The past decade at the Kerala State Film Awards has seen the rise of a younger crop of filmmakers and actors and the foregrounding of unconventional themes, so much so that the mainstream superstars were conspicuous by their absence from the winner’s list during this period. The story this year is about how one of the superstars took the unconventional route, after long years of being caught in a rut, and came up with a performance that left no doubts as to who would win the best actor award.
Lijo Jose Pellissery’s evocative Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam which played around intelligently with the hazy borders between dreams and reality, won the award for Best Film. Mammootty won the Best Actor (Male) award for seamlessly capturing the transformation from Malayali James to Tamilian Sundaram with subtlety. It is his first Best Actor award in 14 years and the sixth overall, with the first of it coming more than four decades back. Vincy Aloshious, who came into cinema through a talent hunt show, and quickly became noticed for her performances, won the Best Actor (Female) award for her convincing portrayal of a woman’s fightback against an act of injustice in Rekha.
Special jury award
Mahesh Narayanan won the Best Director award for Ariyippu, a tale of a working class couple in a North Indian city exploring the moral failings of humans in the face of adversity. Jijo Antony’s Adithattu, a thriller set in the middle of the sea, won the award for the second best film. Ratheesh Balakrishnan Poduval’s Nna Thaan Case Kodu became the big winner of the year with seven awards, including the award for the Best Film with Popular Appeal and Aesthetic Value and the Best Script, written by the director himself. For the same film, Kunchacko Boban won a special jury award for his performance as a commoner taking up an unlikely-to-win court battle. The award was shared with Alencier Ley Lopez, for his role as Itty, the uniquely detestable patriarch in Appan, whose death the entire family awaits.
P.P. Kunhikrishnan, who put up an arresting performance as the upright magistrate whose attention wavers between the case at hand and the pigeons on the court windows in Nna Thaan..., won the Best Character Actor (Male) award. Devi Varma won the Best Character Actor (Female) award for her role as an old woman who had committed an angry act in a momentary lapse of reason and repents it lifelong in Saudi Vellakka.
Shruthi Sharanyam won the special award for women for B 32 Muthal 44 Vare, which had a sensitive, nuanced take on body politics and gender equality. Shahi Kabir won the award for Best Debut Director for Ela Veezha Poonjira, for a thriller set inside a lone police post atop a hill. Ajayan Adat won the Best Sound Design for the film. Nishad Yusuf was the deserving winner for the Best Editor Award for the frenetically paced Thallumala, for which Shobi Paulraj won the Best Choreography award. Kamal K.M. won the Best Story award for Pada.
Jury head’s take
Biswajith S. and Rarish shared special jury mention for direction for Ilavarambu and Vettapattikalum Ottakkarum respectively. Minister for Cultural Affairs Saji Cherian announced the awards at a press conference here on Friday. Bengali filmmaker, screenwriter and actor Gautam Ghosh, who headed the jury, said that choosing the best out of the rich fare last year was much more difficult than filmmaking.
“In this period of OTT, Malayalam cinema is still throbbing. We found some interesting works of art both in mainstream and independent cinema. A rare thing, compared to other States, is that cinema in Kerala is spread all across the State, representing all regions. The decisions were mostly unanimous. In the acting category, six actors were shortlisted, but the jury unanimously chose Mammootty, for he was true to character, credible and natural. As for Vincy, we found her performance very believable,” said Mr. Ghosh.