Cinema surrounds us. My child will be born into the language of cinema. It has become a necessity for entertainment. There is not a single day where a cinema theatre is vacant. Every minute, a movie ticket is sold, and every second a filmmaker gets a new story thread. There is no clarity as to when we started segregating movies based on the kind of visuals and story, it portrayed. Before a time period of two or three years, we had films which exclusively belonged to a given genre alone.
We had genres like comedy, drama, horror, kids movie, and romance, to name a few. The criteria to put a film into the horror box was the element of fear, the ghost induced in the viewer. Horror films used to discuss about ghosts and paranormal activities alone. Kids movies were mostly animation, with chubby teddy bears, and kitty kittens, adaptation of Jungle Book, Jumanji, and all such films which were visual and imaginative, like the comic books and fairy tales, children loved. Romantic movies had a love story as the pivot, and the climax was mostly the scene when the hero gets his heroine and they live happily ever after. We had such films which could be tagged and easily, fit into its own box.
While observing the films from the past five years, we find it difficult to classify a film to a particular genre, alone. The films released in the past two years have created genres of itself. Today, we have films like Kumbalangi nights, Mysskin’s Pisaasu, Onaayum Aattukuttiyum, Super Deluxe, which cannot be classified into any genre at all. These films are genres by itself. To take the example of Kumbalangi Nights, it is a story about a group of people abandoned by the society, who comes together, in love. The film is, of course, in the genre of drama. But, is it drama alone? The film portrays two beautiful love stories. But can we classify it as romance, alone?
We are yet to find a genre for the film Super Deluxe. About Mysskin’s Pisaasu, it is classified into horror in almost all online platforms, like Hot Star. The first time I watched the movie, instead of inducing any element of fear, I was overwhelmed by the father-daughter love. Also, how the soul communicates to the protagonist. Pisaasu cannot be classified as horror alone. Super Deluxe was a film which was multi faceted. It had layers of meanings relevant to the society. The film broke all the existing social institutions like marriage, gender, and the concepts of love that we are familiar with. This film can be considered as beginning of a line of films which were broad in its politics, that it could not fit into any box or genre we had created.
Recent Malayalam films like Thamasha, Pathinettam Padi, are all such films which are genres by itself. The most recent film Jallikkettu tries to break the line that separates commercial and art films. The very beginning of the film shocks us with its repetitive visuals, which makes the viewers perceive it as art film. Lijo Jose Pellissery adds commercial elements into it, later in the film, confusing us regarding where to place it.
Experimenting with different genres
Nobody has yet questioned this concept of classification and labelling. Our filmmakers have accepted the tags we have given them. It was only recently that our filmmakers have come out of their safe pupa, and started experimenting with their art. It is this experimentation that some of us are not able to digest.
There are exceptions to this argument, for example, the movie Ratshasan. It is a perfect action thriller, with all the elements of the tag. However, I believe that it is the right time to question the tradition of boxing up art, and adding a tag to it. Currently, we are experiencing a major shift, as far as cinema, and art, in general is concerned. Tagging films as a particular genre alone, and judging it based on its tag, is an underdeveloped, uncivilised practice, which fails this shift.
There is no such thing as commercial films. Movies which are doing well in theatres, with good audience response, are all commercial. There is no formula for a drama or horror movie. The idea that art films are boring is hollow. There have been art films which did absolutely well, commercially. There are commercial films which go at the pace of a snail. Classifications and differentiations are meant for the physical sciences. Art itself is a platform to unbox. The irony is, when we put art into small, tiny boxes, and name it, staying inside the narrow space of our mind and understanding. Art is beyond all definition.