Malayalam audience select films to watch with great care and deliberations for they are not willing to waste time on flicks that don't have a good story to tell. Hence, Mollywood producers first give importance to the script and screenplay of a film before deciding on the start cast.
It is up to the directors to select the lead pair and other cast, even as producers fall in line with that choice. While bad films put off movie goers from theatres, the rising popularity of other language films is a big challenge to the Kerala film industry.
While 2014 has been a mixed year with flops and hits, this year a slew of films with well-researched subjects may rake in the moolah at the box office for the producers.
Here are the list of films lined up for 2015 that may decide the fate of the move industry in Kerala:
After a gap of 17 years, versatile actor Mohanlal has teamed up with Manju Warrier in Ennum Eppozhum which is doing very well at the box office due to the innovating handling of the plot by ace director Sathyan Anthikkad.
This top actor will be seen in two other films in 2015 - Laila O Laila and Puli Murugan - and Mohanlal's ardent fans will be too happy to see that these movies also run to packed houses in theatres.
With good opening for Bhaskar the Rascal, the superstar Mammootty has a slew of projects on hand, namely Pathemari, Dance, Dance, Style Ka Baap, Nagaland, Driving Licence and Fireman, among others. According to trade sources, this veteran actor known for his method acting has got nearly 16-20 projects on hand spread over two years.
After the success of Amen, Lijo Jose Pellisery is aiming at social comedy in his upcoming film Double Barrel with a star cast of Prithviraj, Arya and Indrajith which is expected to rock theatres with a fun-filled entertainment.
Drishyam directed by Jeethu Joseph is one of the top grossers in Malayalam cinema. Having got a rare experience of directing Kamal Haasan in the Tamil version of Drishyam, Joseph has roped in actor Dileep for lead role in Life of Josutty. Eros International will co-produce the film.
Upcoming actor Nivin Pauly is paired with Amala Paul in Mili directed by Rajesh Pillai who has created a solid reputation for originality with highly successful Traffic. Already the songs in Mili have struck a chord with youngsters.
Mammootty's son Dulquer Salman and Nitya Menen are in the lead in Mani Ratnam's Okay Kanmani which deals with live in relationship and the resultant human relationships. This film is said to be a sequel to Alai Paayuthae which catapulted Madhavan to stardom in 2000.
Nivin Pauly will be the protagonist in Premam directed by Alphonse Puthren. Here the story deals with how the definition of romance changes with the passage of time in a man's life.
Writer Midhun Manuel Thomas who earned kudos for his work in rom-com Ohm Shaanthi Oshaana is now directing Aadu Oru Bheekara Jeeviyanu with Jayasurya playing the captain of a tug-of-war team in a remote village. They win a she goat as the prize and resume their journey with Pinkie, the goat.
Promising actor Fahadh Faasil pins hopes on his new project Maniyarayile Jinnu directed by Anwar Rasheed. The director's mentor Reghunath Paleri is part of the star cast of the film.
Portraying the life of two women, this film directed by Lal Jose is expected to offer something special in the treatment of the lead pair. In past, Lal Jose has given an enjoyable fare with interesting subjects.
A small story narrated in Azhakiya Ravanan is being adapted as a full-length feature film. Produced by Listin Stephen's Magic Frames, debutant Santosh Viswanathan is wielding the megaphone for this film starring Kunchacko Boban and Rima Kallingal as lead pair.
J.C. Daniel, a dentist by profession, produced, directed, edited and acted in the first silent Malayalam film Vigathakumaran (1928). The film was exhibited at the Capitol Theatre in Thiruvananthapuram on 7 November, 1928, but if flopped due to stiff opposition from certain quarters.
With untiring efforts, Daniel built the first studio called Travancore National Pictures. With the failure of the first silent film, he had to shut down his business after suffering heavy losses.
The second silent film Marthanda Varma (1933) directed by V.V.Rao was based on a novel by C.V.Raman Pillai. But the producer Sunder Raj did not get film rights of the novel and hence it was not allowed to be exhibited.
The first talkie in Malayalam was Balan (1938) produced by T.R. Sundaram of Modern Theatres, Salem and directed by S. Nottani. �Written by Muthukulam Raghavan Pillai, it was a story of two orphaned kids who had to suffer at the hands of their stepmother.
Nottani went on to direct Gnanambika (1940) which was followed by Prahlada (1941) for which the credit must go to K. Subramaniam.
Tamil producers took the initiative to make Malayalam movies till 1947. Then it was left to P.J. Cherian who made Nirmala (1948) to change the course of Mollywood.
Udaya Studios in Alleppey produced the first film shot entirely in Kerala - Vellinakshatram (1949).
M. Kunchako and K.V. Koshy, the duo who established Udaya Studios in 1947, produced a series of box office hits like Nallathanka and Jeevithanauka. It may be noted that Thikkurissy Sukumaran Nair who was the protagonist in Jeevithanauka was considered as the first superstar of Malayalam cinema.
Movie mogul P. Subramaniam set up Merryland Studios in Thiruvananthapuram in 1951. This pioneering studio introduced actor Sathyan with Athmasakhi (1952). However, it was Neelakuyil (1954) with Sathyan in the lead that fetched national accolades winning President’s silver medal.
In a way Neelakuyil was the first film made by an all-Malayalees crew and cast for the Keralites. This path-breaking film was written by Uroob and directed by P. Bhaskaran-Ramu Kariat duo.
Newspaper Boy (1955) shed light on a poverty struck family of a printing press employee and was a product of college going filmmakers with P. Ramadoss wielding the megaphone.
Films like Seema, Sneha, Achan, Harishchandra, Rarichan, Navalokam, Randidangazhi, Enna Pauran and Padatha Painkili were released in 1950s with a mix of subjects that found favours with the public.
Prominent actors of 1950s include Thikkurisi Sukumaran Nair, Sathyan, Prem Nazir, S.P.Pillai and Kottarakara Sreedharan Nair.� Out of which Prem Nazir holds the Guinness Record for acting in maximum number of films as hero.�
Popular novels and short stories were made into films in this period. Writers like Thakazhi, Kesavdev, Parappurath, Basheer, M.T.Vasudevan Nair and Thoppil Bhasi offered enough scope for directors to excel in filmmaking with focus on script and narration.
Kandam Bacha Coat (1961) was the first colour film in Malayalam. Chemmeen (1965) directed by Ramu Kariat and based on a novel by Thakazhi won the President’s Gold Medal for the Best Film.
Directors like Ramu Kariyatu, P.Bhaskaran, K.S.Sethumadhavan and Sasikumar carved a name for themselves with memorable films of this decade. Actor Madhu arrived in the scene in the 1960s to become a superstar in his own right. Thulabharam gave actress Sharada the National Film Award for Best Actress.
The emergence of new wave cinema in Malayalam produced some of the best films in the Indian film industry thanks to a new breed of directors who enthralled audience with gripping stories oozing with sentiments and pathos.
Madhu as the protagonist in Olavum Theeravum (1970) helmed by P.N. Menon set high standards in cinematic work for others to follow.
Swayamvaram (1972) directed by Adoor Gopalakrishnan and Nirmalyam (1973) written and directed by M.T. Vasudevan Nair won National Award for the Best Film. While P.J. Antony became the first South Indian to win National Award for Best Actor (Nirmalyam) and Sharda won the Best Actress award for the second time for Swayamvaram.
Some of the directors who made an impact are G. Aravindan, John Abraham, K.G. George, K.P. Kumaran, P.A. Bakkar, K.R. Mohanan, G.S. Panicker, C. Radhakrishnan, Bharatan and Padmarajan.
In the acting field Prem Nazir, Madhu, Soman, Sukumaran and Jayan were adept in histrionics and able to pull the audience with enchanting performances.
Leading heroines were Sharada, Sheela, Jaya Bharathi, Sree Vidya, Vijayasree and Rani Chandra. It worth recalling that Nazir and Sheela share a unique world record of acting as lead pair in 107 films
It was in 1980s that new wave cinema in Mollywood began to receive national and global accolades for its content and unique way of presentation on the silver screen.
A host of movies reflecting humanity at large were released that further heated up debate on various issues in society. Some of the top films that evoked praise and critical acclaim are:
Lenin Rajendran and T.V.Chandran also came out with some quality works in the eighties.
Adoor’s Elippathayam (1981) won the British Film Institute award for Most Original and Imaginative film, while Aravindan’s Chidambaram (1985) won the National Award for Best Film.
Balan K. Nair won the National Award for the Best Actor in 1981 for his performance in Oppol. Another milestone film Piravi bagged top honours winning national awards for Best Film, Best Director and Best Actor (Premji) in 1989. This movie went on to claim several global awards too.
A set of directors like K.G. George, Bharathan and Padmarajan created‘middle-stream’ movies that stuck a right balance between parallel cinema and the popularity of commercial films. Known for aesthetic qualities, their films were successful at the box office and at the same time earned critical acclaim for their artistic values.
India's first indigenous 70mm movie was the Malayalam film Padayottam (1982) produced by Appachan of Navodaya group. Also the country’s first 3-D Film My Dear Kuttichathan was in Malayalam produced by Navodaya Appachan and released in 1984.
Social, political and cultural themes were major attractions in films of this period which also had a mix of action and slapstick comedy.� The directors took extreme care to make films that had commercial elements as well as ingredients of parallel cinema for art appreciation.
In the 1980s, talented actors Mammootty, Mohanlal, Ratheesh, Shankar and Rahman made their presence felt. Out of them, Mammootty and Mohanlal�continued their success and reached new heights in super stardom.
With more number of movies being produced, actors like Jayaram and Suresh Gopi too flourished in the market with films that banked on their typical mannerisms and acting skills.
Commercial and middle stream films released in the 1990s regaled the audience throughout the 1990s, apart from winning awards at the national level.
Mohanlal and Mammootty essayed a number of versatile roles in different genres winning national and state awards throughout this period.
Mammootty won the award three times - 1990 (Mathilukal), 1994(Ponthan Mada) and 1999 (for the English film Dr. Ambedkar). Mohanlal won the award two times - 1992 (Bharatham) and 2000 (Vaanaprastham). �
Suresh Gopi and Balachandra Menon shared the national award in 1998 for their performances in Kaliyattam and Samaantharangal respectively.
Plagued by poor content and the ill-effects of super stardom, movies had failed miserably at the box office. Moreover, piracy woes and growing market for adult-content movies have created roadblocks for the successful run of a quality film in Kerala.
But some commercial films did good business despite intrusion of other language films and lack of credibility in story and screenplay. Dileep who made his debut in Sallapam (1997) with Manju Warrier rose to new heights in 2000s.
Mollywood began to develop new and interesting story formats for narration with refreshing set of directors willing to experiment with new faces in the post-2000 period. Young actors like Prithviraj, Narain, Jayasurya, Kunchacko Boban, Nivin Pauly, Dulquer Salman and Vineeth Srinivasan were able to read the market pulse and restructure their acting skills to the need of the film market.
A new set of promising actors emerged in the early 2000's like Prithviraj, Narain, Jayasurya and Indrajith and Nivin Pauly wowed the audience with their
Unlike the 1980s and early 1990s when Malayalam films bagged a handful of national awards each year, post 2000 Mollywood, it seems, is content on producing commercial films alone catering to the domestic market and Keralites living mostly in the Gulf and the United States.
It is not surprising that many discerning movie goers in Kerala wonder if the current rush to make commercial films will at all fetch national recognition and honours to Malayalam movies like in the 1980s.
Declining story value is keeping off regular movie goers from theatres. Hence, producers have to sit with directors to craft a film that can draw crowds to theatres.
It is no easy task as other language flicks like Vijay-starrer films, Hindi and Telugu movies corner a chunk of screen space in Kerala. Apart from theatrical collections, producers can expect a good show in overseas markets like the Gulf region, the United States, Singapore and Malaysia, if the films are declared a box office hit in the local theatres.
The so called experimental films are risky as Malayalees have fixed notions about whey they expect in watching a feature film. Hence, what is foremost in the minds of producers today is to make their films run houseful in theatres for at least the first two weeks after which based on box office collections they can sell rights to TV channels to book huge profits.
While story is the king in Malayalam cinema, reigning super stars Mohanlal and Mammootty select projects based on what they consider are must for a box office hits. A taut screenplay, social comedy and action are part of a modern day film in Kerala.
Even superstars need a good reliable director to execute the shoot that can translate into houseful shows in theatres across Kerala. With high literacy rate and solid penetration of internet, comments on social media sites determine the fate of a newly released Malayalam film.
Just a twitter post or a blog review will carry much weight in the minds of an average moviegoer as he or she has got all other options for entertainment if the opinion column is not positive.
Kerala being a small state, producers always hope to cash in on overseas collections and rights sale to TV channels. But if the opening week collections are good, then the filmmakers can rest assured their films will have a decent run and the return on investment is assured.
Unlike in other states, the presence of superstar like Mammootty, Mohanlal or Dileep in a Malayalam film is not a guarantee for its success. While packed halls for a commercial film are always a delight to the producers, there are movies filmed for winning critical claim or aimed at winning awards at the national, global arenas.
There is always an exclusive club of film buffs in Kerala who look for a parallel movie that is non-commercial and made with fine sense of aesthetic values.