From Flops to Blockbusters: The Rise of Malayalam Cinema | 2024

Malayalam Cinema 2024

With the arrival of the OTT boom, we saw a trend in Malayalam cinema to produce low-budget films targetting digital streaming platforms. While many of these films gained popularity nationwide after digital release due to their strong content, the downside was the increase in such low-budget productions. As a result, audiences began to prefer waiting for the digital release of these movies rather than theatres. The year 2023 saw a significant number of box office flops, with only a few exceptions such as ‘2018’ and ‘RDX.’ If a movie offers only enough value to warrant a small screen, audiences simply wait for its digital release.

We have seen filmmakers and producers attributing the decline in theatre attendance to ticket price hikes and audiences turning to digital streaming platforms. Paradoxically, they mentioned the success of Tamil movies in Kerala, such as ‘Vikram,’ ‘Jailer,’ and ‘Leo,’ as evidence of audiences’ not watching Malayalam films. Instead of understanding the audience’s preferences, filmmakers and producers continued to blame the audience for the declining theatre attendance. However, it is evident from the success of these Tamil films in Kerala that audiences will flock to theatres when the movie demands it.

The Rise of Malayalam Cinema

The discussion surrounding the superior content and actors performances in Malayalam cinema has long been a topic of debate. However, what has recently shifted is the emphasis on quality filmmaking. The failure of certain movies during this period serves as a stark reminder of this change. Social media platforms are abuzz with cinephiles engaging in discussions about the technical aspects of recent films such as ‘2018’ (2023), ‘RDX’ (2023), ‘Bramayugam’ (2024), and ‘Manjummel Boys’ (2024). When did technical aspects of filmmaking become a focal point for audience discussions? Perhaps it was during the lockdown or the OTT boom. With audiences being exposed to high-quality content from film industries worldwide, their standards for visual and auditory expectations have evolved.

We have seen audiences complaining about the quality of movies being produced. A recent big star movie in Malayalam that didn’t go well with the audience received comments describing it as “TV serial kind of making.” If a movie evokes the same feeling on both small and big screens, audiences will likely prefer the small screen due to the expense of going to the movies, while OTT platforms are much more affordable.

From Flops to Blockbusters

However, five to six movies, released in the first four months of 2024, have set a new benchmark for the Malayalam industry, showcasing what filmmakers should aspire to achieve. ‘Manjummel Boys’ directed by Chidambaram, ‘Aadujeevitham’ directed by Blessy, ‘Aavesham’ directed by Jithu Madhavan, ‘Premalu’ directed by Girish AD, and ‘Bramayugam’ directed by Rahul Sadasivan, are recent Malayalam blockbusters. These films have garnered nationwide attention from both critics and audiences alike.

Manjummel Boys

Spanning different genres, these movies share little in common except for one key aspect: their exceptional technical quality. This is evident in their music, sound design, and cinematography, which have all contributed to their success. Moreover, each of these films has exceeded the typical budget constraints of the Malayalam film industry, investing significantly in enhancing their technical aspects.

A huge number of movies are made even without a budget for quality art materials. Producers and filmmakers believe that the names of actors will bring them business. However, the scenario has changed. OTT platforms are no longer in a hurry to acquire movies. A movie must release in theatres with good publicity and receive at least decent to good reviews for streaming platforms to take notice.

What draws audiences to theatres? There’s something unique that only theatres can offer: the ambiance of a crowd, the undivided attention on the big screen, the immersive sound system, and the expansive screen itself. A movie that promises an exceptional experience on the big screen will naturally attract audiences to theatres. Audiences are not in a hurry to come to theatres for every movie. It is expensive. Thousands of movies are available to them at their fingertips. Effective promotion and marketing materials are what convince them to visit theatre, and lately the mouth publicity. Audiences come when they feel it is worth their money.

With the shifting landscape of OTT platforms becoming less liberal in acquiring movies. Now filmmakers are compelled to target theatre audiences. This shift is beneficial for both the industry and audiences alike.

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About the Author

PS Arjun
Cinephile. Learning the art of filmmaking. Writer. Filmmaker.

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