On asking anyone who’s even somewhat familiar with Malayalam Film Industry or ‘Mollywood’ as it’s affectionately known, you shall arrive to an answer which satisfies you with a reply that there is ‘something in the air’ or something which is definitely unique and special about Malayalam movies that are being made today. For the nation being a multi linguistic country with no bias towards any one language, here, every language contributes its equal to the growth of Indian cinema. If regional cinema is the second best of Indian cinema, with ‘Bollywood’ stealing away the limelight, then Malayalam cinema is no doubt the underdog of those regional industries. It is a sure thing that the Malayalam film industry is the storehouse of art and culture.
The Kerala based film industry is becoming increasingly well reputed for producing some of the best movies in the country year after year. Also next to Malayalam cinemas, come Marathi cinema which is similarly serving up some truly pioneering films. The Malayalam film industry is turning more and more heads for the technical quality of their movies alongside innovative storytelling and exploration of socially relevant issues. Even though the industry has grabbed all the eye balls in recent times, the industry has not received its due credits. Because it can be felt that when it comes to Indian cinema as a whole, the Malayalam industry is still clutched with the badge of being the second best. Not one, but many have frantically clung to Bollywood as if it holds the end of Indian Cinema.
Ignoring the fact that even if numerous films get released all over the state, all it needs is just one movie, just one different concept to bring together every withered concept of Indian cinema. Just one right film, it needs to revert all the hovering thoughts on Indian cinema. Let’s take, for example, Anjali Menon’s Bangalore Days, which is a perfect venture into Malayalam cinema – it’s a whole new cinematic world to be explored. An overview To put things into perspective, Malayalam cinema, or ‘Mollywood’ is one of the four cinematic industries from the South India which includes the Tamil, Telegu and Kannada film fraternities. And if considered the number of films released each year, Malayalam stands being the fourth largest Indian film industry in the nation after Telegu, Tamil and Hindi.
The big distinction and ‘Difference creating factor’ of Malayalam movies is that they are far less actor focused. This clearly means that the prime focus in Mollywood is giving to the plot or the story of a movie, the film, the story and script. These factors are the key drivers of any movie in this industry. This clearly signifies why the industry is dishing out some truly ‘out of the box’ cinemas. The Khans maybe the rulers in the Bollywood but in Mollywood no such Khans or Kapoors exist. There is no actor who marks the ‘face’ of Malayalam film industry but the story or science behind any movie is the solemn ruler.
This status of excellence in cinemas with relevant themes ages back to the ’70s and ’80s, often known to as the golden age of Malayalam cinema, with directors such as Adoor Gopalakrishnan and John Abraham (no relation to the current Bollywood actor), who were celebrated as an established in ultra modern filmmaking at the time. Many of the movies released during this time were famous to have lessened the breach between art house and commercial cinema with films such as ‘Kireedam’ and ‘Oru Vadakkan Veeragatha’. This era also witnessed the rise of evergreen stars such as, Mamootty, Mohanlal and Suresh Gopi.
The decade following, however, beheld a hunch in the quality of films being made, in the late ’90s and 2000s, as they were largely dictated by ‘over the top’ wits and comedies with very few films of real merit. The ‘Modern’ Generation It was until the calendar flipped on to the pages of 2010s when the industry witnessed the majestic revival of Malayalam films with what is being called the ‘new’ or ‘modern’ Generation, not unlike the Marathi New Wave though. Commenced by films like Ritu and Traffic, this cinematic rebirth is down to a new generation of young directors like Jeethu Joseph, Rajesh Pillai and Anjali Menon, who are dealing with atypical themes and new sequence of events in techniques.
Not to mention a new crop of actors like such as Dulquer Sulman, Fahad Fazil and Nivin Pauly, who are with pleasure playing different kinds of characters onscreen without carrying the star tags. I don't know but the most fascinating phase of this restoration is that these novel beckons of Malayalam filmmakers are intensely inclined by international cinema, which has resulted in scrumptiously unusual kinds of storytelling yet deep rooted in lives of normal malayalis and their everyday issues.
The new generation is also marked by the retreating star ethnicity. Given that the Malayalam film industry is too small, it doesn’t have the required budgets to find center of attention on loud gimmicks and extent, and as a result, the hub is on the writing and acting, putting the content at the heart of the film. This has been a key driver of Mollywood becoming one of the most progressive and renowned film industries today. In that sense, it can be argued that its principal fault became its supreme strength. What’s more? The majority of films are very much conventional in their receptivity but consist of sharp, carefully planned plots, setting a new standard for mainstream viable cinema across the nation. The absolute existence and blow of Malayalam films have also been well seen in the National Awards, where 11 of the 63 national awards for Best Feature Film to date are mostly awarded to a Malayalam film.
The most recent of which was the 2010 Adaminte Makan Abu (Abu, Son of Adam), which also went on to be India’s official entry to the Oscars.
The ‘Mollywood’ fans In the face of many enormous movies being made, the audiences have customarily been chiefly constrained to the South. This has been seen for the last few years when they have proved themselves in managing to reach a fair larger audience nationally and worldwide.
This has to a degree been obsessed by a cord of tough profitable successes such as Bangalore Days , Charlie, Drishyam and Premam, all of which grossed more than 50 crores, which was a record breaking moment for the Malayalam film industry. The critical and commercial successes of these films have led in the direction of many more eyeballs turning towards the industry. More recently, Kammatti Paadam has also set the national and international box office on fire. This has in auxiliary been aided by the rise of multiplexes, resulting in Malayalam films now getting a far wider release in India and across.
It is now not at all unusual for Malayalam films to be screened at multiplexes across the nation, with both Premam and Bangalore Days enjoying a 50-day run in Mumbai, the home of Hindi cinema! The same is true for universal reach, with the UK and US markets now also together with Malayalam releases. In the past, an additional obstruction to the audiences has been the short of of subtitles and the rejection of filmmakers to bottom the extra added cost, which would let these films to be enjoyed by non- Malayalee audiences. This has been a probing issue taking into account that they would likely see more income as a result. The fact of the matter is that the world is getting smaller, with verbal communication (language) no longer being a blockade for people to put away and get pleasure from cinema from the world over, which is pushing Malayalam films into the much- deserved limelight.
According to a report in the "Firstpost", the Nivin Pauly-starrer smashed box office records and went on to have a 100- day run in Chennai! This was a significant milestone in recent times given that films hardly cross two weeks in theatres. Interestingly, this showed that the Tamil film audience was giving direction to a new trend – the entry of Malayalam heroes into the Tamil film domain.
It also added that for one, these young men are not just good-looking but extremely versatile and talented. The range of roles they have essayed in Mollywood showcase their strength on-screen. Secondly, their Malayalam films have been a big hit with the non-Malayalam speaking audience as well. A case in point is director Anjali Menon’s Bangalore Days which starred DQ, Nivin and Fahaadh. The movie, which ran for a good 60 days in Hyderabad, was the highest-grossing Malayalam film (Rs 45 crore reportedly) worldwide in 2014.
There is no doubt that Malayalam is one of the most progressive and original film industries in the country, not to mention a mesmerizing case study of what a lack of a star culture and big budgets can really achieve, and deserves to be far more known for it. So reflect on this a sincere call for to any and all cine- philes out there, to catch a Malayalam film, be it one listed here or otherwise. It will be a amazingly satisfying cinematic understanding.
There has never been a better time to be a follower of Malayalam cinema, with many calling it the greatest era of Malayalam films ever.