Forget Bollywood, 7 Malayalam films that you must watch
We pick up seven of the many recent must-see Malayalam films which became the talk of the town. Treat these as just the appetizers before into rich and diverse main course from the past and present
The streaming platforms have made the world our oyster. From Italy to Turkey to Spain to Nigeria—global content is now just a press of the remote away. Two of the biggest in gaining die-hard fans in India are the warm and affirming Korean or K Dramas and the trendsetting new Malayalam cinema. At a time when Bollywood has hit lower depths, be it art, entertainment or commerce, Malayalam cinema has been getting noticed for dealing with out of the box ideas, interesting stories and compelling, engaging narratives. Be it good, charismatic actors or technical finesse, they seem to have it all. We pick up seven of the many recent must-see Malayalam films which became the talk of the town. Treat these as just the appetizers before into the rich and diverse main course from the past and the present.
C U Soon
Often talked of as India’s first lockdown film, Mahesh Narayanan’s C U Soon also marked the beginning of the discovery of Malayalam superstar Fahadh Faasil, or FaFa as he is called, by the rest of India. The experimental film tried to get the better of Covid with some ingenuous filmmaking—it was shot with iPhone and plays out entirely on computer and mobile screens. The issues it deals are just as interesting—virtual relationships, cyber security and human trafficking.
The Great Indian Kitchen
J eo Baby’s The Great Indian Kitchen introduced us to the talented Nimisha Sajayan in the lead role of an aware, educated, and intelligent woman saddled with dreary domesticity on getting married. The kitchen becomes the space for daily drudgery imposed on her by the seemingly genteel patriarchy underlining a family set up. Will she be able to liberate herself from these ties that smother, suffocate and enslave? The film was mostly shot indoors post lockdown in July last year.
Jeethu Joseph’s Drishyam 2—and its predecessor Drishyam (which came six years back)—is a perfect window through which to peep into the more commercial Malayalam cinema, driven by sheer star power, in this case the charisma of Mohanlal. A murder and a hidden body come back to haunt George Kutty in this thriller that is as much about loving your family and going to any lengths to protect it. After lockdown-imposed interruption, the shoot of the film took place September to November last year. Originally planned as a theatrical release, it became the first big mainstream Malayalam film to premiere online in February this year.
Martin Prakkat’s Nayattu (that roughly translates as Hunt) plays with Alfred Hitchcock’s favourite theme—innocent man on the run—and cleverly centres itself in the world of cops with electoral politics in the backdrop. The thriller comes with the underlying theme of twisting the facts and using the media to build false narratives ringing a familiar bell. Its shoot was stalled due to the pandemic and was completed in SeptemberOctober last year after the lockdown.
Dileesh Pothan’s Joji is an adaptation of Macbeth, with Fahadh Faasil playing the lead. Set during the pandemic it’s about a dysfunctional, toxic family of rubber plantation owners. The ubiquitous mask is used as much as a visual reference to the virus as it becomes a metaphor for hiding the insidious evil chipping away at family ties. It was shot over 65 days in Vagamon in Kottayam district in a secluded camp that no one could leave or enter. What’s more the scenes were shot in order, from the first shot to the last.
Sanu John Varghese’s Aarkkariyam (Who Knows) is set during the first wave of Covid in India. As lockdown gets imposed, a young couple—Shirley (Parvathy Thiruvothu) and Roy (Sharafudheen)— shift temporarily from their Mumbai apartment to Shirley’s father’s estate at Pala in Kerala. Soon they find themselves facing a disquieting secret about a crime from the past. The film made lovely, moody use of Salil Chowdhury’s melodies and presented a realistic picture of the severe economic downturn in the wake of Covid. It was conceived and written during the lockdown and shot later with all protocols—masks, PPE kits, social distancing in place. It was shot at one stretch in a single schedule.
Santhoshathinte Onnam Rahasyam
Don Palathara’sSanthoshathinteOnnamRahasyam is another ingenuously made Malayalam film comprising just two characters with a brief appearance by a third. It is set during COVID, plays out entirely inside a car and was shot with the camera fixed on the dashboard. In fact, the entire movie is a single shot lasting 85 minutes in which we see a young couple— Jithin (JitinPuthanchery) and Maria (Rima Kallingal)— bickering over a possible unwanted pregnancy. Independent cinema at its spirited best.
(Compiled and recommended by Namrata Joshi)