The surging new wave of Malayalam cinema

The surging new wave of Malayalam cinema

It is not a common sight to see people making a beeline at movie theatres and multiplexes as early as 8 am on a weekend.  If one assumes that they are waiting to get tickets for a big Telugu star’s movie, then he is wrong. 

Real life characters, day-to-day situations of Gen-X, simple problems of daily life; these are the essential ingredients of the new-age Malayalam cinema that is making waves not only in Kerala but also in both the Telugu-speaking States. So much so that non-Malayalees in cities like Hyderabad, Visakhapatnam and Vijayawada are eagerly waiting for a new Malayalam movie to be released every weekend

It is not a common sight to see people making a beeline at movie theatres and multiplexes as early as 8 am on a weekend. If one assumes that they are waiting to get tickets for a big Telugu star’s movie, then he is wrong.

This crowd is in queue to watch the latest Malayalam film. Nowadays these scenes are a common phenomenon in both Telugu-speaking States. Hyderabad has always been on forefront and of late young film buffs from Visakhapatnam and Vijayawada are increasingly lapping up the Malayalam cinema in its un-dubbed format that usually run in the theatres during the early hours of weekend.

It is not much different with the recently released ‘Charlie’, starring Mollywood’s heartthrob Dulquer Salmaan that has garnered accolades from the local audience. The new age Malayalam cinema is taking people by storm, especially as these movies release with English sub-titles, making it a sweet deal for the film aficionados.

Ace film director Sukumar avers that if a script has universal appeal and theme, then it is sure to attract audience from all languages. “Malayalam films are having scripts that can cater to the sensibilities across audience from any region. Since the plotline is universal, people get connected to it instantly.

If a film is hit in a certain language, social media is spreading news about it thereby prompting the local audience to watch it. Films like ‘Drishyam’, ‘Bodyguard’, etc have done well in all languages (Malayalam, Hindi, Telugu and Tamil) because of the script’s global appeal,” Sukumar shares.

Malayalee actress Keerthy Suresh states that if the script is interesting enough, then language is no barrier. “In Kerala, the audience watch Telugu and Tamil films with subtitles because the content is engaging enough.

If the story and emotions can connect then people will definitely watch it wherever they are. I’ve seen films from other languages with subtitles as my friends insisted. I watch them because of the fresh story. I think that’s one of the main reasons why filmmakers remake a film – if the content suits the local sensibilities, they vie to remake it."

It is a well-known fact that Allu Arjun has a huge fan base in Kerala and with the influx of popular Malayalee films many actors from the Mollywood are becoming a common name here too. Young actors like Dulquer Salmaan, Fahad Fazil, Nivin Pauly, Parvathy, Nithya Menen and Sai Pallavi are ruling the roost and have become popular names amongst the non-Malayalee folks.

And they are making additional effort to watch these films on silver screen. People are keeping a tab of the films and their release dates for a Dulquer or a Nivin film so on and so forth.“I booked tickets in advance for the new movie ‘Charlie’ as I wanted to watch it on the first day. I was waiting for this movie and it turns out that my wait was a worthy one.

‘Charlie’ is a very good movie and Dulquer Salmaan has lived up to the expectations. I’m glad that the movie was released here. I hope in near future we will have a Malayalam movie in the prime time slot in the theatres,” Sumedha Goswami, a private employee says.

“Earlier, we used to screen films two weeks after their release in Kerala. Nowadays we are releasing the movies simultaneously because of the demand. The trend of Malayalam movies is good and it will surely increase in future,” says Kishan, head of sales and marketing, Prasads Imax.

The new wave of cinema, which is garnering good response from people of different walks of life, started in 2010 breaking the hegemony of huge stars in the Kerala film industry. This was before the time when only big names used to dictate terms in the field, making it hard for the filmmakers.

Earlier, the Kerala filmmakers were stuck to themes, which were stereotypical and they portrayed the socio-political scenarios only. The young brigade is coming up with innovative screenplays and stories, which reflect the urban contemporary realities. The revival is happening on a large scale and the audience likes the bold new themes, which come as a breath of fresh air.

“I like the themes. They are simple and not that complex and the complex are shot in way that it becomes simple. The ideas are fresh and about the nuances of this generation making the whole movie watching experience unique. The techniques are really good. I have watched many movies that I missed earlier on DVDs, says B Vijay, a corporate employee.

The nouvelle-vague filmmakers: Jeethu Joseph (‘Drishyam’); Anjali Menon (‘Bangalore Days’); Anwar Rasheed (‘Ustad Hotel’) and Alphonse Putharen (‘Neram’, ‘Premam’) among others are the frontrunners, who have ushered the age of new wave cinema in Mollywood. The movies are being lapped up by movie buffs especially the youngsters from AP and Telangana.

Rayarao Sriram is a freelance content writer and he reviews films for couple of websites. A native of Khammam, Sriram comes every month to Hyderabad to watch Malayalam films. He has watched ‘Premam’ eight times in the theatre and that was not enough; he bought a DVD of the film and says he now watches the movie every alternate day.

His New Year resolution of 2016 is to learn Malayalam by end of the year so that he can watch the movie without “subtitles”. “I started watching Malayalam films with ‘Bangalore Days’ and that kick started the interest in new wave Malayalam films. They are natural and I could easily connect to each and every character.

Most of the characters in these films have close resemblances to real life characters. We miss the fresh feel in Telugu films. In order to get more information about films I have made a few Malayalee friends on FaceBook and they are suggesting more films for me to watch. I watched good number of films last year and I am going to continue the same this year as well,” Sriram adds.

Harish Ganesh, a short filmmaker and aspiring director states that he is inclined towards Malayalam cinema because of social media and friends. “My Telugu-speaking friends went gaga over Malayalam movies and with the buzz on social media, it hyped my curiosity and I watched ‘Premam’.

I must say that the movie was worth all the hype. It is a feel good movie with new narrative. I can say that in the last 5-6 years Mollywood is making good movies, changing the course of the industry. The simple story telling technique about the Gen X is surely a big draw. I was in Chennai for a month or so and I have seen ‘Premam’ there and now I am back in Hyderabad and the movie is still running here.

My friends said that it completed 222 days in Satyam Theatre and Nivin Pauly and crew came to the theatre on that day. The impact of Malayalam cinema is growing by the day,” he said. “We have seen global cinema in film festivals but not Indian movies. This sudden surge of new wave in Malayalam, Kannada and even Tamil is garnering lot of attention on social media.

And South Indians have knowledge about other films from the neighbouring states. In 2005 or so, it was the DVD era and I remember vividly that people who used to go to Kerala would bring along DVDs and with this new surge it has increased by folds. The multiplex culture has also added to the fad. Almost every week I watch a Malayalam film in theatres and I make sure that I don’t miss any movie.

I think I have asked 100 people to watch ‘Premam’ and now I am doing that for ‘Charlie’,” says Mahesh Kathi, a film activist and adds that the new wave of filmmaking will never hit Tollywood, “Here we don’t have the film school and film festivals culture. The festivals bring new audience and since the year 2000 there has never been a film festival in Hyderabad.

Our film industry is feudal and hero-centric and experimental films are hardly preferred, as the focus is on money. We don’t give chance to independent filmmakers and even if anyone makes a film; I doubt if it will see the light of the day. We never won a National Award in Best Film category till date and I don’t think the new wave of making cinema will hit us anytime soon or in future.”

Telugu people always patronised Malayalam cinema albeit in their dubbed version. Nearly three decades ago, the intellectual films canned by directors like KG George, MT Vasudevan Nair, Bharathan, Padmarajan and Adoor Gopalakrishnan have created an indelible impact on Telugu audience for a period of five years.

Later in the nineties, Suresh Gopi’s cop movies were a fad for a brief two-year period. However, much of hit Malayalam cinema was always remade into Telugu with popular actors vying for the rights and the trend continues. The latest in the list is ‘Premam’ in the making that has star kid Naga Chaitanya in the shoes of Nivin Pauly.

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