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New norms for cinefield

Malayalam cinema is in the throes of change, with reigning actors doing not-so-well and the emerging crop not yet proven stuff. The coming year will decide where it goes from here.  

MALAYALAM CINEMA is all set to heal itself. Come 2003 and only a finished script will be made into a movie. (See accompanying box on this page) It may not be a panacea for the wounds inflicted so far, but a balm to soothe the chronic pain has been concocted. The Film Chamber, MACTA and AMMA have put their worried heads together to come up with a set of guidelines/rules that may yet put some order and cut costs in chaotic tinseldom. Since the `mood of change' pervades the industry, and reality demands that they either change or perish, for sheer survival, these, self -imposed rules have been agreed upon. The chairman of MACTA, director K. G. George said they will come into effect from January 2003.

"If these rules are followed, the different departments of the film world will have grounds for in-house complaints. Since all three trade bodies are involved, it makes it easier to implement them," says director Joshi.

New norms for cinefield

Mounting costs, shrinking territory (cinemas are closing shop all over the State, as figures show),

and to put it plainly, badly made movies, have all pulled Malayalam cinema down from the pedestal it stood. The territory is so limited that one simply cannot do a `Devdas' on the soil that Parasuram's axe apparently created.

Sleaze also has turned jaded. Audiences are saying au revoir to it. Who wants crude desi sleaze when the `refined phoren' one is available aplenty within the comfortable confines of your home (read IT)? So the `thunder thigh' varieties of movies too are on their way out.

This year has been a landmark one since the super stars have been anything but super. The transition phase is on and the second rung of stars is trying to dig in. "Super stardom will always be there, whatever the phase. Only the people will be different. New, meaningful cinema can come during this phase, so a qualitative change can be predicted. But the formula will not change much," says K. G. George, who has made memorable cinema and whose `Panchavadippalam,' a sort of `Animal Farm,' will be relevant as long as politics exists. Of the changes mooted, he says that some sort of accountability will naturally set in.

Director Siby Malayil also feels that some things are due to change next year and the super star factor is a universal one. One set will give way to the next when the time is ripe. That this is a transition phase is agreed upon by most filmwallahs. "That the story is king is a fact that world cinema has proved," says Siby Malayil. Perhaps lack of good stories has also contributed to the downslide this year. He is currently making a film with Kalabhavan Mani in the lead. No, he is neither deaf, dumb nor physically handicapped in the movie. He's a wholesome Mani.

New norms for cinefield

Making TV the villain of the piece, for the crisis cinema finds itself in, is foolish. There has been TV in the West and they have found ways to circumvent the impact. The big screen has never bowed to the small screen.

Few have had such staying power as Mohanlal and Mammooty, says Director Joshi, who feels that they still have it in them to stay on if they take on roles that befit their age. Nazir and Sathyan had that aura but then, Sudhir and Raghavan faded after a few films. Likewise, no one can say how long the star status will last. It has much to do with good stories, talent, and luck. "Look at Amitabh Bachchan, he had a string of flops but when he took on roles that were in keeping with his age, he is a success once again," Joshi pointed out. A new rung of actors in the top spot is yet to emerge, he feels.

" I am not prepared to write them off," declared Ranji Panikkar, scenarist, about Mammooty, Mohanlal and Suresh Gopi. Bad scripts have been their bane. I include my scripts too among them," he said, laughing. If the story is good and the script too, they will still deliver the goods and the audience will certainly come to see them," he added.

New norms for cinefield

When asked about the crisis in the cinema industry, Suresh Gopi, with a smile, thought for a while. Pregnant silence, that was, it was clear. Cynicism writ large on his visage, he said, "I am an actor, no more. An actor does not belong to the trade circles." He is deeply into social service at the moment and enjoying it to the hilt. He is currently shooting for a Rajasenan movie in Thodupuzha. No, it is not action oriented.

The 30 per cent cut in the remuneration of artistes and technicians that has been decided upon, if put into practice, may go a long way to cutting costs. With some planning, the number of shooting days can also be cut. "How can a sick industry afford to pay something like Rs 75 lakhs to an actor? If you put in Rs 25 lakhs more, a decent movie can be made on a shoestring budget," commented another top director.

Self-appraisal is always good, for individuals and industries alike. Thus the attempt to reinvent itself now is good for Malayalam cinema. The ugly scenes bouncing cheques enacted were certainly not in a script that Malayalam cinema intended to write. The crores of rupees that the industry owes artistes and technicians may cause some bad blood, but a new beginning will be made in 2003, the industry willing!