What is actually flabbergasting these days is not even sipping an early morning filter coffee along with an early morning accidental rain slashing my windows. I now tend to sleep late and I would accuse Malayalam movies of that without any hesitation. Although I am always captivated by commercial plots that make big money in the market, I am equally drawn to simple plots of the Malayalam movies that mirror life.
Yes – Mirroring life has become my slogan. In a melee of stupor confusion about what is good cinema or bad one, plots that mirror life immediately incarcerate me and whisper within me – wow- this is it. After watching “Thingalazhacha Nichayam“ I had this butterfly effect of awe and wonder. The story graph need not been written imbibing unnecessary duets that pop in, in regular intervals, fights that are purposely injected – but it can be about the marriage of a girl, perhaps next door.
What happens if her elder sister has eloped with a bus conductor? Her father who is caste and class conscious will hit the elder daughter under the belt by arranging a good bridegroom for the younger ones. And what if the younger daughter is in love with another guy and couldn’t combat the patriarchal Malayali system – when next Monday happens to be the marriage. The intricacies of human relationships woven in this storyline are just amazing and realistic. We enter into a second world where all our pride and prejudices melt into nothingness. Filmed during the pandemic times with very few limited locations this film is rife with unpopular artists. But never in a single shot, there is an unprofessional performance, that makes “Thingalazhacha Nichayam “ a classy film as well.
To edge with the acting norms, the behavioral pattern of acting has been the Bible of the Malayalam industry for a long time. There has been a longtime lineage of this genre of acting right from the days of Barath Gopi. In the present day scenario, actors like Suraj Venjiramoodu and Joju George literally rock in this patterned format and the result is that – the method acting format has kicked the bucket.
“Madhuram” is a typical example of Joju George hitting the bull-eye spontaneously by very simple gestures and body language. In short, there is no auxiliary attempt to overbuild the characterisation but to make it very simple and transparent that we connect with the soul of the character and could feel the pain behind the smiles of all of them in the General Hospital. Death is passing through the threshold of their hopes and the catastrophe is armoured by all of them. The romance that steers through biriyani between Joju George and Shruthi Ramachandran is so naïve and natural that the viewer smiles at watching those scenes unconsciously. That’s the success.
Filmmaking is a chance to live many lifetimes- says Robert Altman. Watching Malayalam films inculcates in me such an experience. ”Kaanakaanee “ is one such experience. The hurt ego of a father who has lost his daughter and trying to cajole his granddaughter to part with her dad as he’s getting married to another girl is the pivot of the story. The guilt of the son in law that he left the accident spot where his wife was hit and run by an unknown vehicle and his conscious dilemma in handling the guilt adds to the conflict. Human conflict is so weird that there lies the therapy and the lesson to be learnt in itself. Unfortunately, in the process of battling strife and impinge peace internally, the self develops scars of agony. This conflict is the crux of this movie where ultimately repentance and forgiveness save the victim and the accused. And it is love in a nutshell that settles the rampant cyclonic psychological turmoil.
The premeditated structural screenplays have been alienated and the replica mirror images of life now play a vital role in Malayalam films. This makes them very unique when compared to other regional language films.
With the hype, OTT platforms create, regional content touches its apogee positions with all its rootedness. But where do the Malayalam films make a mark albeit being aesthetically claimed also? Churuli is a simple example of this demarcation. Based on an ancient anecdote that is graphically narrated at the beginning of the story, the film pivots upon the hunt for a criminal in a village of Kerala, a place very difficult to reach and thereby becoming a hub of criminals to hide themselves. The tussles, the laughter, the games that are intertwined in the film are never away from the Malayalam culture. The last shot of the film by itself weaves a nexus with the anecdote narrated in the beginning
This craft is too specific. The visual quotients get highlighted in amalgamation with the content of the scene and the performance. The quintessence of the film “ Home” is just the frozen differences between a father and a son on the superficial surface but the layers of screenplay sketches where the old men at home are positioned physically and psychologically.
To make a film like Home and The Great Indian Kitchen is to bring in a renaissance in the industry. Big banners can and should opt for one film a year that mirrors life while they make movies that portray larger than life events.
But the struggles a film like – The Great Indian Kitchen underwent before release also explicitly shows that it’s no easy task. Despite all that, the efforts the Malayalam film industry ventures out is just fantabulous and has to be lauded. Good films with small budgets have made great changes. Nayaattu is a story that illustrates the power game of the police department – what an out of box thinking when three police persons who are accidentally accused of a hit and run case take shelter in a remote place. The turbulent mindset of the three undergoing varied psychological situations is dealt with with an utmost delicate feel. The suicide of the senior-most police shocks every nerve of the viewer.
One thing that is very important to mention is that – there is no pomp or gorgeous endeavour to underline the story or the characters of the film. No build-ups nor an iota of punch dialogues to enhance the heroism. But there’s bridging between the mainstream and parallel cinema which have been segregated into two different genres that can never gel. That’s the magic these films I quoted above managed to create.
To end with, I could find no better reason rather than to refer to “Minnal Murali”. Stories of a hero emerging from a simpleton to a superhero are very common. Then what made it very peculiar and uncommon is the screenplay that has been crafted with much care. The subplot of Guru somasundaram’s love story and Minnal Murali’s extraordinary exhibition of his superpowers are exciting to watch. And definitely to mention with much astonishment is the Malayalam actors’ choice of accepting to do the roles of simpletons. That one scene in the climax of “Kaanakaane” is a fine example where Tovino Thomas breaks up and cries literally when Suraj Venjiramoodu boards the bus after there is a gentle compromise between the two which wipes off the guilt of Tovino. This is a perfect example of a breach of masculinity and thereby heroism. And that those performers are willing to do and that makes everything distinctive.
In times of perils and dangers, it will be a fascinating image to see a flower bloom early morning as the rain drizzles and a breezy feel canopies our minds with hope and satiety.
Thanks to the recent Malayalam cinema for that – Salaam Malayalam.
This article is authored by Anup Chandrasekharan.