The 2000’s was overflowing with innumerable formulaic and generic entertainers. So much films that exaggerated cinematic realism. Veteran filmmakers like Sibi Malayil, Priyadarshan and a handsome of others were running out of fuel. A young crop of writers & directors came with sparklingly sensational vibrant narratives by the end of the shoddy decade. 2011 was the crucial turning point for Malayalam Cinema with unconventional and universally appealing narratives like Salt & Pepper, Traffic, Chappa Kurish, City of God hit screens. Traffic was hugely successful. These are some films from the neo era of Malayalam Cinema which whole together embraced freshness in narratives, treatment styles and are are also landmarks considering the scale of art or economics.
Rajesh Pillai with writers Bobby and Sanjay, introduces an incredible non-linear hyperlink narrative in a survival thriller. The first of its kind in Malayalam Cinema. Traffic is about a risky mission to move a human heart inside of two hours to a dying patient 150kms away during a peak traffic hour. Bobby and Sanjay manages to incorporate multiple plotlines and dissolve it in this testosterone fueled emotional and thrilling ride. Traffic has one of the most memorable interval block and climax sequence of all time.
Ozhivu Divasathe Kali
Sanal Kumar Sasidaran’s film won the Kerala State Award for best film in 2016. It completely changed my notions of how to make a political film or what exactly is a political film. Ozhivu Divasathe Kali happens in an election day, at one side the polling gallops goes on & the other hand in a parallel remote landscape – 4 friends are loosening up with their offday games that starts with a child play to a dead end. Sasidaran’s film emphasises on dalit oppression through it’s conversations which has wide ranging political inversions. It is through male gaze of these 4 drunk men Sanal takes on grey shades of societal psyche & middling civility of men. The climax is breathtakingly shot, an extensive single take that may lead to 50-55 plus minutes. It will blow your mind in every possible way.
Sameer Thahir’s debut directorial is a pathbreaking narrative on the class divide. The filmmaking too was vibrant new of its kind. Especially the term associated with Realistic Cinema would have had an inception post Chaappa Kurishu, though there were many films rooted with realism before, this exquisite impulse taking all cinematic liberties in slice-of-life form shall be new. The action sequences are shot with finesse, on that note Chaappa Kurishu was a large-hearted welcome to the digital format, embracing the changes. Adding, it might also be the first Mainstream Malayalam film to have taken great authenticity in portraying sensuality on screen. The lip lock between Fahad and Remya Nambeeshan was a huge controversy. Down the line, films like Maayanadhi layered the foundation for this change.
Dileesh Pothan’s duology!
Dileesh Pothen’s films are a treatise of its own. Pothen is one of the filmmakers who shares an important regard in new age Malayalam Cinema.
Maheshinte Prathakam was a film that even inspired filmmakers like Lijo Jose Pellissery to rethink & comeback with yet another pathbreaking franchise of films like Angamaly Diaries, EeMaYau & Jallikattu. Dileesh has woven organic sensibilities in moviegoers through his films. His Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum is a modern day masterpiece, a textbook for on screen craft & screenwriting. Frontined with outstanding performances of Fahad Fazil as a wacky chain snatcher, Suraj Venjaramoodu in a naïve decent man role, Nimishan in her delightfully charming debut and Alancier as the terrifying rogue cop. Thondimuthal talks pan Indian politics through these character’s & no matter what, it is also a captivating thriller that keeps you guessing till the end with natural sensibilities running wild. The former, Maheshinte Prathikaram is a stupendous butterfly effect with none-gimmicks & a subversion of stereotypes through a heavenly organic slice-of-life tale of a young man who owns a photo studio at Idukki.
Mohanlal’s box office trinity
Drishyam, Pulimurugan & Lucifer. 3 Films that made a crucial turnaround for Malayalam films in the scale of economics. If Drishyam doubled the previous highest grosser, Pulimurugan within 3 years Tripled the numbers and become the First 100 crore grosser of Mollywood, Lucifer underlined the fact that it was never a one-time-wonder further becoming the Second 100 crore film & first 200 crore total business. Lucifer also revitalized the overseas market: almost performing on par with bollywood & hollywood films at UAE & North America. The base of digital streaming was also widened with Lucifer.
Lijo Jose Pellissery’s Jallikattu established Mollywood’s spot in world cinema & international audience. Underlining the fact that Indian Cinema is more than Bollywood. I haven’t seen the kind of buzz which Jallikattu had with respect to any other Indian film that make it big in the festival circuits. The film was screened in one of the most prestigious film fests of the world – Toronto International Film Festival on contemporary world cinema category & the london BFI. It even catch sight of Ari Aster,who’s known for films like Hereditary & Midsommar. He happened to tweet about Jallikattu saying it was something he hasn’t seen before. Meanwhile, Moothon, Chola & Veyil Marangal also premiered at Toronto, Venice film festival & Shanghai film festival in the same frame. How I wish, jallikattu will make it to India’s official entry for next year’s Oscars, and at least grab a nomination. Touch wood.
A groundbreaking genre attempt by Lijo Jose Pellissery. Amen will surely down the line raved as a classic textbook for filmmaking. For it’s attempt in Magical Realism, musical folklore & artistic history. The film is basically a Romeo-Juliet romance happening in a wacky imaginative utopian – Kumarangini. A village full of latin christians, who are attuned to a culture of band music. The visual treatment, scene choreography & total aesthetics of Amen is a benchmark setting standard for Malayalam cinema IMO.
One of the most stylish films of the century. Amal Neerad’s Iyobinte Pusthakam is a never seen before period drama. Right from the firstlook character posters to the stylish western flourishes in storytelling and making. Gopi Chidambaram’s screenplay (Dialogues by Syam Pushkaran) does a brilliant job in the recreation of vernaculars of 1900’s era, as well as it does in adapting Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s final novel The Brothers Karamazov. Amal Neerad’s action set pieces are sumptuous.
The most recent addition to the list. Moothon, directed by Geethu Mohandas addresses benchmark setting gender politics. It is the closest a filmmaker from the contemporary scenario has come in lines of veteran Padmarajan in that regard. Mohandas doesn’t make a big deal out of this, all what she wants to show is unconditional Love, which is why the gay romance track between Nivin Pauly and Roshan Mathew is so attesting despite of its retro mode. But above this tender Lakshadweep portions, Geethu has written an audaciously grim narrative of Mulla. The character arc of Mulla will surely be reckoned as a classic in the long run.