history of malayalam cinema

Malayalam Mainstream Cinema

Popular cinema of Malayalam rarely tried to adopt the language of cinema till the 1980s. Delivering highly dramatic dialogues and singing and dancing in a set that resembled a stage were the widely accepted format of Malayalam commercial cinema.

Joshi, whose earlier films like Moorkhan (1980), Raktham (1981) and Sambhavam (1981) were all made in the same old format pioneered this change of form of Malayalam commercial cinema with his later films like New Delhi (1987), Nair Saab (1989) and Pathram (1999). With Joshi, Malayalam cinema too entered into an era of technically superior films.

Priyadarshan who started with slapstick comedies like Poochakkoru Mookkuthi (1982) slowly transformed his form to a more serious one. Sentimental stories with a coating of humour became his trademark. His collaboration with Mohanlal created some of the all time hits of Kerala like Thalavattam (1986), Chitram (1988), Kilukkam (1991) and Kaalapani (1995).

Fazil created a narrative style of his own, and created super hits without the help of superstars. He introduced many newcomers to Malayalam cinema, most of them later became stars. His first film Manjil Virinja Pookkal (1980) itself established him as one of the most noted director of commercial Malayalam Cinema. This film also saw the birth of a greater and later superstar, Mohanlal. Films like Ente Mammattikkuttyammkku (1983), Nookketha Doorathu Kannum Nattu (1983), Ente Sooryaputhrikku (1991) and Manichitrathazhu (1993) were all trend-setting films.

I V Sasi started with Ultsavam (1975), a small-budget film with no big stars. Since his film form has undergone several transformations and succeeded in almost all of them. His Avalude Raavukal (1979) was a milestone in the history of popular cinema in Kerala. But when many soft-porn movies started arriving on this format, I V Sasi started with star-studded films like Angadi (1980). A series of big-budget films came from him after the huge success of Angadi. While his films like Trishna (1981), Raagam, Anubandham and Aalkkuttathil Thiniye (1984) with screenplay of M T Vasudevan Nair where artistically superior, films like Ee Nadu (1982), Vartha and Aavanazhi (1986) with screenplays of T.Damodaran were made with a political flavour. I V Sasi's film 1921 (1988), a historical, stands apart.

Balachandra Menon is a cinema-journalist turned director, who has made several popularly acclaimed films like Ishtamanu Pakshe.. (1980), Karyam Nisaram (1983), Prashnam Gurutharam (1983) and April 18 (1984). These films are mostly humorous films with down to earth characters. With Achuvettante Veedu (1987) he tried to take a new path and Samantharangal (1997) was critically acclaimed and won him the Nation award for best actor.

Films of Satyan Antikadu have won popular acclaim even while making socially relevant films. Whenever Satyan Antikadu paired up with Sreenivasan as the scriptwriter, Malayalam cinema received films with social relevance and down to earth characters like T P Balagopalan M A, Gandhinagar Second Street, Sanmanasullavarkku Samadhanam and Naadoodikkattu.

Kamal started with Mizhineerppookkal (1986) and is one of the biggest presence in Malayalam popular cinema with almost all his films becoming commercial successes.

Some of the other directors who have guaranteed commercial success are Rajasenan, Vinayan, Bhadran, Anil Babu, Thambi Kannanthanam and T S Suresh Babu.

With Prem Nazir leaving the limelight of Malayalam cinema, the concept of superstar-centred cinema also disappeared for a short while. But 1980s saw birth of new superstars, and the entire film industry revolved around these stars. Ignoring the films with more than life characters, which made them the superstars they are today, Mammootty and Mohanlal are two great actors, who have proven their ability whenever they have got chance. Mammootty excelled in his verity roles of Yavanika, Yathra", Thaniyavarthanam, Vidheyan, Mathilukal and Oru Vadakkan Veeragaatha. Mohanlal with his natural and original style excelled in films like Kireedam, Vaastuhara, Vaanaprastham, Kalapaani and Bharatham. The new superstar of Malayalam, Dileep specialises is comedy films. Malayalam cinema has also received some of the best actors of Indian cinema like Gopi, Nadumudi Venu, Thilakan and Murali.

Producer Appachan of 'Navodaya Productions' is distinguished as a pioneer of technical experiments in Malayalam cinema. He is the producer of the first cinemascope film of Malayalam cinema Thacholi Ambu (1978), first 70 mm film Padayottam (1982) and India's first 3-D film My Dear Kuttychathan (1984).

The first Indian film shot and exhibited in digital format, Moonnamathoral gets released in 2006.

Malayalam Today

Even though the new millennium started with Malayalam cinema facing threats never seen before, it seems to have over come them within few years. When, the emergence of cable television along with other factors threatened the very existence of commercial cinema, soft-porno films, often termed 'Shakeela films'- Shakeela being the name of the actress who filled the silver screen during those period- filled up the cinema halls and became commercial successes. Malayalam cinema managed a comeback with several meaningful commercials and the 'Shakeela films' slowly disappeared.

Apart from Adoor Gopalakrishnan's Nizhalkkuthu (2003) it was T V Chandran with his various films who filled up the Parallel Cinema arena. Films of newcomers and non-resident filmmakers like Murali Nair, Satish Menon, Liji Pullapilly etc. were also shown and widely discussed. Other new directors who emerged during the last few years was Rajiv Vijayaraghavan and Sharath.

Commercial success of film like Kamal's Perumazhakalam and Blessy's Kazhcha has given a new birth to the middle-path stream of Malayalam cinema. New directors like Pradip Nair (Oridam), M D Sukumaran (Ullam) and Albert (Kanne Madanguga) emerged with their socially relevant films.

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