kuprasidha Payyan’

‘Oru Kuprasidha Payyan’

Seasoned filmmakers proved their expertise in the medium. Veteran cinematographer Venu’s Carbon had an intriguing storyline and Fahadh Faasil. It impressed even when the film did not glitter all that much at the box office. Shyamaprasad showed why he is the best in the genre of relationship dramas with his heart-warming tale of a young man with Asperger Syndrome in Hey Jude. M Mohanan’s AravindanteAdhithikal pulled in family audiences. Amal Neerad’s Varathan , his best till now, was perhaps the first Malayalam film that took a hard look at the many forms of sexual harassment that a woman faces in contemporary Kerala.

A still from ‘Hey Jude’

A still from ‘Hey Jude’

Rosshan Andrrews’ KayamkulamKochunni, starring Nivin Pauly, did prove to be a winner in spite of its over-the-top glitzy narrative. Ranjith Sankar is on a roll. He and Jayasurya teamed up and regaled audiences with two very different films — NjaanMarykutty, which spoke for the third gender, and Pretham 2 , sequel to a horror flick. Madhupal returned with a bang with OruKuprasidhaPayyan , so too M Padmakumar with Joseph . 2018 ended on a happy note for Sathyan Anthikad as his NjanPrakashan was lapped up by the audience.

While Abrid Shine got mixed reviews for his Poomaram , a take on college youth festivals that was released after several delays, Kamal’s Aami , a biopic on Madhavikutty, did not quite turn out to be a bestseller.

Sons on the horizon

‘Aadhi’

‘Aadhi’

Pranav Mohanlal, Kalidas Jayaram and Shravan Mukesh, all with famous surnames, followed in daddy’s footsteps. Of the three, it was Pranav who tasted box office success with his Aadhi .

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