2022 proved to be a mixed bag for Malayalam cinema. Box office hits, critical acclaim and awards helped the pandemic-hit film industry make a spirited comeback by the second half of the year. Hridayam and Bheeshma Parvam got viewers rushing to theatres after an initial lull. OTT played a crucial role in many movies, including those led by superstars, seeing the light of day.
There were also films that disappointed, movies that nosedived in spite of being backed by big money and star power. Many films could not recover even production costs. Nevertheless, that has not stopped the film industry from announcing several new productions.
After a dull phase, Mammootty was back in the thick of action with some carefully chosen roles, topped by his superb role in Lijo Jose Pellissery’s Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam. Mohanlal, the star, continued to flex his muscles at the box office but the actor was conspicuously missing in all his films.
The youth league led by Kunchacko Boban, Fahadh Faasil, Nivin Pauly, Tovino Thomas, Vineeth Sreenivasan, Prithviraj Sukumaran, Shane Nigam and Basil Joseph took Malayalam cinema to a new high with directors who were not afraid to experiment.
The Hindu MetroPlus takes a look at 12 movies that became the talk of the town.
A psychological thriller starring Revathy and Shane Nigam in the lead as mother and son, this OTT release directed by Rahul Sadasivan, is about emotional trauma fuelling a fear psychosis. Revathy’s superb act won her the Kerala State Film award for best actress, the first in her long career. The slow narrative of the film builds up into a tense narrative that sends chills down the spine.
A breezy romantic, coming-of-age movie with Pranav Mohanlal, Kalyani Priyadarshan and Darshana Rajendran won the heart of the audience. Directed by Vineeth Sreenivasan, it has 15 songs composed by Hesham Abdul Wahab. First love, heartbreak, true love, commitment and friendship get a fresh take. Vineeth certainly knows the pulse of his audience.
Mammootty came back with a bang as Michael appan, the head of the wealthy Anjooti family with underworld connections. Amal Neerad’s movie, one of the top grossers of the year, had everything going for it – a terrific cast, good music, choreography and a storyline that touched upon several current events. Happily, it brought viewers streaming to theatres. Bheeshma Parvam may be Mammootty’s film, but Soubin Shahir, Shine Tom Chacko, Sreenath Bhasi, Dileesh Pothan and Mala Parvathy not only manage to hold their ground but also make their characters stand out with stellar performances.
Ratheena PT’s debut directorial venture has an unhurried narrative that peels away the layers of each character to lay bare their souls and, finally, builds up into a violent upheaval. Mammootty appears as the casteist, patriarchal Kuttan who cannot forgive his sister for marrying outside their caste. Not a perfect script or narrative, but the theme and the director’s confidence won appreciation.
Built around a landslip in Kerala that had claimed several lives, the design of the sets of the film and the difficult cinematography that was undertaken by versatile Mahesh Narayanan was as much discussed as the film directed by Sajimon Prabhakar. Fahadh Faasil plays Anikkuttan, a complex character with a chip on his shoulder, who after the ground beneath his feet is literally swept away in the landslip, becomes humane.
Debutant Indhu VS’ movie is brilliantly helmed by Vijay Sethupathi and Nithya Menen. Without melodrama, high-decibel dialogues or muscle pumping, the film focuses on the silence that is sought to be imposed by fundamentalists and authoritarian governments, thus curtailing the freedom of speech and expression that is guaranteed to every Indian under Article (19)(a) of the Constitution. Subtle references to climate change, patriarchy and women’s right are blended into the story. The film won the FIPRESI award for the best Malayalam film in the 27th edition of the International Film Festival of Kerala.
A brilliant mockumentary on climate change directed by Krishand RK. Supported by a superb cast led by Rahul Rajagopal, the movie’s narrative combines several genres but the underlying issues of environment and pollution are seamlessly woven into the experimental film. Winner of several awards, the OTT release came as a breath of fresh air. Mammootty praised it as one of the must-watch films.
Nna Thaan Case Kodu
The delightful movie located in Kasaragod revolves around contemporary issues but director Ratheesh Poduval coated it with layers of humour. Kunchacko Boban lived it up as a small-time thief who threatens to topple a State government when he takes a Minister to court for the pathetic condition of the roads. The cast, narrative, visualisation and dialogue delivery made it one of the most-loved films of the year.
Khalid Rahman’s loud, non-linear narrative of Wazim’s (Tovino Thomas) string of brawls and his romance with vlogger Beepathu (Kalyani Priyadarshan) clicked with the youth. Slick editing, loud colours and over-the-top takes helped the fight-a-minute movie with a wafer-thin storyline make a mark.
Jaya Jaya Jaya Jaya Hey
Basil Joseph and Darshana Rajendran go all out in this hilarious movie directed by Vipin Das. The comedy examines patriarchy and violence, emotional and physical, within a marriage but with a light touch that strikes a chord with viewers.
Tharun Moorthy’s second film is a heart-warming bitter-sweet tale of a senior citizen’s trials and tribulations on account of the long delays in the justice system. Newcomer Devi Varma shines in the lead role of octogenarian Aisha.
Mahesh Narayanan’s celebrated film made a mark at several prestigious film fetes before releasing on OTT. Set during the pandemic, Ariyippu, with Kunchacko Boban (Hareesh) and Divya Prabha (Reshmi) in the lead roles, focus on a couple dreaming of migrating abroad. However, their plans are put on hold due to the pandemic. Differences arise between the two when a video with sexual content surfaces from a glove factory where Hareesh and Reshmi work. Can trust, ethics and relationships survive when the going gets tough? At the recently-concluded IFFK, the film won the NETPAC award for the best Malayalam film.
In addition, here are ten films that were noticed for different reasons. Kamal KM’s Pada, Dijo Jose Antony’s Jana Gana Mana, Sreejith’s Oru Thekkan Thallu Case, Abrid Shine’s Mahaveeryar, Vinayan’s Pathonpatham Noottandu, Abhinav Sundar Nayak’s dark comedy Mukundan Unni Associates, Nissam Basheer’s Rorschach, Jeo Baby’s Sree Dhanya Catering Service, Vishnu G Raghav’s Vaashi and Maju’s Appan.
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