The evolution of Malayalam cinema is very amusing. In the last couple of years, the change has been very startling and sudden. I wouldn’t say that the change was unwelcome. It’s been more than welcome with the commercial wing of Malayalam cinema slumping to drudgery with the ‘single-hero’ concept. There was a brief threat of sleaze cinema making a come back. But the advent of internet broadband coupled with cheaper and faster download ensured that the porn starved youth were treated to ‘healthy’ western porn.
Malayalam film makers tried its best to hold onto the old world concepts for a long time. But nothing can beat the market economics. Mallu audiences were being increasingly exposed to Hindi and Tamil cinemas. It didn’t take long for the palate to get adjusted to the grandoise visuals. The good old Malayalam cinema had no option but to change.
The main factor that catalysed the change is technicians who came back after doing a stint at the fertile grounds of Bollywood. They brought with them a whiff of fresh air and was in a good mood to rebel against the set patterns. Besides editing was not a costly affair. The change was so startling and sudden that quite a few big names got washed off the face of Malayalam cinema.
When we keep apart the technical side and examine how the neo-Malayalam film deal with the social landscape of Kerala, more interesting facts start to emerge. Most of the movies are shot in and around Kochi, specifically- Fort Kochi. They may have better studios, and the location towards the central Kerala is an advantage. Besides there are visible evidences of urban degradation, which is not that visible in other parts of Kerala. The new generation directors prefer to base their movies on the travails of a metro crowd. Our generation has moved on from the green & good rural stories to more mean & menacing city ones. An after effect is we have lost the capability to film the diverse social set up across the country. We have some of exemplary work being done in angles, lighting, editing etc. But is there a serious creative back up or thought process to it?
Let’s take a cross section from a few new age Malayalam films that have been hitting the markets. All the characters have some strong, striking resemblance with each other- right from the job profile, the age, the wardrobe, the slang, the aspirations. A young doctor will be one sure shot character. The reason being, you’ve got doctors like plague in the streets. He will in a designer pad, driving a swanky car around with a hottie in it. The other acceptable professions are real eststae agent, software engineer or hotelier. The films which proclaim more power to women put them as Barbie dolls in call centres, private secretaries who wear tight skirts or pants. They have to show up the waxed legs to proclaim modernism and screw the boss for promotions.
Last day I went out with my friend. We had some last minute change of plans and we hit the movie halls. The movie was ‘Theevram’, which can be translated in English as Intense. The film starred the young son of erstwhile superstar. The superstar has been doing some really forgettable films while the son is faring marginally better. I loved the way he did the first two films and had some great hopes for the third.
In Theevram the SoS (son of superstar) has gone a step ahead and played a grey shade. I learnt that the director once played the role of a child artiste long ago. As often seen in Malayalam cinema these days, the first ten minutes were dedicated to saying thanks. I wonder of this is being done seriously, or just as an offering to spare the movie!
The best part about the movie was the colour tone. From the vivid multi colour the directors are more comfortable to use mono tones to enhance the mood of the movie. Even the senior directors had to shed the apprehension and adapt to the fashion of the day. Here, in Theevram, more of grey shades were used to portray bad times and the vivid tones to show the better times. I loved that but I wouldn’t say it’s original because I have seen the same and even better work in ‘Memento’.
Years ago when the fast paced Tamil & Hindi music crept into the Malayalam space, the music directors lamented the inability to make a fast Malayalam number. Malayalam had few ‘hard’ words in its vocabulary. In that circumstance, the ‘Malayalam Rock’ is quite a surprise. Kerala is a fertile soil of Rock music. The better reason being or never ending quench to be Americanized. The movie has some violent beats in the tracks when the hero is out there to get his revenge.
Apart from all the good part, what surprises me is the way in which the film makers treat a serious social issue with such a casual approach. The bad guy rapes and kills the good girl. The bad guy is released years later from the jail on compassionate grounds. The hero skilfully plans and executes revenge. He leaves parts of body to mock the police system.
I am not in for serial killers or rapists. But as a society we wil have to do some serious thought process into the way in which we treat our sexual offenders. The way in which the police office mocks the judicial system for pardoning a supposedly reformed criminal is alarming. When he learns of the criminal gruesomely murdered by the hero, the policeofficer exclaims:
‘It’s only Judas who was killed’
So bumping off the bad guys are the solution for a better society!!
Even the world’s greatest directors graphically portrayed death, destruction- Clockwork Orange, Decalogue. But there was a sprout of creativity behind the art of destruction.