The beginning of this decade witnessed a fresh trend in Malayalam cinema. An array of new directors, writers, actors and technicians entered the industry, creating a niche for themselves in an industry ruled by a few superstars. As the decade comes to an end, it is heartening to see these newcomers making a mark in the industry. While the two superstars — Mohanlal and Mammootty — had their “100/200 crore-club” films, this year would be remembered for small films that made cinephiles ecstatic.
So ICYMI, here are some of those films you should have on your watch-list:
1.Kumbalangi Nights (Amazon Prime)
Chances are, you’ve seen this name pop up in many “must-watch” listicles. One of the most celebrated films of the year, Kumbalangi Nights is a rare film that not only talks about toxic masculinity but shows it harms the perpetrator as much as it does the victim.
Debutant Madhu C Narayan’s movie delves into a dysfunctional family of four brothers, some of whom share a roof but none of whom share any emotional connect. There’s a tectonic shift when women, in different capacities, enter the picture. One of the many reasons to watch this film is Fahad Faasil’s incredible turn as an unstable man who feeds off the fear of people around him. Soubin Shahir, who plays the eldest brother gives a breakthrough performance. One that you cannot easily forget.
2.Virus (Amazon Prime)
The Aashiq Abu directorial is based on the Nipah virus outbreak in Kerala. Virus features an ensemble cast, including all the major contemporary Malayalam actors – Parvathy, Kunchako Boban, Tovino Thomas, Indrajith, Rima Kallingal, Asif Ali and Soubin Shahir. The film is not just a documentation of how the state machinery, but how doctors and local residents worked in tandem to contain the spread of the deadly virus. It also functions as thriller — even if you know how things unfolded, Aashiq manages to keep to you glued to the seats till the end. The makers have managed to infuse a sense of foreboding in the proceedings.
The last scene is a testimony to the humanitarian approach with which the makers have dealt such a sensitive subject. Some have called it the Indian version of Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion. But it’s definitely better than that.
3. Jallikattu (Amazon Prime)
In Lijo Jose Pellissery’s award-winning film is, as the title suggests, about a bull. The film, based on Hareesh S short story, Maoist, is a strange, strange animal. The film revolves around a bull that escapes a slaughterhouse, which leads to a frenzy in the village.
Towards the end of the 95-minute long film, the line between men and blood-thirsty beasts gets blurred. The film got Lijo the Silver Peacock Award for the Best Director Award at the International Film Festival Of India.
4. Unda (Amazon Prime)
For those who have watched Newton, Unda’s premise might not be new. A team of policemen from Kerala are sent for election to a Maoist-affected area in Chhattisgarh. But what makes this Khalid Rahman-directorial interesting is the way it focuses on the fears of this group of policemen- none of them, even their team leader (played by Mammootty), have ever used a gun. The film also explores how hierarchy works within such a small team.
Actor Parvathy Thiruvothu recently won accolades from several quarters for calling out toxic masculinity in controversial Telugu film, Arjun Reddy during a Film Companion round table. In the interview she reiterated her stand that she would not be part of films that glorify toxic masculinity. For the last few decades, Malayalam cinema has been consistently belting out misogynistic films. Uyare, on the contrary, through the story of an acid attack survivor, is a study of a toxic relationship.
Pallavi Raveendran (played by Parvathy Thiruvothu) is an aspiring pilot and her career comes to a halt when the man she loves, throws acid on her. The film shows her journey as an acid attack survivor and a woman who rebuilds herself from scratch. The writers Bobby-Sanjay and director Manu Ashokan have dealt the issue very sensitively. Watch this for the stellar performance by Parvathy.
Geetu Mohandas’ award-winning film starring Nivin Pauly may start as a usual Mumbai Dharavi movie but goes on to become much more than that. The bilingual film (Malayalam and Hindi, the dialogues in the latter is written by Anurag Kashyap) is a thriller on one level, but what makes it even more significant is the portrayal of gay romance. Nivin And Roshan Mathew come up with brilliant performances. If you have seen the former in blockbuster Premam, then look for his new avatar in this film.
7. Ishq (Amazon Prime )
Kerala has seen several cases of moral policing, the incidents had even sparked the Kiss of Love protest in the state. Debutant Anurag Manohar film, which comes with the tag ‘Its not a love story’, shows a couple who are subjected to moral policing. Sachi and Vasudha, a young couple, are mentally and physically harassed by two men while on a road trip. The couple’s relationship falters when they face a difficult situation unfolds.