Monday, January 20, 2020

Changing trends in Malayalam Cinema.

   The general perception is that Malayalam and Bengali films evolve from an exemplary aesthetic base, totally different from the films of other Indian languages.I have not seen any Bengali films for want of knowledge of the language.But with my parental moorings to the Kerala soil,I could draw myself naturally to the Malayalam big screen.From the days of Chemmeen,Punar Jenmam,Thulaabaaram,and Chattakkaari to these times of Ittymaani made in China and Mamangam,I would have seen not less than three hundred Malayalam films in addition to my habitual viewing of Tamil films.Conceptually,each language film gets rooted to the changing dreams and aspirations of different generations at different times of its soil.Dreams and aspirations keep on changing not only from time to time,but also from one social culture to the other.One could also notice the inter lingual influence between films of different languages,bringing in a distinct perception of values involved in the conception and creation of films.
     If nascent Tamil films had focused on myths,historical events,,social milieus and family fabrics,pertaining to their respective periods,Whereas Malayalam films during the early decades of the post independent era,dealt deeply with occult powers,psychological complexities and social ills,affecting the lives of individuals,both in their individual frame and in terms of their association with family and society.The bare minimum Malayalam films that I watched between the late Nineteen sixties and Seventies,appeared to have portrayed women as victims of familial and social exploitation,rising from perversions of the mind.In other words,women were shown as puppets in the hands of men bent upon furthering their own physical and materialistic aggrandizement.
   There were also men victims shown as cuckolds or henpecked husbands.Some of these films showed more of the psychological anarchy,upsetting the individual's peace of mind and that of others,holding on to pointed and suggestive narrations,with more things to be inferred rather than heard.Metaphors,visual intricacies and suggestive techniques were the abundant inner layers of narration,followed by the early makers of Malayalam films,with absolute commitment to their themes and ways of story telling.The tragic undercurrents and psychic turbulence, permeating  through out the narration,made watching of Malayalam films,an agonizing experience,besides getting the viewers  inextricably struck to the hallucinating narrations. Adaminte Vaariellu, Irakal, Kanyaakumari,Ashwamedham,Avaloda Raavukal,Elipathayam and Mattoral were a few notable films of this kind,besides Chemmeen,Punar Jenmam, Thulaabaaram and Chattakkaari.
     From the mid Nineteen Eighties,things kept changing to make Malayalam films fit for a larger audience,by imbibing newer vibrations and varieties of film making.Breezy narrations of comedies and family dramas and speedy action movies blended with political and social crimes,began to occupy the centre stage.Film makers like I V Sasi, Badran Mattel,Barathan, Priyadarshan,Joshiy,Shaaji Kailas,Siddique,Fazil, K.Madhu,Kamal,Sibi Malayil,Ranjth Balakrishnan,Lal Jose,Jeethu Joseph and several others have passed on the transition dynamism,in each one's way of creative urge and convincing mode of creativity,such as  freshness in thematic content and story line and speed in narration.These changing  trends could not be  misconstrued as attempts to undermine the invaluable contribution of their predecessors like Adoor Gopalakrishnan,Ramu Kariyat,G.Aravindan,Thikkurisi Sukumaran Nair, K.S.Sethumadhavan, M.T.Vasudevan Nair,K.G.George A.Vincent, and other eminent film makers,who took Malayalam cinema to its glorious heights.
    I.V Sasi set the momentum by his most popular films like Eetta,Ee Naadu Inspector Balram and many other action films. Badran sustained the vigour in scenic  presentation  through his memorable entries like Spadikam,Uncle Bun and Aiyyer the Great.Whereas, Bharadan continued to retain the aesthetic niceties of Malayalam cinema, along with action ingredients of a distinct creative style,that made his films like Rathi Nirvedham, Prayanam,Vaisali,Kaattathe Kilikkoodu,Marmaram and Thakara,sustain the glory of his predecessors,besides competing with the momentum of his contemporaries.
    Priyadarshan did a scintillating show on the Malayalam big screen,most often joining hands with Mohanlal for a fine flow of felicitous comedies and fabulous romances.Some of his immortal films in this special category are Chitram,Kilukkam,Mithunam,Thenmavin Kombath, Minnaaram, Kaakkakuyil,Akkare Akkare Akkare,Kilichundam Mambazham, Oppam and Dileep's Vettam. Impersonation and its complex implications and consequences formed one of the most engaging formulas of Priyadarshan's film making.
   Joshiy and Shaji Kailas came out with a galaxy of high voltage films,full of fiery dialogues, exposing the corrupt political system and sensitive social,and family issues.In addition to thriller elements,their films included  perfect criminal investigation modules and impressive role plays of heroes like Mammootty,Mohanlal,Suresh Gopi,Dileep and Prithviraj.Films like New Delhi, Druvam, Lelam,Praja,Pathram,Christian Brothers,Twenty Twenty,Run Baby Run,Runway and July4 of Joshiy,made their memorable impact on the audience.Among these films, dialogue was the governing factor of Lelam,Pathram and Praja,while speed and action core determined the popularity of the rest. 
   Similarly,some of the luminous detective crime stories and action thrillers from the hands of Shaji Kailas were,F.I.R Commissioner, Chintamani Kola Case,The Truth,The King, Valliettan, August 15,Aaraam Thamburaan,Thaandavam,Baba Kalyani,The Don,Red Chillies and Simmhasanam. Most of these films were singularly known for their fast phase in narration and the suspense element involved in the acts of crime and their detection.
     Unlike the two directors mentioned above,Siddique set his narration mode to travel on a two lane track,with family sentiments on one lane and abundant humour on the other.His grasp and delivery of humour were mostly on the farcical side,with rattling physical movements of characters.Films like Ramji Rao Speaking,Vietnam Colony,Hitler, Friends,Chronic Bachelor and Body Guard were really a treat to watch on account of the copious segment of rib tickling comedy,robustly running through out the narration.The other unique trait of Siddique is the spread of English fragrance in the titles of most of his films. 
     Director Fazil who blends natural humour to his narration  does it with breezy touches of romantic fervour and family sentiments depicting a deep sense of longing for being together and coming together.Starting from his Manjil Virinja Pookal, he has been doing a kind of miracle with human emotions creating ecstatic rhythms.Films like Ente Mamatti Kuttiy 
ammaakku, Nokkethaa Dhoorathu Kannun Nattu,Poovinu Puthiya Poothennal, Ennennum Kanettaante, Manichitrathaazhu,Life is Beautiful,Hari Krishnans and Aniyathi Praavu will speak volumes of unsaid things about human emotions in a varied,contextual lineage.
    Lal Jose is another heart warming film maker whose films like Chandran Udhikkunna Dikkil,Randaam Bhaavam,Meesa Madhavan,Pattaalam,Classmates,Elsamma Enna Aankutti and Vikramadhityan were passed on to the audience as celebrations of human relationship at various levels,with humour and pain as spontaneous reflections of life's realities. Lal Jose really excels in relating events and emotions with contextual relevance.
   K.Madhu's films remained unsurpassed by their highly motivating layers of investigative vigour and inspiring display of the detective mode. Madhu's flair for investigative narration which began with the Mohanlal starring Irupadhaam Noottaandu,gathered substantial weight through his other films like Oru CBI Diary Kurippu,Nerariyaan CBI,Nariman,Crime File Orukkam,Adhipan and Oru Abhibhashakante Case Diary.Most of these movies were specially received  for their commitment to the thriller mode,chic style of screen play and neat portrayal of the protagonist,by stars like Mammootty,Mohanlal and Suresh Gopi.
   The two distinctly identified Malayalam film makers of the transition times are Kamal and Sibi Malayil. Kamaludhin Mohammed Majeeth,shortly known as Kamal has combined in himself,a little bit of Priyadharshan,Fazil and Joshiy by blending humour,refined human  sentiments and action in equal degree and given us great films like Mazhayethum Munbe, Ayaalu Kadhyezhudhugayaanu,Azhagiya Raavanan,Perumazhakaalam,Niram,Aagathan and Celluloid. 
  Sibi Malayil reaches out to the film viewers,with a fascinating feather touch of cinematic narration of human emotions.In spite of carrying  the exceptional traces of K. Madhu in August 1,Sibi Malayil has carved a characteristic niche for himself as a soothing creator of movies like Kireedom,Dasharadham,His Highness Abdullah,Parampara,Bharadham,Saagaram Saakshi, Summer in Bethlehem,Ishtam,Ustaad and Alice in Wonderland.It is almost on a similar pattern of track,that Ranjith Balakrishnan travelled to display a splendid portrayal of characters and events,through his remarkable film entries like Raavana Prabu, Mizhirendum,Nandanam, Pranachiyettan&the Saint,Indian Rupee and Spirit.
     If B.Unnikrishnan has reflected the action zeal of Joshiy in his films Madambi,Pramani and Kodathi Samaksham Balan Vakeel,Jeethu Joseph's narrative mode gets closer to the combined stuff of Joshiy and Shaji Kailas in speed,suspense and thriller feel.Subtle intelligence injected to the protagonists' manner of handling their entanglements,is the singular trademark of Jeethu Joseph.His films like Detective,Memories,Drishyam and Oozham are most powerful narrations of the escapologist,in the perfect form.
   There are quite a few new faces of film makers trying to lift the face of Malyalam cinema to infallible newer dimensions.Directors like Rajesh Pillai {Traffic and Mili }Alphone Puthren {Premam} G.Prajith{Oru Vadakkan Selfie} M.Padmakumar {Mamangam} Vineedh Srinivasan {Thattathin Marayathu} and several others are in queue,to contribute their individual creative potential,for the enrichment of Malayalam cinema.
    Among the notable early heroes of Malayalam cinema,actors like Bharat Gopi,Sathyan, M.G.Soman and Madhu were genuinely tuned to a natural pattern of character display rooted to the soil. Whereas,Prem Nazir,Satyan,Jeyan and Sukumaran shuttled between natural role play and a significant dramatic thrust,on delivery of assigned roles.The same spirit of transient  exposition of character portrayals could be noticed among their successors like Jeyaram, Mukesh, Suresh Gopi,Dileep and Prithviraj.
   However,Mammootty and Mohanlal transcended the age old,core formula of underplay and transformed the hero image to mega star levels,in order to achieve a cult status,as a compulsive trend,corollary to the prevailing concept of film making,found in other regional languages.To some extent,this also became a necessity,for selling the film as an acceptable product to the audience.In fact,worship and glorification of most heroes were the regular phenomena in Bollywood long ago.Soon this practice spread as a contagion to Tamil, Telugu and Kannada regions with star worship of heroes like MGR,Sivaji Ganesan,N.T.R, and Rajkumar.Even today,mass heroes and their crazy fans,become the compulsory tentacles of the entertainment Octopus. 
    As far as Malayalam character/supporting actors are concerned,Innocent has emphatically refilled the void created by Adoor Bhasi aka Bhaskaran Nair and Sankaradi aka Chandrasekara Menon. He could evoke spontaneous laughter in his posture,utterances of dialogues and observation of silence. He is ever a winning actor. Jagathy Sreekumar has ever been seen and received with gusto as an invincible comedian with absolute physical force and verbal velocity.While most character actors in Malayalam cinema are an even mix up of humour and supporting strength to the main plot,actors like {late}Thilakan and Nedumudi Venu have hardly ever failed to impress by their sobriety,though Thilakan proved to be also a villain of remarkable devilry.
    Actors like Siddique,Vijayaraghavan and Lalu Alex have breezily shuttled between commendable character roles and astute villainy.They were also seen as impressive cops. Saaikumar has mostly remained as a special category of villain,while Lal{M.P.Michael} has never failed to make a distinct impact by his gripping voice mould. All these men are the richest assets to Malayalam cinema with no exception of actors like Janardhan {identified by his unique tone delivery} [late} Oduvil Unnikrishnan,T.G.Ravi,{late}Cochin Haneefa,{late} Kalabhavan Mani,Jagadish,Srinivasan, Mamukkoya,Saleem Kumar,the ever sweet Renji Panicker and several others. 
   Among heroines Sheela has lastingly occupied the centre stage with poignancy in perception of her role parameters, followed by many talented women like Jayabharathi,Shardha,Seema, Lissy, Shobhana,Oorvashi,Kavya Madhavan,Mamta Mohandas,Shamyuktha Verma,Meera Jasmine,Asha Sharat, Navya Nair Gopika,Bhavana and a few others, as the most popular feminine faces of Malayalam cinema.This has been followed by a huge list of new comers and actresses from several other South Indian languages.Among mother artists Sukumari,Kavyoor Ponnamma and K.P.A.C Lalitha have stamped the purest spirit of  motherhood,combining compassion and control in their role delivery.But as said earlier, Malayalam cinema has  not come out of its traditionally set stage,for the restricted role play of women,infused with submission and docility.
   The new age of  Malayalam film industry is beautifully reviving its old glory,as well as fresh vibes on account of young film makers and actors.The younger generation of actors is a fascinating galaxy of men like Kunjacko Boban,Jaya Surya,Nivin Pauly,Fahad Fazil,Asif Ali,Unni Mukuntan,Tovino Thomas,Vineedh Srinivasan and Dulquer Salman who are all racing for recognition as natural performers,without the extra baggage of sound and fury in their role delivery.
   There has been a consistent enrichment of Malayalam cinema,on the choreography side. Malayalam film music has ever remained as an audio appetizer,though a greater amount of animation and vigour seem to travel through the tunes,now a days.As far as cinematography is concerned,Malayalam film industry has set inflexible yardsticks of moderation,not exceeding the limits of natural acceptance of visual shows.Even in films like Oru Vadakkan Veeragadha, Urumi and Mamangam,the visual appeal,has remained under control not moving to the extent of an extravaganza.
  As no soil can withstand the upheaval of changing dynamism of the human psyche,in tune with the global transformation taking place,Malayalam big screen is under the immense influence of innovative ideas and creative impetus, resulting in a worthy revelation of technology boom,human consolidation and cultural integration.Being part of the changing course of events,not only marks the evolution of history,but also implies the participatory process of humanity.This is what we have witnessed in Malayalam cinema between the Nineteen fifties and eighties and between then and the new millennium.Accepting the changing dynamics of film making and supporting the new springs of creativity,will go a long way,in making Malayalam cinema truly relevant to its time,soil and its generational urge for freshness and  originality.
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