“OK Kanmani will mark Mani Ratnam’s grand comeback to the romance genre after a decade. His last romantic outing was R. Madhavan-starrer Alaipayuthey. Ratnam is planning to release OK KanmaniApril 14, which marks 15 years since the release of Alaipayuthey.”
south-indian-spice is a great go to for recs that cover most of south india and i’m sure the lovely show runner of the blog will be happy to help you with any other recs (kannada maybe? i’m sorry i can’t give you much info on that i haven’t seen enough)
and WELCOME TO THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF SOUTH INDIAN CINEMA. I HOPE YOU ENJOY YOUR STAY. I KNOW YOU WILL :)
Don’t understand Malayalam, but have fallen in love with its new wave cinema
In the history of arts in general, there are definitive time periods when you will have not one but many artists combining strengths to give rise to a movement. The tragedy though is that these often short-lived patches of time get acknowledged only in retrospect.
The years from 1975 to 1980, for example, was a golden era for Tamil cinema. In that five-year span, the audience probably saw more influential film-makers making a mark and capturing the imagination of the audiences than what would follow in the next 25 years. Tamil cinema has never quite had a similar renaissance with so many makers working with a sense of purpose and not just an eye on the box office.
I suspect we could be in the middle of a similar phase now with regards to Malayalam cinema. Further, some of the better Malayalam films in the recent past could be helping other audiences, like Tamil and Telugu, rediscover Malayalam cinema and come to appreciate it.
I watched Premam recently, and I know I am joining the chorus of fans who are singing its praise. But I am not here to make a case for Nivin Pauly. (Why would I? Any self-respecting guy must hate him by now.)
Far from being an actor or a star’s vehicle, Premam was an all out director’s film, with smart scripting, brilliant techniques (oh man, the cinematography), astute casting and non fussy acting from the entire cast.
There is no point waxing more eloquence on Premam itself, but I think there is a case here for the bigger picture.
It looks like a really motivated group of young film-makers have taken charge of the Malayalam film industry and have started telling stories that are modern in terms of content as well as technique.
It helps that the industry is flush with young talented actors like Fahad Fazil, Dulquer Salman, Nivin Pauly, Parvathy, Nithya Menen and Sai Pallavi but the real heroes seem to be the young directors who are helming films - from the likes of Jeethu Joseph (Drishyam) to Anjali Menon (Bangalore Days) to Anwar Rasheed (Ustad Hotel) to Alphonse Putharen (Neram, Premam).
There is the stupendous box office success of Drishyam, which turned my attention towards Malayalam cinema, and I am not alone. Several others from outside Kerala seem to be turning to Malayalam cinema.
Just watching Bangalore Days and Premam, two films that have been released in theatres with English subtitles, set me thinking that something very special is afoot. It took me to the nearest Starmark store to take a closer look at some of the recent Malayalam movies. I was quite gobsmacked at the films they have produced in last three to four years. Just reading the synopsis of the stories on the DVD covers made me regret missing Malayalam cinema all these years. The plots themselves seemed so unusual and yet so relevant to the times we live in.
Take the plots of two women-centric films - How old are you by Roshan Andrews and Mili by Rajesh Pillai - these are more unique than any you are going to find in regular fare in Tamil. (How old are you was remade with Jyothika as 36 Vayathinile)
The variety and unflinching execution in some of the recent Malayalam films are in contrast to what is being churned out in Tamil or Hindi cinema. Though there are the honourable exceptions like Kaaka Muttai, Soodhu Kavvum or Onnayaum Aatukuttiyum in Tamil and generally the movies that Kangana Ranaut is starring in Hindi, there is too much noise about the 100 crore club.
And then there is this really sad classification of ‘Mass vs. Class’ movies that seems to have caught on like a rash over the past few years. Almost of us get out of this argument, on a scale of extremes is either the stupendously mind-blowing Baahubali or the utterly stupidMasss. The likes of Kaaka Muttai feel like a flash in the pan.
One of the heartening aspects of the films of the new-wave Malayalam cinema seems to be that it is grounded in realties within Kerala or everyday lives that the audience themselves can relate to. More importantly, the manner in which the stories are being told, are making them accessible to non-Malayalam speaking audiences like never before.
Let me just dwell on what I thought was the key factor that made Premam work. If the right cinematic techniques are used to define a character and more importantly the character’s idiosyncrasies, language is hardly a barrier. Though I did pay attention to the subtitles in the first half of the film, I was so used to the characters that the second half of film hardly needed me to understand every word. I was relishing the last hour of the movie, laughing out loud in the theatre along with others. Premam felt more like a conversation with a group of friends than a film.
Kamal Hassan, in a recent interview to the media to celebrate the success of Papanasam (which again is a remake of the Malayalam filmDrishyam), had noted that whilst he was happy with online discussions about how some of his old movies were much better and not as bad as it was made out to be at the time of its release, he felt it would have been much better had the same audience had watched the movies at the cinema halls, making him and his producer happy.
Most of the new wave Malayalam films are fairly low budget films that are being shot in record schedules. I suspect even the actors are just willing to be a part of these projects for comparatively lesser pay than what their peers would receive in other regional cinema.
It is quite important for any discerning movie viewer to fall in love with Malayalam cinema all over again. And there is no better way to start it than with Premam.