The outgoing year, 2018, was indeed a satisfactory one for Malayalam filmmakers and viewers. The August deluge did affect the movie industry briefly, yet the movie buffs of Kerala were treated to some interesting fare, though several them had common themes.
Till December 21, about 156 Malayalam movies were released in Kerala where makers stress on quality rather than just box-office numbers. Today, let's take a look at the main common themes in several significant movies though they had varied reception in the theatres.
The subject of death played a prominent role in Malayalam movies this year. Although all movies under this category are totally different from each other and difficult to compare, the basic plot revolved around death.
It all began with Lijo Jose Pelliserry's brilliant take on death in his movie 'Ee.Ma.Yau' and it was about not just one but four deaths. Although the movie can be termed as an existential comedy, at the film's very centre is death. The story portrayed the death of an elderly man Vavachan Mesthiri (Kainakary Thangaraj) and his son’s efforts to ensure that his father gets the grand burial that he had wished for.
If 'Ee.Ma.Yau' had a morbid subject, then Anjali Menon's 'Koode' bore a feel-good aspect. The movie began with the death news, right where the lead protagonist Joshua (Prithviraj) is informed that his sister Jenny (Nazriya) is no more. With a pinch of fantasy, Anjali adapted the Marathi film 'Happy Journey' so well that it reminded us what could one do if given a second chance. Apart from death and after life, there are also sub-plots like child abuse, domestic violence and patriarchy. However, the film mainly reflected how it took a death to make Joshua move on from the past.
'Iblis', an out-and-out fantasy movie, dealt with death and afterlife. Director Rohith gave death an eerie spin-off with romance and asked the question as what death mean to a lot of people we loved. In 'Iblis', death is a beginning and life, a comedy. In the movie, a boy, returning home after attending a funeral, asks his grandfather where do people go after death? And interestingly, he replies that they don't go away anywhere, but live around the village itself and the boy gets curious. Just like the innocent boy, 'Iblis' portrayed the innocence of life and death.
Contrary to the former ones, Mohanlal-starrer 'Drama' also had an interesting take on post-death events by director Ranjith. It tells about Rosamma (Arundhati Nag), an elderly woman living with his youngest daughter in London. Unexpectedly, she breathed her last while there and how her last wish to be laid to rest at her hometown in Kerala is fulfilled is presented in the movie. The funeral and the dead body were major premises in the comedy-family drama.
We would also like to include the Joju-starrer 'Joseph' under this section for it aptly featured a man who lived through deaths and chose his way to death. The retired police officer's life took a dramatic turn firstly with the death of a person who was close to him. The second time was no different when he lost his daughter and again the third time when he lost his divorced wife to death. The movie, touted as a thriller, can also be considered as an emotional drama presenting the life of a man with a scar and how he happened to choose death over life.
Desi mythical superheroes
Known as the infamous Robinhood of Kerala, the movie 'Kayamkulam Kochunni' is a mix of reality and myth. Writers Bobby and Sanjay, who scripted the Nivin Pauly-starrer took a cinematic adaptation of the story from Aithihyamala (a story book inspired from myths, historical facts and imagination, written by Kottarathil Sankunni in the early 20th century). The legendary thief's story has been told many a times on screen and off screen and this year it was re-told under the direction of Rosshan Andrrews on a big canvas.
Directed by VA Shrikumar Menon, 'Odiyan' is one other movie based on the mythical life of the Odiyan community. It is said that odiyans were considered professional assassins and had powers to assume forms that they desired. In the much-talked about movie, Mohanlal played the last surviving odiyan Manikyan. The film managed to build up a folksy air.
Real to reel
The first one under this category is Kamal's 'Aami'. When Kamal announced this biopic on the poet Madhavikutty, the movie made headlines. Kamala Das (1934-2009) shocked a generation with her finest writings and her open thoughts on sexuality. Manju Warrier justified the character well displaying Aami’s mannerisms.
Another interesting biopic that caught attention this year was 'Captain'. The biopic of veteran football player VP Sathyan, who was the captain of the Indian national football team, was scripted and directed by Prajesh Sen. Jayasurya in and as Captain, takes us through the life of Sathyan. The film moves through the different phases of the life of the person, whose contributions to the game of football are priceless.
Vinayan's movie 'Chalakkudikkaran Changathi' was yet another movie inspired from the real life of late actor Kalabhavan Mani. The finely made film took instances from Mani's life right from poverty to stardom and presented well with actor Rajamani in the lead. The flick is indeed a must watch for all Mani fans.
Yet another real-life inspired movie was 'Oru Kuprasidha Payyan' starring Tovino Thomas in the lead. The mystery thriller is said to be based on Sundariamma murder case. Madhupal in his interview had revealed how he came across a newspaper article which inspired him to make a movie. While Tovino played the real life of Jayesh, who was acquitted of the crime after spending more than a year in custody, Nimisha Sajan as advocate presented the real life of lawyer Anil Kumar. The film explored how an innocent person can be framed as a criminal in the society. The similarities between Jayesh's real life and the movie was neatly woven as one of the amazing thrillers of the year.
God - the life changer
Actor Salim Kumar's directorial 'Daivame Kaithozham K. Kumar Akanam' began with the narration of a God (Nedumudi Venu). The movie is a satirical take which tells how God plans to visit earth in order to study the humans closely. The film, centered around a God, takes a dig at typical Malayali psyche.
Another movie in which God plays an important role was 'Thattumpurath Achuthan. Though we don't really get to see a real character, Lal Jose has given God a pivotal role. Kunchacko Boban (Achuthan), an ardent devotee of Lord Krishna, faces trials and leads a happy life with the blessings of his God. The invisible presence of his superpower is felt through out the movie.
The survival game
The struggle and survival theme was majorly dealt with in many movies this year.
'Eeda' directed by B. Ajithkumar is known as a modern take on William Shakespeare's 'Romeo and Juliet'. The film dealt with the survival of two much-in-love couple - Anand (Shane Nigam) and Aishwarya (Nimisha Sajayan). The story goes through their struggle to keep their personal lives apart from the political stand of both families.
Nivin Pauly-starrer 'Hey Jude' is a heartwarming tale of Jude but if you have a closer look, it is Jude's survival tale. An oddball, Jude fails many a times in life which makes us laugh, think and move emotionally. How he survives his difficult times and becomes a socially involved person form the crux of this Shyamaprasad movie.
'Njan Marykutty' is yet another notable movie under this category for it takes a look at how a transsexual manages to survive in the society despite hardships. Marykutty, by Jayasurya, achieves her dream and gains a respectable identity in the society.
'Sudani from Nigeria', directed by Zakariya, is undeniably one of the best movies of 2018. Although the movie's premise is about football, the movie is a touching tale of humanity and love beyond conditions. Majeed (Soubin Shahir) runs a football club and one among his best players is Samuel (Samuel Abiola Robinson). As it happens, Samuel gets injured and it's a matter of survival for both of them. Set on ordinary moments, 'Sudani...' is an extraordinary film to say.
The 'Prathikaaram' continues
Three movies- Ranam, Varathan and Aadhi -- fit the bill for this section.
While 'Ranam', written and directed by Nirmal Sahadev, is a gang-war flick that revolved around the revenge by Adhi (Prithviraj), 'Varathan' has more detailed plotline of a personal vengeance.
The Fahadh Faasil-starrer 'Varathan', directed by Amal Neerad, ratchets up the tension and discomfort in such a manner that one cannot help but justify the revenge taken by Abin (Fahadh) for his wife Priya (Aishwarya).
Coming to 'Aadhi', the lead protagonist Aadhithya Mohan (Pranav) dreams of making it big as a musician. But certain incidents follow and Aadhi is forced to go into hiding. 'Aadhi' is the story of a commoner against powerful evil forces. Pranav’s parkour scenes were the highlight.
There could be many but the the top picks are Siby Sebastian from 'Carbon' and P.R.Akashan aka 'Prakashan from 'Njan Prakshan'. Though poles apart in genres, the two heroes in the films seem to have a common thread.
Both Siby and Prakashan, played by same hero Fahadh Faasil, don't want their hands to get wet and are trying out for get-rich-quick ways. In both the movies, the hero's families and friends study, take up jobs, marry and manage their homes responsibly, but our heroes are careless and carefree. Declared as a loser by family, both Siby and Prakashan are least bothered how the society views them.
While with 'Carbon', award-winning cinematographer Venu returned to direction after the 2014 thriller 'Munnariyippu', with 'Njan Prakshan', veteran director Sathyan Anthikad delivered one of his best in recent times. He teamed up with Sreenivasan after 16 long years.