Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The 'M' Factor of Malayalam Cinema.


     The 'M' factor is not about Malayalam being a graceful and musical Indian language;it is about a few salient 'M' themes that Malayalam films have frequently and effectively delved into.More than that it is about the three 'M' Stars,that have added name and fame to Malayalam Cinema.The thrust of this article is meant to give greater credit to the two foremost 'M' stars who have simultaneously risen to sky- high popularity on account of their charisma and creditable career growth, on the ladder of cinema, with its inbuilt rungs of love for roles and labour for delivery, with talent, precision and dedication. 
   It is quite obvious that the intricacies of the human mind have dominated the creative fundamentals of Malayalam film makers, much more than any other regional cinema of the Indian soil.Marxism,Materialism, Masochism,{ self infliction of pain and suffering} Mysticism Medievalism and Modernism as various patterns of the living course,have been vitally disturbing the creative process of the Malayalam film industry for quite long.The Malayalam movies released between the Nineteen fifties and Eighties, would vouchsafe the impact of the struggling mode,with individual and group fixations, on the mind of the Malayalm film makers.With West Bengal alone sharing this legacy of the Malayalee mind, most other Indian languages were moving on the track of film making,with a dedicated approach to entertaining the audience through a process of ‘willing suspension  of disbelief’in celluloid form.In other words, film making was a part of the living realities for Malayalees;whereas, for the larger section of Indian Cinema, it was a journey to the realm of fantasy.
    Malayalam film production houses, directors and actors were never divided in their conviction to interpret realism with its tragic undertones, reflecting the intensity of misery caused, endured and surmounted. Be it man -woman relationship, or interpersonal social networks, the survival instinct of one individual taking the other for granted or for a ride, was subtly focused as an inseparable segment  of the materialistic mindset.The abuse of the fundamentals of Marxism was frequently parodied.As a matter of fact,this trend is predominant even in the recently released films picturing the political class.May be, this will continue so long,left wing tendencies persist in the state that is said to belong solely to God. Mysticism clubbed with supernaturalism, demonstrated through medieval practices,with plain or motivated layers of the psyche, could periodically find a place in Malayalam cinema, in the form of genuine or contrived soothsaying and other types of cult practices to cure dementia or to drive out the evil spirit that is believed to have taken possession of one's body and mind.Though modernism in thought and deed, is meaningfully blended to the creative brilliance of Malayalam cinema,it seems to exist in opposition to the traditionally solid cultural base of the Malayalam soil.
    The creative parameters of film making were ripe and radiant in Kerala with the M factor holding its grip. Eminent directors like K.S.Sedhumadhavan, Ramu Kariat, Thikkurissi Sugumaran Nair,M.T.Vasudevan Nair,M.Krishnan Nair, A.Vincent, Barathan and many other successive film makers such as Fazil, Kamal, Sibi Malayil, Thulasidas and Lohithadas  held  high, the flag of creativity, not giving in to the storm of transition that constantly asked for speed and action and demanded a switch over to the changing scenario.Heroes like Prem Nazir, Sathyan,Sukumaran, Jeyan and Madhu were all more concerned about the plot, the narration and the histrionic content more than their star status. However, the growth of Madhu became steady on a rising scale, that made him an exceptional hero, of course next only to Nazir. The untimely death of the other three contenders, eased the thespian journey for Madhu and willingly or unwillingly, he accepted the star status after Nazir.
     Most unexpectedly, the transition  did happen and the Malayalam film industry was slated for a new look, from the Nineteen Eighties. Speed and action which were kept in a low profile, suddenly became the inevitable ingredients of the new wave thinking, that engulfed the Malayalam film industry. I.V.Sasi, the maker of films like, Yee Naadu and Inspector Balram became the brand ambassador of speed and action.He was followed by a few other speed prone directors like Shaji Kailas,Joshi, K.Madhu Siddique and Priyadharshan,the last two in the list holding a neutral position with their special flair for comedy and family drama.But the ‘M’ factor remained unaffected, in a different way. After Madhu, the Malayalee audience came under the spell of two amazing actors of individual talent and merit.The makers stood for a while for a re- think. The creative imagination of film making was pulled out of the ‘rusted’ ruminations that had enslaved the Malayalee mind for ages. The Malayalam movie world was reborn and rechristened as a Mega Star Circle.Yes.the emergence of Mammootty and Mohanlal as mighty heroes potentially changed the ‘M’ factor.
     How long could an industry weather the storm of stiff commercial competition in the name of exemplary film making? Besides the producers, the audience should be grateful to the changing times that have taken them to a new experience in film watching, similar to that of their other Indian counterparts gloating over the starry cluster of the Bachans,the Kapoors, the Kumars and the Khans.The Telugu and Tamil film makers had already set their foot on the speed track, driving home the fact, that heroes with mass appeal become the heart and soul of the film body .No one can deny the fact that Mammootty and Mohanlal are not mere stars, but great stalwarts in the field of acting,getting into the groove of a perfect fitment formula in any small or big quality performance.Movies like Yaatra,Kazhcha, Madhilukal, Oru Vadakkan Veera Kadha, Pazhassi Raja {both historic fantasies} Pranjettan and Saint, Kireedom, Baratham, Life is Beautiful, Pranayam and many more, will show that Malayalam films are never found wanting in stuff of the highest order.
    But this is not a clean chit for the highly blown up image building that is going on to match similar trends in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu film fields. Leave alone the banners and cut outs.The way heroes  have been handled in films like Spatikam,Roudhram, AnnanThambi, Nasrani, Rajamanickam,Pokkiriraja, Alibhai, Praja, Baba Kalyani ,Narasimham,Thaandavam Chotta Mumbai,Red Chillies, Twenty Twenty and Christian Brothers [to mention a few]would make one believe that the makers have fixed the targeted audience very much in mind. However, any passionate film watcher will say, that there is absolutely nothing wrong in blowing up the image of rightly deserving heroes in order to make the frenzied fans a bit exhilarated.We live in a world of celebrities and every where around the world, such things are going on, both as a matter of hype and honour. 
    As a film lover, I have always looked upon with considerable excitement and admiration, these two heroes, who have surpassed the subdued grandeur of Madhu’s acting mettle, by creating waves of a popularity storm in their favour. The other unique thing about these two big stars is their team spirit, in acting together in quite a number of films.It is very difficult to come across such an equation, fairly displayed on screen, even after both became equally rated with the number 1 position as heroes, in Malayalam cinema. Even Rajini and Kamal were seen as team mates, only during their earlier days and are said to have parted ways with a friendly understanding.
   Barring Suresh Gopi and Prithiviraj, no other Malayalam actor would have smartly fitted into roles of the uniformed service like Mammootty. His sturdy physique, robustness, sense of control and absorption of the level of dignity such roles warrant, speak of dynamism  and depth of an intrinsic, self-made mould. He is chic and smart as an epitome of the truest police force either with fire and fury as found in films like The Truth,Inspector Balram and Roudhram or with poise and dignity as seen in movies like New Delhi, CBI Diary Kurippu and Sethurama Iyer CBI. Mammootty has impressively cast himself in several other kinds of roles that came his way, without vacillating from the norms of characterization, so that ultimately, it would be the  character and not the actor that would last in the memory of the audience.His masculine appeal coupled with a relevant underplay of emotions become special supporting factors to his solid performance of roles as a cop or gangster or a revolutionary.There is absolutely nothing artificial in his histrionic composition, except that the mega star status has joined his personality as an eventuality.
     Similarly, the ever inspiring spontaneity and degree of comfort level for any kind of role portrayal, evincing consummate ease and dedication, have remained as the incomparable traits of Mohanlal. He can sing and dance with his heavy physique and display levity and gravity with infallible conviction. Like Rajinikanth, humour comes to him in its most natural form and his versatility in acting is similar to that of Kamal.As far as dialogue delivery is concerned, Mammootty is known for his direct and open approach towards acquisition and delivery of the local dialects of Malayalam in their most acceptable form.His Pranjiettan and Saint is a monumental piece in this regard.Whereas, Mohanlal has proved himself to be the master craftsman putting language into shape, the way he desires it to be.Very often he could be found playing with words and accent, to suit his variant moods and exuberant delivery zeal.
    It gives us immense pleasure to listen to Mohanlal's gliding,sailing, driving, chasing  trudging, booing and budging voice modulation with an infinite variety of flow and ebb.I doubt if there is and will be, yet another actor of this voice grandeur. Mohanlal seems to be an instinctive performer and most often he keeps us awe-inspired by his astounding spirit of character absorption and identification in an effortless mode.He is fascinating, say,just charming, in any kind of role that he portrays.The audience will, for sure, carry at least a little bit of the verve in his voice, when they leave the theatres after watching any of his films. How much does Malayalam cinema stand enriched today on account of the stable and sustaining contribution of these two mega stars, both in terms of quality and volume.
      In fact, they are not the only M stars in Malayalam cinema.There was a gripping performer like late Murali and  there are beautifully talented other heroes like Mukesh and Manoj K.Jeyan. Among the women actors in Malayalam, we have Meera Jasmine, Manju Warrier, Mamta Mohandas and the old timers Menaka and Manimala who have performed their roles with grace and ability. But these two M stars stand apart as symbols of might and modesty in equal proportion, as actors and role performers. Charisma of personalities can not be purchased; nor can it be earned. It strikes as an image made up of blowing and boggling stuff, meant to rule human hearts with substance and character in a field show. It wields control over passionate admirers through an invisible charm  of dynamism and wavelength.
   The most appreciable fact is that, the film fans and audience in Kerala, have not taken their love and admiration for the stars into a state of obsession, so as to see them as leaders of political outfits as it has been done in  Tamil Nadu and AndhraPradesh;nor do these stars ever seem to cherish political ambitions. But still, the Malayalam film industry on the whole, can hardly ignore the grandeur of this significant M factor, that has creatively as well as commercially,tilted the balance in its favour, so as to transform it into one of the enchanting faces of Indian cinema.This article has been composed with whatever ideas related to the M factor that struck my imagination and it has been written with my restrictive knowledge of Malayalam Cinema.If any factual error or omission of names of valued film makers is felt by the readers,I appeal for being excused.


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