As we draw curtains to a year that brought the world to a standstill, here’s a look back at what Malayalam cinema had to offer
The year 2020 began with much fanfare and trumpets for Malayalam cinema. There was a growing interest over the industry, which was getting noticed for its cinematic excellence and narrative choices.
The pandemic, however, caused a heavy blow to the entertainment industry ever since the nationwide lockdown in March. Looking at the bright side, here are a few dominant trends that emerged in Malayalam cinema, despite a raging pandemic and the devastating losses suffered by scores of workers, who had to remain without work as the arc lights were turned off.
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And the wait continues
A cluster of big-ticket films such as Priyadarshan’s magnum opus Marakkar: Arabikadalinte Simham, Santhosh Viswanathan’s One, Mahesh Narayanan’s Malik, Rajeev Ravi’s Thuramukham, and Srinath Rajendran and Vini Viswa Lal’s Kurup was originally slated to release on festivals such as Vishu, Onam and Ramzan. They continue to remain in cans, as the makers await the theatres to reopen. The shooting of other biggies such as Blessy’s Aadujeevitham, Santosh Sivan’s Jack and Jill and Basil Joseph’s Minnal Murali are yet to be completed.
Of the handful of movies that released in theatres, Anjaam Paathira, starring Kunchacko Bobban and directed by Midhun Manuel Thomas, and Tovino Thomas’ Forensic, did well at the ticketing window.
Although Mammootty and Mohanlal had a release each, both did not live up to expectations. Ayyappanum Koshiyum, the Prithviraj-Biju Menon starrer, released in February. Directed by the late scriptwriter-turned director Sachi, it struck gold at the box office, thanks to its interesting storyline involving two egoistic men at loggerheads.
Varane Avashyamund, marking Shobana’s comeback to Malayalam cinema after seven years, had a lot going for it. Starring Suresh Gopi, Urvashi, Dulquer Salman and Kalyani Priyadarshan, the feel-good film, directed by Anoop Sathyan, was a hit among audiences.
Fahadh Faasil’s highly anticipated Trance with Anwar Rasheed hit the bull’s eye, despite its duration (three-hour-long) and narrative glitches. Neeraj Madhavan’s Gauthamante Radham did reasonably well. The Anna Ben-starrer Kappella was having a great run at the cinemas when the nationwide lockdown came into effect in March, forcing theatres to shut operations.
The ‘new’ normal
While there was much outcry over Malayalam films opting for a digital release, Vijay Babu went ahead with the release of Sufiyum Sujatayum on Amazon Prime. Starring Aditi Rao Hydari, Dev Mohan and Jayasurya, the film was directed by the late Naranipuzha Shanavas. It was perhaps the first Malayalam feature to have an OTT premiere.
Mahesh Narayanan and Fahad Faasil’s C U Soon made the rest of Indian sit up and take notice of the well-crafted film that was shot entirely during the lockdown, perhaps the first.
Following the success of CU Soon, other films followed suit. While Maniyarayile Ashokan, which opted for an OTT release, failed to make the cut, Zakariya Mohammed’s Halal Love Story created a splash with its unusual storyline. There are more movies in the pipeline that will go for OTT releases.
Malayalam cinema came to the rescue of film buffs and provided the much-needed comfort, thanks to the lockdown. Everyone seemed to have discovered their newfound love of Malayalam cinema, with movies like Kumbalangi Nights, Helen, CU Soon, Driving Licence, Ayyappanum Koshiyum and Kappela, garnering a growing interest among non-Malayali fans.
Initially, the film industry hit the doldrums hard. Soon creative directors, producers and actors got their act together and a flurry of films were announced, and filming began during the lockdown, adhering to the COVID restrictions imposed by the Government. Suraj Venjaramoodu completed two films during the lockdown and so did actors Rajisha Vijayan and Shine Tom Chacko with Love.
The sequel to Mohanlal’s Drishyam, Prithviraj’s Cold Case, Suraj’s Jana Gana Mana, The Great Indian Kitchen (with Nimsha Sajayan), Anna Ben’s Saras’s, Manju Warrier’s Jack and Jill, are a few films to look forward to in 2021.
The Women in Cinema Collective
Known to be one of its kind initiative in India, the members of Women in Cinema Collective continue to rally against gender inequality and working conditions in the industry. Their campaign ‘Refuse The Abuse’ brought together female actors outside of the collective. Actor Siddharth, writer Benyamin and Oscar winner Resul Pookutty were part of the campaign against cyber abuse.
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