Malayalam cinema’s half-yearly report of 2018: 5 hits and 5 misses
Every year, the Malayalam movie industry churns out films that are engaging, inspiring and simply beautiful. Unfortunately, the industry also generates poorly directed or shabbily written or even abominably performed work that seem to be sardonic products, mocking the audience and their intention of spending money. Here are some hits and misses of this year.
The ones that made a mark
1. Sudani from Nigeria
Arguably the most successful Malayalam movie of this year yet, Sudani from Nigeria deals with the heart-warming friendship between a Nigerian football player, played by newcomer Samuel Abiola Robinson, and his manager, done to perfection by Soubin Shahir. Some of the funniest moments include a pompous main in the area speaking to the Nigerian in Hindi, because that is the only “foreign” language he knows and Samuel painting a wall of the house he stays in much to the shock of the owner.The film filled with compassion and most importantly, the power of acceptance is in no way melodramatic. Zakariya Mohammad’s direction brings out the best in ordinary moments.
The author Kamala Das is someone whose writing has caused even the most hardened of hearts to cry a bit. So, when director Kamal wanted to immortalize the author in the form of film and added Manju Warrier to the equation, expectations ran very high. And, it is very easy to say that both of them did not disappoint. The movie flits back and forth, and narrates the story of a love-starved child who grew up looking for affection.
3. Njan Marykutty
A social media post once read that if we do not recognize Jayasurya’s talent even now, we will be losing out one of the best actors this generation has to offer. The actor has proved this statement true time and again and with Njan Marykutty he has not even left a single doubt lurking in anyone’s mind. The movie directed by Ranjith Shankar deals with the prejudice a transgender woman faces in society and her willpower to fight on. An incident where Mary is made to strip by a police officer, brings out tears in her; and with her the audience also weeps. This is how the movie stays with us: as a tale that will help us respect people and be more compassionate.
4. Aravindante Athidhikal
Sreenivasan appears on screen and we are enthralled. The man’s simple demeanor has entertained us for decades and still continues to do so. In a not-so-often explored plotline, Aravindante Athidhikal deals with the life of an innkeeper, his foster son (played to perfection by Vineeth Sreenivasan) and their guests. The music is enticing with Shaan Rahman at the helm. Set in Kollur, Karnataka, the temple Mookambika is an important backdrop. Apart from all this, it’s the goodness in the hearts of the characters that stays with the audience once we leave the theatres.
5. Hey Jude
Developmental disorders or mental disorders are often explored in Malayalam movies but very few find their mark. Hey Jude, which tells the story of a man with Asperger’s syndrome, and a woman with bipolar disorder is not sad or excruciating but it is charming, loving and leaves us feeling warm and fuzzy. Most of the movie is set in Goa, but the party culture plays a very small part in the plotline. It is directed by Shyamaprasad and Nivin Pauly and Trisha Krishnan play the lead roles.
The ones that did not hit the bull’s-eye
An entrepreneur tries to begin one venture after the other, all falling to the ground before they even stand up properly. Through these ventures and the entrepreneur’s antics, director Vinu Joseph tries to make the audience laugh but that too like the businesses fail miserably. Maybe the intention was to make a black comedy, maybe a satire. But, we are left with a floundering mess that has rape jokes and bawdy comments. And, talents of actors such as Biju Menon and Neeraj Madhav are wasted.
2. Shikkari Shambhu
As the name suggests, the movie is about a so-called hunter who somehow manages to catch a beast but with no talent in the matter and yet receives accolades from all. This is a plot we have been treated to innumerable times. Sugeeth is a director who has given us fully-formed entertainments like Ordinary, 3 Dots and Madhura Naranga with Kunchacko Boban but the duo fail to create magic with the film. The talents of actors like Salim Kumar is wasted and even though the screenplay has everything, somewhere the film loses its path and, with it, the audience’s interest.
The film revolves around six friends from lower middle class families who live flashy lifestyles and pose around as rich. By doing so, they manage to woo women also indulge in small criminal activities. But, things take a turn for the worse when they enter a bungalow one night. The movie, which could have been brilliant as the screenplay is not bad, does not leave you at the edge of your seat, neither does it stay with you once you leave the theatre. Apart from the flaws in the filmmaking, the movie is steeped in sexism and colour prejudice. In Najeem Koya’s directorial venture, only Joju George is worth watching.
The movie’s review can be written in a single phrase: it is run by Sreenivasan and Mukesh’s effortless acting. The hero Sravan Mukesh (his debut) does not pull off the cool guy character he is supposed to and the heroine Varsha Bolamma barely gets a chance to perform, making it seem like her only purpose was to look impeccable. The only other saving grace is debutante Prakash Alex’s music.
Vishnu Unnikrishnan tries to make this movie a mixture of his Kattapanayile Rithwik Roshan and the Bollywood film Jolly LLB. But, all it gives us is a feeling of déjà vu, and not a good one. However, the heroine Manasa Radhakrishnan is a breath of fresh air. There are some good points such as an argument with a judge and also cringe worthy moments such as the plotline of a cheating wife.