Sunday, April 06, 2008

Om Padmarajanaaya Namaha, Om Adooraaya Namaha, Om TVChandranaaya Namaha, Om Varuvaanirikkunnavaraaya Namaha...

I went to college in the 1998-2002 period. A phase which many have attributed to as the nadir of the malayalam industry. A time when the film industry survived on the slender shoulders of Dileep and the thunder thighs of Shakeela. Yet there were a few good movies then. I watched around 300 movies in the theatres then, but I never went for a film festival, never watched a movie that the parallel and middle of the road pioneers of Malayalam cinema made in those years. I was in the firm grip of a mob which thrived on mediocrity. Ten years hence I have changed. I am ashamed to say this but it took a foreign wind and foreign thought to change me. I am trying hard to make up for all those lost years. Maybe those years were not lost after all. That might have been my life on one road, the "naadu odumbol naduve odunna" road. Once again I write on movies. Fundamentally, I haven't changed. I still love well-made commercial films like Om Shanti Om, Jodhaa Akbar, Kathaparayumbol, Chocolate and Cycle which keeps me entertained.

But have watched some awesome malayalam movies over the past one and a half years in the US and though I have made the mistake of not blogging them down immediately, there is an acute need on the internet for plot summaries and detailed reviews of many of malayalam cinema's finest. When I began this post, I was wondering if I was guilty of being a show-off, waxing eloquent on all these "class" movies. That thought sort of killed my enthusiasm, until I decided that writing is an act of faith in oneself and what I probably lacked was the confidence in doing justice to these films. While at Delhi, I was advised by a friend to give up my movie craze and start reading books. But the literary quality of these movies which I write of below has made up quite a bit for the lack of interest in reading. I don't expect anyone to read this whole post. Despite the length, it had to be one post as I might never have come back to finish this task, if left half way. My only regret is that I have devoted only a few sentences to these works of art which deserved a 1000 word article each, but I leave that blessing to others more competent than me. This is my small way of giving back to a medium that has helped continue my growth as an individual over the last one and a half years, while I mindlessly slaved for the dollar on a parallel track.

Six months back, I wrote a bitter post attacking the superstars of Malayalam Cinema and pleading for the arrival of young blood. As though to answer my prayers, 4 movies featuring youngsters, Chocolate, Cycle, Kangaroo and Malabar Wedding became hits or returned average collections. These movies will soon be forgotten but their success signifies with certainty a change in mentalities. It would be nothing short of a miracle, that having chronicled the movies below on my blog, a similar prayer is answered and we get good films again.


Adaminte Variyelle(1983) - A movie I saw long long back as a child, but couldn't appreciate then. This was another of K.G.George's middle-of-the-road films which found commercial success. Tells the travails of 3 women, in different social circumstances, one a socialite, another a working woman, and the third a house-maid and the indifferent men in their lives. The movie leads to a fitting end where the woman treated most unjustly by society takes her's and others like her's fates into their hands while the others succumb to the pressures of life. Also boasts of a title song, the lyrics of which make your heart cringe. Cast - Sreevidya, Suhasini, Soorya, Gopi, Mammootty, Venu Nagavally

Sreekrishna Parunthu(1984) - Like the above said film, another one seen long back, but which I couldn't remember, until a friend said this was his favorite malayalam movie in the horror genre. One of Mohanlal's first leading roles, it tells the story of a casanova who is forced to reform and take up the family's tradition of magic and faith-healing, but succumbs to temptations, gets increasingly corrupted and falls into a path of self-destruction from which he cannot find redemption. The song Mothira Kaiviralukalaal from this movie, is one of my favorites these days. Direction - Vincent. Script - John Paul

Chidambaram(1985) - G.Aravindan's biggest commercial success, possibly because of the presence of big names then like Gopi and Smita Patil, it tells a tale of a farm supervisor, Gopi who treats a lowly farmhand with respect and affection, and wins his trust but things get complicated when the farmhand, played by Sreenivasan marries and brings his wife, Smitha Patil to the farm. Gopi finds himself drawn towards the young woman, until one night he is caught red-handed by the farm-hand, who commits suicide. Overridden by guilt he tries his hand at alcohol, religion, spiritualism and wanderings to redeem himself without much success until he arrives at the temple at Chidambaram...

Vidheyan(1993) - Adoor adapts Zacharia's short story into a superb film on the relationship between a cruel and sadistic kannadiga feudal lord, Bhaskara Pattelar played by Mammootty and a christian share-cropper played by M.R.Gopakumar. The timid Gopakumar's life enters a turmoil when his beautiful wife catches Pattelar's roving eyes - on the one hand Pattelar becomes his benefactor but it conflicts with the shame he feels towards himself. But the tide begins to turn for the Pattelar when his wife stands up to him and local christians get fed up with his tyranny. Aptly cast in the title role, Gopakumar makes a splendid debut but never got such a plum role again in his career. Cast - Mammootty, Gopakumar, Tanvi Azmi, Sabitha Anand

Paadam Onne Oru Vilaapam(2004) - Over the years, T.V.Chandran has again and again delivered films which have wonderfully chronicled Kerala's past and present but unfortunately never found favour with the masses. I still remember watching my first art film, his Alicinte Anvekshanam on Doordarshan as a small boy and it leaving me with more questions than answers. Nowdays I would give anything to watch that movie once more. Paadam is about a 15 year old Muslim girl, but not yet a woman, played by Meera Jasmine, eager to study, but catches the fancy of an already married man, looking for dowry to get a visa to the Gulf, gets married to him and her spirited resistance to his advances. He succeeds in quenching his lust but adds one more number to a dreadful statistic in Kerala's backward Malappuram district. Aryadan Shoukath's bold script and K.G.Jayan's brilliant photography deserves utmost praise.

Oridathoru Phayalvan(1982) - The master storyteller Padmarajan, takes us to a village in Kerala where a wrestler(Rasheed) lands up on its shores, and gets involved in a petty local feud, with Nedumudi Venu playing the ace manipulator. He marries a pretty village belle, dashing the hopes of a few young men in the area, but as the girl soon finds out, marriage to a wrestler is not a bed of roses and her life goes astray. Padmarajan's films have settings, imagery, dialogues, characters and situations which make us feel like we are reading a short story than seeing a film. If ever I become a filmmaker, I would rather try to make films like he did, or make none at all.

Kallan Pavithran(1981) - Supposed to be loosely inspired by the story of Madhavan Thampi, Trivandrum's famed vessel house founder, Nedumudi Venu plays Kallan Pavithran, a small-time thief with two wives, who hits pay-dirt when he visits Adoor Bhasi, a wholesaler to trade in a few vessels he has stolen. There he discovers many old vessels in the warehouse, now blackened and dirty are actually made of gold. He returns from his discovery that night, to the low point of his life, having to see his second wife in bed with Gopi. He abandons her, and she eventually marries Gopi, a widowed rice miller. Pavithran's fortune increases day by day and incurs the jealousy of his second wife who pushes her younger sister into seducing him, all of which leads to his fall. Today it seems to me that Malayalis gave Padmarajan and Bharathan the license to make any movie they wanted. Many of their stories touched upon themes like adultery, betrayal, perversion and passion - I wonder if it was the quality of that age or their genius or their knowledge that malayalis would accept a forward looking film but go back to being conservative in their real lives that gave them the courage to make all those wonderful movies.

Padamudra(1988) - When I returned to the US in 2006, there were two Mohanlal movies, on my to-watch list for many years and I had given up all hope of finding them. Padamudra was one of them. Padamudra, tells the story of a lecherous pappadam-seller, Paandi who seduces another man's wife and as fate would have it she gives birth to a son who looks exactly like him. The paandi dies in remorse, the woman is helpless seeing the shame her son has to undergo from people making fun of him, and he gradually loses the reins to his life, all leading to a climax which sort of reminds you of Christ's end. It is a painful process, watching this film, Mohanlal puts in an intense performance that soaks through our insides with a negative energy which doesn't leave us for many days. Skillfully directed by M.D.Sukumaran. A must-watch film. Cast - Mohanlal, Nedumudi Venu, Seema

Odayil Ninne(1964?) - When some of the best talents of the age - Sathyan Master, Keshavadev and K.S.Sethumadhavan united, they gave us a movie which will stand tall in Malayalam Cinema's history through the ages. A black and white film, it tells the story of a rebel, Pappu played by Sathyan who has stood up against the injustices meted out to him from a very young age and lives life on his own terms. He reaches the city and settles down to a career as a rickshaw-puller(The way he handles the rickshaw you would think he has been doing it all his life). A young girl who falls into a ditch and her widowed mother enter his life, and he becomes a father to the child and a guardian to the woman. He works day and night to provide the girl a good education, and very soon falls prey to tuberculosis but can't afford to slow down as the girl enters college and her needs increase. He slowly becomes an encumbrance for her, but even in old age and sickness, he lives life as he started out, not ready to stoop to anyone, and the film ends with a fantastic visual which surely portended the heights Malayalam Cinema was about to reach with the impending arrival of fresh talents like MT, Adoor and Aravindan to name a few. Cast - Sathyan Master, Prem Nazeer, Kaviyoor Ponnamma, Thikkurussi Sukumaran Nair

Amritham Gamaya(1987) - MT Vasudevan Nair and Hariharan collaborated in this poignant tale of a principled young doctor indebted to his mother's rich but overbearing family for educating him, but in the land where he sets out to begin his career comes across a poor family which is suffering due to the callousness of his youth. His life takes a different turn, he loses all his near and dear ones but dedicates his life to making sure that he can find salvation in becoming the guardian to this family. Mohanlal virtually lives in the role of this drug-addicted doctor who loses everything but finds peace of mind in what must be called one of his career-best roles. Though I watched this movie more than a year back, this scene just doesn't fade from my mind. It is a wide angle shot of Mohanlal and Geetha(playing his fiance) looking at each other, with the distance between them signifying how far apart they have become. It is moments of silence, such pregnant pauses and stationary shots like these which so well show the character's state of mind, that is missing today. Everyone seems to want too much action nowadays. A little lingering and that becomes room for criticism...I am reminded of Aamir Khan's Taare Zameen Par and the criticism on its length! Cast - Mohanlal, Parvathi, Geetha, Vineeth, Thilakan, Devan

Meghamalhar(2000) - The last middle of the road Malayalam Cinema to run well at the Kerala box office, Meghamalhar tells the tale of two people, one an advocate with a love for hindustani music married to a bank officer, and the other a writer and journalist whose husband is working in the Gulf. Circumstances happen for the two people to meet and they find they share several common interests including a love for ghazals and literature. A beautiful kind of love develops until they realize the happy marriages, spouses and children that stand to be destroyed. Scripted and Directed by Kamal, a maker of several commercial hits, this film had Biju Menon and Samyukatha Varma underplay the protagonists to perfection, ably supported by Siddique and Poornima Indrajith as their spouses.

Deshadanam(1995) - One of the last malayalam films in the above said genre to succeed commrcically, this movie was aided by a touching storyline, A-class performances, haunting music and a director, Jayaraj, whose skills were at its zenith. Vijayaraghavan is a Kathakali artist in a loving family which comprises his father, wife and son. His only child is offered a life of sanyasa by the revered chief of a math and this throws them all into grief. They agree to let their son go, and turns their backs on him, and the turmoil of the child begins. Released in 1995, this film closed the period, we Malayalis till date call the golden period of Malayalam Cinema.

Nizhalkuthu(2001) - Adoor returned after Vidheyan with the role of a lifetime for the talented Oduvil Unnikrishnan, as the last hangman of Travancore. Having lived a life of comparative affluence, thanks to the benevolence of the king, the impending freedom and the erosion of royal decree has affected the hangman but more critical to him than the troubles of his family, is the guilt that he carries, having to partake all responsibility for the executions and thus absolving the king of blame. And thus, in old age and amidst great anguish, he undertakes the journey to Ananthapuri, from his home in Kanyakumari, accompanied by his Gandhian son to complete his last undertaking. Adoor has very ably mixed myth and fantasy in a very realistic storyline. The camera work by Mankada Ravi Varma is recognition of the reason why Adoor never had anyone else visualize his scripts.

Vanaprastham(2000) - Shaji N. Karun gave Mohanlal his first pure arthouse role after Vasthuhara and exacted a superlative performance from him that we seldom saw for many years before and after it. Mohanlal plays a supremely talented Kathakali artist, who fuels his creativity with alcohol, unable to give answers to his suffering wife for their penurious existence, and incapable of doting on his daughter who loves him a lot. His life takes a positive turn for a while, when the rich heiress of a royal family falls for him, but fate has a cruel surprise in store for this man who begins to lose the love for the mask which keeps him alive. Zakir Husain's background music and Santhosh Sivan's camera takes this film up several notches to a world classic.

Oridathe(1986) - Aravindan tells us a tale of electricity arriving in a village in Kerala and the immediate changes that happen to its people. In today's age we will look at the fear, wonder, distrust and hatred for this modern convenience called electricity at this village with disdain but Aravindan has masterfully captured these scenes while telling in parallel a tale of fawning, lust, betrayal and murder involving Nedumudi Venu, the contractor and Sreenivasan, the local who cozies up to Venu.

Perumazhakaalam(2004) - A tragic incident kills one man and threatens the life of another. A muslim woman from the banks of the Kallayi river journeys to a Brahmin woman living on the banks of the Kalpathi river, in the knowledge that this woman holds the tender thread to her husband's life. What follows is a tale of anger, despair and redemption told with great empathy and skill by Kamal in the scripts of T.A.Razak, for whom the seeds of this story originated from a newspaper clipping telling a similar story. Beautiful music, superb camera work including a breathtaking shot of a gnat clinging tightly to a leaf, while it rains heavily, possibly symbolizing the desperate struggle that Meera Jasmine takes on to save her husband. Kavya Madhavan as the Brahmin woman and Meera have given performances that will be remembered long after they leave the stage,

Idavela(1982) - Four college students, lead by Ashokan bunk an NCC camp and travel to a tourist destination for a few days of fun. Desperate to get laid, but frustrated in their efforts, they narrow down their prey to a girl of their age, who is also vacationing there with her family. She takes a liking for one of the boys, played by Idavela Babu, but things take a tragic turn when ego and lust creep up and changes all their lives forever. Scripted by Padmarajan and directed by Mohan, these were films without any star power or great acting but stood tall just on the strength of a great writer's storyline.

Arapatta Kettiya Gramathil(1986) - Three young men wake up on the morning after a night of drunken revelry and decide to ring in the New Year(Vishu) by visiting a brothel in a far away village. They land there amidst simmering social tensions between the Muslims and Nairs of the village, whose chieftains vie for a virgin who has arrived at the brothel. One of the young men however fall for the girl and he resolves to save her, complicating the situation. Sukumari plays the money motivated yet human in many ways madam, Mammootty, Nedumudi Venu and Ashokan play the three young men with Mammooty putting in the first of many strong performances as an aimless but proud man whose only love is towards liquor, that paved his way to superstardom, Venu plays a light-hearted advocate who is not serious about life, and Ashokan the youngest plays a man eagerly looking forward to his initiation to manhood but finds it in his desire to save the girl. Padmarajan takes us on a journey to a village, seemingly far away from civilization but showing through his characters how universal the noble and the base intentions of mankind are. The best part of this movie however is the character played by Mammootty...Padmarajan leaves space for us viewers to make our own understanding of him and his actions.

Thinkalazcha Nalla Divasam(1985) - A film I saw years back and revisited just because I forgot the climax. Padmarajan proved he could write on any subject under the sun, dealing here with the matriarch of an affluent family forced to move to an old age home. A simple story but told with great sensitivity and with interesting characters, it was a movie which really launched Padmarajan's directorial craft to a level equal to his story-telling skills. Kaviyoor Ponnamma played the matriarch to perfection, a role she has reprised countless times since, Mammootty and Karamana Janardhanan Nair put in strong performances as the clashing sons, Sreevidya and Unni Mary play the influential daughters-in-law and to complete the stellar cast, Ashokan and Kukku Parameshwaran play two cousins on the verge of love. I have read recently that Padmarajan gave standing orders to the crew to be ready anytime to get the camera and lights ready to shoot the pregnant cow going to labour and delivering and it finally happened on the last day of the shoot!

Chillu(1982) - Lenin Rajendran's first film holds a mirror to the college campus of the late 70's and early 80's which were totally different from the campus's we studied in. Everywhere, there are chain smoking, bearded intellectuals who are called "bujis"(yeah the term originated long back!) unlike the one or two we would find today. The Trivandrum depicted in the film, has its citizens living a laidback life, totally unlike today. There are hardly any vehicles or people on the road and the city is a picture of cleanliness. The film tells the tale of a tender-hearted young man(Ronnie Vincent) who despairs at the affection his sweetheart played by Shanthi Krishna showers on her classmate, played by Venu Nagavalli. Ronnie is perfectly cast as the child-like Manu, Shanthi as the vivacious and strong girl was a revelation and went on to play several strong characters in Malayalam Cinema and Venu as the suffering poet and painter is a study in tenderness and you feel for his plight at being just a mute observer. The film ends with a perfect symbolization of his mind with Ronnie staring at a glass paned coffin. Also deserving praise is the music, set to ONV's lyrics which are still popular.

Danny(2005) - How could a man who lived through some of the big life changing political events of the 20th century not be impacted by any of them? The film begins with a narration that gives the impression, that we are about to see the life of a great man of our times, but what a pleasant surprise we are in for! Mammootty plays Daniel Thompson, an uneducated simple man whose first wife leaves him taking his daughter along, and ends up marrying a rich educated woman who is pregnant with another's child. He submits to his wife's authority, learns English, is confined to their house and watches mutely as people and things around him change. His only companion is his saxophone, which is also taken away and he ends up in a nursing home, where he strikes up a warm friendship with an old woman who also gets admitted there. T.V.Chandran has lead Kerala's art film movement from the 90's and here he proves for the umpteenth time what a master he is at his craft. The film also presents some unforgettable moments of humour, the kind we probably will never get to see again in Malayalam cinema, the subtle real kind.

Vasthuhara(1990) - The last Mohanlal film which waited so long for me! A young bureaucrat(Mohanlal) arrives in Calcutta to help resettle long-stranded refugees who belong to farming castes from Bangladesh to the Andamans. There he chances on a bengali woman living in difficult circumstances who he realizes is the wife of his mother's brother. He sets out to help them but finds his hands tied. Her children are in trouble for taking radical political stands. He gets close to the woman,played by Neelanjana Mitra and her children(the daughter played by Neena Gupta) but they find the temporary relief in their situation provided by his arrival short-lived, as he has to leave. In one of the last scenes in the movie, we see a study in contrast, a scared and lonely Neena Gupta cries out to a helpless Mohanlal("Dada, write to me, Dada. Address, Arathy Panicker c/o Alipore Central Jail") while her mother who has struggled all her life calmly looks on. The movie, Aravindan's last, he died before he could promote the film, shows the life of Bengal's dispossessed and their hopes for a new promised land leaving behind the promise that communist West Bengal offered but never gave.

Mazha(2002) - Mazha is about a young girl blessed with happiness, poetry, music and love growing into a woman who struggles to come to terms with the uprootment inflicted on her and her inability to plug the poetry, music and love within her or be able to hate her cruel husband. Lenin Rajendran has managed to extract powerful performances from a stellar cast which includes Samyuktha Varma, Biju Menon, Lal, Thilakan and Jagathi. The highlights of the movie are the very deep characters he has created and the complex relationship which plays out between Samyuktha and Lal. Like T.V.Chandran, Lenin's oeuvre of films places him on a pedestal much higher than the ones the masses have placed many of our commercial hitmakers on, who peddle crass wares today, on mere past glory.

Sukrutham(1994) - Probably the most autobiographical of MT's scripts(MT fell sick in the 80's and thought he would die), this film is about an acclaimed writer played by Mammootty, suffering from an incurable disease, who begins to lose hope in survival until he arrives at a clinic run by Narendra Prasad. The writer ends up complicating the lives of the people he holds dear like his wife, friend and old lover and when he finally recovers, the realization of his act dawns on him. Mammootty put in one of his career best performances in a movie directed brilliantly by newcomer, Harikumar who sadly never returned to make another film.

Panchavadi Paalam(1984) - In a village, called Airavathakuzhi with equally notorious(and hilarious) names from mythology for its residents like Dushasana Kurup, Bhoothana, Karkodakan Nair, Yoodas Tharakan, etc where every person competes with the other to show who is the most decadent, the feudalist of the region who is also the panchayat president, played by Gopi decides to rebuild an existing bridge which is in fine condition to sustain his name after his time and also to steal money, prodded by his shrewd ally(Nedumudi Venu), supposedly a social worker and his greedy wife(Sreevidya). A stinging satire on the state of our politics, this film probably marked a period in the high point of the middle of the road cinema movement, as it equally satisfied the tastes of the masses too. Unfortunately for our cinema, K.G.George soon ran out of steam following the success of this film and never again found the commercial success he previously enjoyed.

Kodiyettam(1978) - A coming of age story told in the backdrop of a rural setting. A lazy village bum comes to terms with the realities of adult life belatedly through his exposure to the institution of marriage, adultery, loneliness and his fears arising out of what he sees around himself. Bharat Gopi delivered a standout debut performance as the sluggish Shankarankutty, propelling him overnight from obscurity to fame, even garnering the the National Best Actor Award. Adoor Gopalakrishnan's second film after Swayamvaram stands out for very minute and precise observations and picturization of rural life told through several well-rounded characters interspersed with brilliant yet realistic dialogues. K.P.A.C Lalitha also shows glimpses of the acting genius, most of which probably went untapped by cinema.

Kummatti(1980) - G.Aravindan adapted Kavalayam Narayana Panicker's story based on the myth of the Kummatti into a visually delightful children's film. The kummatti arrives in a village where the parents make young children obey them by scaring them of the kummatti. A group of kids watch the Kummatti with curiosity and trepidation until they find out that he loves them. He magically transforms them into animals and back into human form but one child who was made a dog misses the transformation back to humanity and has to live a year in this fashion, until the Kummatti returns next year. The kummatti returns next year and converts him back to child, but the torrid experience has wisened the boy and he performs an act of brotherhood for a fellow animal. Shaji Karun's camera brilliantly captures the arid beauty of Palakkad. The film is also a treasure trove of folk songs written by Kavalam.

Oridam(2005) - The film tells the story of a prostitute struggling to come out of her profession. She is a young woman with a lot of aspirations and dreams which don't die despite countless disappointments and frustrations. Geethu Mohandas who speaks English with a western accent in real life, plays this woman who spends her nights on the street and services craven men of all classes with boldness and brilliance that has to be seen to be believed. Her body language and expressions are flawless whether stifling her tears and anger to stich together a plastic smile or while lounging on the roadside imagining herself to be one of the fancy faces on the billboard. The presence of an NGO which inculcates into these helpless women the nobility of their profession adds a tinge of satire to the proceedings. I saw ads on Manoramaonline requesting public support to complete filming of this work...kudos to director cum producer, Pradeep Nair for finally managing to fulfill his creation.

Eli Pathayam(1981) - Karamana got the role of a lifetime to play the last link in a crumbling feudal system, unable to accept, comprehend, adjust or rebel against the changes happening to him and the society around him. He is obediently served by a younger sister(Sharada), fated to remain a spinster, who breaks down gradually under the weight of physical and mental exertions leaving her brother to fend for himself. He miserably gives up without a fight. Adoor brilliantly uses a rat trapped in a mousetrap to signify the microcosm of Karamana's universe and the ancient tharavadu and the people living within it as a bigger mousetrap to signify the macrocosm of Karamana's deteriorating existence. Possibly, Adoor's best film ever, this was the time the parallel malayalam cinema reached the zenith of its artistic brilliance, and even came to represent the face of Indian cinema to art lovers, the world over.

Kathavasheshan(2004) - Very fittingly, the last film I watched. This is a movie every man has to watch. This is cinematic art at its pinnacle. A young man, played by Dileep commits suicide. His fiance(Jyothirmayi) has met him just once but that tells her he is not a man who could commit suicide. She is interested in finding about his past. She meets his family and the friends he made in the places he lived and pieces together the picture of a lively man with a sense of humour but who believes he has to react to injustices and alleviate the misfortunes of others. All this takes him to his logical end, an end which puts all of us who make the society he lived in, on the dock. T.V.Chandran's peerless direction and skillful scripting which expertly combines the best multi-person narrative ever depicted on screen with interesting flashbacks that takes the story forward to the present, Isaac Thomas Kottukapally's melodious background music which melts seamlessly into the images on screen, K.G.Jayan's camera which brilliantly captures the director's vision have given us a classic we are in danger of forgetting. On the acting front, Dileep banishes all doubts in my head of his being able to play a character with several shades to him, supported ably by several actors of immense capability. The movie shifts seamlessly from locations as diverse as rural Kerala, Trivandrum, Andhra, Gujarat and Calcutta. Listen to the song, Mere Duniya Mein from this movie on musicindiaonline. Possibly, the best malayalam film I have watched!

P.S - The most difficult post I have had to write in this blog. I kept pushing off this task because I felt like a small child staring at a mountain and unsure of being able to climb it. The movies I have chronicled are milestones in Kerala's cultural history, and the men behind it giants in intellect. I asked myself if I am competent enough to comment on these great works. But having finished this task, I keep thinking, how good are we as a people if we keep saying these works cannot be bettered? How much can we achieve if we shudder at the inability to continue their glorious legacy? Aren't we all taking the easy way out when we deal with the talents bestowed on us? Each time I sit to blog and give up, a serpentine question rears its inescapable head and asks me,"Dum nahi he kya bache?" That difficulty with self-doubting has helped me realize that unless I write and put it out to the world, I will always feel like the small child who keeps wondering what it would be like, to look from the peak. Several times in this post, my memory failed me and probably so did my analysis. Going back and watching the movies was also not an option as I didn't have the time. So please feel free to correct me, in places I may have gone wrong. Am dedicating this post to all the great malayalam film directors and scriptwriters of another age who would be saddened at the fall of today's cinema and our people's cultural standards. If there are lovers of good cinema around and are bloggers, let us give confidence and encouragement to the good malayalam films that are coming out today and give them maximum publicity on our blogs. This is of utmost importance because all offbeat films fall awfully short on budgets, by the time they are ready for release, to be able to do the crucial advertising that is so necessary in today's world to succeed. And so ends my movie watching spree - hindi, english and tamil movies too were part of this. There are lakhs of bloggers out there to write about those. But we are only a few thousand malayali bloggers. Growth starts from the roots. Our aspirations have helped us branch out in all directions. A time has come to feed the leaves we sprouted, back to our roots. In the midst of all this overwhelming materialism, can the youth of Kerala manage a return to intellectualism?


Sands | കരിങ്കല്ല് said...

Cool! :)

Good list. I've watched many of them - but definitely not all of them. Now I know, which all movies to bring back from India.

If you haven't yet, you may want to try thaniyaavarthanam. :)

PS: Didn't read it _all_ of it ;). Just the titles of many of them :)

Karthik said...

Great Post Jiby! No words to describe this.

If ever I become a filmmaker, I would rather try to make films like he did, or make none at all

Yes, Padmarajan potrayed the innermost feelings felt by humans, through some breath taking movies. Actually I am putting this comment reading your post mid-way. Did you mention Thoovanathumbikal?

And did you know that the young Sathyan in Odayil Ninne was played by a child-artiste 'Suresh Gopi"? Ormayundo ee mugham??

Vidheyan was a great movie and so was Madhilukal. I think with the passage of time I have begun to appreciate Mammootty's films in a better way :)

Amritham Gamaya was a brilliant script with the protagonist role executed to perfection by Mohanlal. That ragging scene still stays afresh in my mind.

Will put more comments later. Sorry for the prsent rushed up and rather long comment :) Wish you write more of such posts Jiby :)

N A R I YA L C H U T N E Y said...

Nice list Jiby. Have seen lot of them but not all of them . Some of my other favourites are

1)Daivathinte Vikrithikal
2) Oru Vadakkan Veeragatha (Though not parallel , this movie certainly will go into the annals for portraying a real life villian to a reel life hero ) :P

Just my two cents . But sad that these days when other film industries (including Hindi , which was always looked down upon )are surging forward we are going backwards :( .

Jiby said...

sandeep, thaiyavarthanam is an unwatchable-again favorite of mine. karthik who has commented below wrote a fairly detailed review of the movie onn his blog.

karthik, great comment :) are a blogger's delight. i didn't have to mention thoovanathumbikal...countless others have blogged about it. one reason i moved on to these movies in my list was because i had exhausted every commercial film made in malayalam over the last 24 years and felt bored having to watch them again and again...but what a viewing and musing experience these movies i wrote about have been.

nc, daivathinte vikrithikal and ovvg are faves with me too. i guess dv can infact be called raghuvaran's career-best role...wonder why Mukundan didn't collaborate on more scripts like MT...if i had watched this movie again it would surely have made it to my list. i don't know if others are surging forward or not...other industries certainly are showing some healthy trends, but cause for alarm infact is as you said, we are going backwards.

mathew said...

whaatay post!!
There is no denying the fact that you are a movie buff..

and personally what i like the most is the handsome percentage of Papettan movies..For me he is the numero uno in Indian cinema...Just imagine him in hollywood..He would be talked of in the same breath as steve speilberg, Kursowa or Kubrick..maybe we are lucky to have him..

Most people have seen only thoovanathumbikkal and Nammakku parakaan munthiri thoppu..But for me each of his movies are entirely different and classic in every way..If I think of a proposing a girl I cannot think of a better way that what he has done with "Nammakku gramangalil chennu.."..simply poetic brilliance there..

seems like am ttyping crazy is just that i love his movies!;-P

have u seen "novemberinte nashtam" btw..I cant imagine anyone directing a movie like that now..

thanks Jiby for this post...I can see a few movies I havent seen to catch them up..

Neena Padayatty said...

What a collection!...and the insight u might have gathered from all those great movies is just unmeasurable.Was hoping i'd have atleast 10 from the list to claim...just one short..Movies like 'Kazhcha','Thanmathra' ,'Akale','Ore Kadal',"Achanurangatha veedu" are also noteworthy..Women centric tales like "Ennu Swantham Janakikuttykku","Aranyakam","Chinthavishtayaya Shyamala","Panjagni" also convey strong messages.Think u might find "Shayanam" by M P Sukumaran Nair interesting.Wish u good luck with ur celluloid dreams!

scorpiogenius said...

Well complied list Jiby.

Anyone can see how fascinated you are by Padmarajan movies by the overwhelming no: of classics you've listed. Genius filmmakers like Padmarajan, Bharathan, Aravindan, Lohithadas, Adoor and MT Vasudevan Nair helped Malayalam films stand out among Indian movie industry.

Even directors like Fazil, Joshi, I.v. Sasi and copycat Priyadarshan have made their own significant contribution to Malayalam film world.

Just have a glance at the awful bunch of block headed directors and script writers we have now! Sad to see the mediocre and third rate movies turning into crowd pullers...The so-called directors have no idea what is meant by a-r-t.

And one man who must be shot immediately to save our film tradition: Vinayan...

Jiby said...

mathew, padmarajan is certainly the pride of every malayali. imagine 15+ years after his death young people still swear by the romance he so beautifully depicted in numaukku paarkaan and thoovanathumbikal...that is immortality for me. thanks for reminding me of Novemberinte Nashtam...that was one of the cd's i brought back from kerala 2 years back and one of the first movies that kickstarted this spree. i need to add that here...the movie also holds a special place in my heart as it was shot in loyola.

neena, i am yet to watch ore kadal and aranyakam. i have written about akale and achanurangatha in an earlier post. i am realizing now that most bloggers are also avid lovers of good cinema.

scorpiogenius, a-r-t has become a casualty with filmmakers overtly focusing on adding ingredients to please the audiences of today and compromising with their storylines. sometime back i read how the producer of Namukku Paarkaan cajoled Padmarajan to change the climax scene but how cinematographer Venu outrightly told Padmarajan that he rather drop the film than go in with a watered down climax! i wonder if corporatization will give the much needed capital inflow to our industry and rid us of penny pinching small-time businessmen who play the role of today's producers.

Anonymous said...

Where did you get Vaasthuhara? Eversince I read C V Sreeraman's story with the same name, I wanted to watch it.
As usual great blog.

Dhanush | ധനുഷ് said...

Jiby. Wonderful Collection of Movies. In fact I have watched most of them and would love to watch them again

Kathavaseshan is really a briliant movie. True to the core a director's movie. I remember sometime back writing abt it and Paadam Onnu. They really touches your heart.

What can someone say about Padmarajan? Your are right in saying Malayali's gave license to Padmarajan and Bharathan to make any movies they wanted. And that is why their movies excelled. Have you read Padmarajan's Short Stories? If not try to get them. Really good. Equally Good are his screenplays

M.T - Class Apart. How much ever I re-read him I still haev the tendency to pick up an MT book from the book store. My Sis said abt my "Reality Bites" that it had an M.T touch in it. No wonder since I am reading him so often that it happened. Right now I am reading more of his Articles (Snehadarangalode, Ammaykku, Ramaneeyam Oru Kaalam etc are the books) which throws insights into various other personalities who made Kozhikkode a Literary center in the 50's to the mid 80's. You should see how these guys used make fun of other artists, by calling S K Pottakad, "Prem Pottas", Thikkodiyan, "Thikku" etc. Then you realize all these guys just grown up like we too do.

PanchavadiPaalam is the best satire Indian Movie Industry might have seen in it history. No doubt about it.

A few more movies from my list.
Neythukaaran, Thoovanathumbikal, Nammukku Paarkan, Deshadanakili Karayarilla, Sandesham (for the subject it handles).

Sorry about the long comment. But since I read the long post you wrote I deserve to write it ;)

P.S: If you have VCD/DVD's of all these movies please send me the copies of the same ;)

Anonymous said...

gr8 list jiby ... i havent seen some of them though :)

i wud suggest u watch the following too ... if u havent alrdy :)

1. thoovanathumbikal - one of the best from padmarajan and way ahead of its time
2. kireedam - the best combination of popularity and quality
3. piravi - the first art movie that made me cry
4. oru vadakkan veeragatha - one of the best from MT and Hariharan

Jiby said...

anon, if you are from tvm you can get it at national videos in vazhuthacaud.

dhanush, i have one collection of padmarajan's short stories with me...the first story in that is lola milford. MT has influenced me also to write in malayalam man. i need to get these articles you speak of...i have also read on the internet of MT's friendships with the writers of the earlier age. i am yet to watch priyanandan's movies...i read an interview of his on neythukaran and ever since, wanted to watch it. and abt deshadanakilikal did you feel the relationship between shari and karthika had undertones of lesbianism? i need to watch it again...its been a long time. if you had asked me for books, i would have acted as though i didn't see that sentence, but since its films :)...thank god for digital technology!

sandeep, i have watched thoovanathumbikal, kireedom and ovvg several times...those movies still have popular appeal. i saw piravi when i was too small...maybe when i was in the didn't understand much. few years back read prof.eachara warrier's book on which the movie was based on and it made me cry unstoppably. i need to watch piravi again.

bombay dosti said...

Jiby, one more comment - nice list.Have watched some, would want to watch the rest :)
One more movie, along with what a number of them had suggested :

Have you seen Oru Cheru Punjiri? Another from MT.The word is 'beautiful'
Aranyakam, man you must not miss this one!!!
And namukku, cant think of a more romantic climax;imagine,prince charming coming in a tanker lorry!!!! Only padmarajan!

As I was reading, I was hoping that you should have put kathavasheshan.. was glad to see that.
Sibi Malayil has come with some nice movies - Dasharatham(1989) is a personal favourite Ezhuthapurangal(1987). Feminity is a beautiful representation. Amma enna vaakkinnu ethrayum aardrathayode define cheytha oru cinema...a favourite :)

silverine said...

Marvelous post! It is nice to see you writing about things you are passionate about... and we can see the result...a really engrossing read. I love Malayalam movies but getting good movies on CD is difficult here. I am not a connoisseur like you so cannot comment on the movies! But I really enjoyed this post. Right now I am cursing my CD wallah for not stocking any of these films!! grr

Dhanush | ധനുഷ് said...

Yep . I think thats the book. In that there is a story of an elderly couple where the woman is having breast cancer. Superb it is. I forgot the title of the story. I think its Shoorpanakha or something

In Deshadana Kili its just pure affection for each other and the rebellious attitude of any young person at that point of time. may be Shari's look gave an undertone of it and Shari's character is definitely possessive of Karthika.

Nikhil Narayanan said...

That is indeed an EFFORT!!
I take a bow!
Reminds me of IMDB's best 250 movies to watch in your lifetime list!!

Bookmarkable post!!


Jiby said...

bd, thanks for suggesting oru cheru punjiri and aranyakam...i will definitely try to get them. i am so glad so many people have watched kathavasheshan...that is one movie i feel which can make positive changes to our society. after what you wrote about ezhuthapurangal i realize i don't remember that movie at all...when i got the cd i thought that it was one i have watched and so discarded it.

silverine, what you said is a sad is very hard to find the good malayalam films which didnt't become hits unless someone is hell bent on getting them. was it really an engrossing read...maybe you are saying this because you are never critical of me? i am having misgivings that i messed up this post totally and should have approached it differently.

dhanush, i read lola and orma and then i thought i'd come back later and read the rest but never got around to doing it. i guess padmarajan so excelled in filmmaking that his written works took second place. yeah shari's character is what gave me the feeling too...but karthika falling for mohanlal totally confused me. gotto watch it again.

nikhil, thanks man. started this a year back, lost interest and resumed 2 weeks ago. felt relief to get this off my back. no more movies for me!

silverine said...

I have hat tipped this post on Desipundit ! Hope more people get to read it! :)

Karthik said...

I dont the relationship between Shari and Karthika in "deshadana.." had an undetone of lesbianism. It was deep friendship. We can say she was very protective of Karthika and sees Mohanlal att he beginning with a jaundiced-eye view.

Dhanush | ധനുഷ് said...

I too would go with what Karthik Said. In them movie when they introduce Mohanlal. He looks at the gals with a suspicious eye. And so probably Shari's first impression of lal is not so good. So she is kind of protective sister acting in between them.

But then there is one point. Padmarajan leaves all these things to the imagination of the viewer. Let us decide whether they were lesbian or not. The fact is that some relationships in Padmarajan movies cannot be understood. Why does Jayakrishnan love Radha and Clara both at the same time in TT? Why does Radha is adamant of marrying JK only if at all she is marrying? Man. This guy is a genius. So the more we dig deep into his characters, the more complicated it becomes.

Probably you are right about the stories part. He film making was so beautiful that his stories took a back seat even though they were excellent. Though I didnt like some of his novels. TT is much better than Udakkapola any day. In fact according to me TT cannot be said as an adaptation of Udakkapola. Ots just that he took a few cahracters and their behaviours and made out a script out of it.

God, long comments and discussion. This is turning out to be a a forum :) Sorry for this.

Karthik said...

@Dhanush, Jiby: One more point on Thoovanathumbikal. When Mohanlal leaves Ashokan at that lodge room along with the siren , his face has a pained expression as he walks away. Did you notice that? Why has that expression been shown? Was Jayakrishnan feeling guilty at that point?

Anyways the list of movies mentioned by you, Jiby, is great. You could have mentioned "Perunthachan" also. A great performance by Thilakan and Prasanth plays the role of his son.

Jiby said...

silverine, thank you very much!

karthik, dhanush...i think like dhanush said padmarajan left it for the viewers to decide on how to interpret the relationship. he does a similar ploy in arapatta kettiya gramathil...the character played by mammootty has several loose ends and i think it was done deliberately by him for us, the audience to scratch our heads and think about this odd person. dhanush, i am yet to read until then i can't comment on how much of it has been adapted to TT. about this becoming a forum, it is welcome because unlike indian movie forums which degenerate into praise of actors, surprisingly we have stuck to the script!

karthik, what i thought of that pained expression on jayakrishnan's face was the longing in him to find his woman and to make love to her. it is a feeling that comes to me when i shackle my lust and walk away...and i think of thoovanathumbikal and padmarajan at that point and smile to myself at the genius of that man. also the list was not a selection of movies that i randomly picked...these were movies i watched over the course of the last 1 1/2 years...of course i threw out the ones which are popular even today...if i had got to watch perumthachan in this period, that would definitely have made the cut here.

Nikhil Narayanan said...

atleast 3 ppl have already fwded this link to me, may be thank to DP...

Thankfully, I read it much before ppl let me know abt the post...


Dhanush | ധനുഷ് said...

@Karthik,Jiby - The pained expression could be something different like lal thinking I made this guy become 'cheetha' or something like that. I don't think it could be his depression of not being in love. In fact Thangal is already saying that "Pulleede Ellam Friends inu vendiyulla Kaliya...". So it could be that guilt of making somebody who is very close to him, indulge into such an activity of going to a prostitute? There is a very loose reference to such a character of Asokan's in Udakkapola. But in TT that character is much better. I need to see it again :)

Vijay said...


I had to read the post twice and I can relate to the passion with which you wrote the article. A lot of the movies I had seen during childhood days and had to revisit them to fully understand and appreciate the nuances in each of them.

It's a pity that so many of these are unavailable for movie lovers; if you do know of anyplace where you could place orders; do let me know.

P.S. Wouldnt Moonampakkam feature here ?

Karthik said...

@vijay and others - Many of the films mentioned in Jiby's list can be bought at Beemappalli, Trivandrum (if most of you are from that place) :)

But do not expect the shopkeeper to show the patience to find you the movie from those countless shelves. You have to do some searching by yourself too..:)

Sujith said...

Jiby, its a commendable effort from ur side to put up such a list with ur reviews and hats off to u..

padmarajan is my favourite of the film makers.. for the fact that watching his films are like sitting on a wooden bench on a cold november day, after a small rain, surrounded by an atmosphere blessed by a cool breeze and enjoying the world around.. its a delight and one just becomes a part of it, flowing along with it..

few films were missed in btn.. as pointed out by others, mabbe u can come with a second part of the list later :p

really enjoyed reading the post..

P2C2U said...

Thank you, thank you for this list! The only movies on the list I've watched are 'Mazha' and 'Vanaprastham'. I've been so eager to watch quality Malayalam cinema. This post is really useful.

Do you know if I can find these movies in Mumbai? Or will I have to wait till my next trip to Kerala?

Jiby said...

nikhil, looks like the DP link is the reason...i see a couple of newly visiting commenters here.

dhanush, padmarajan lives on!

vijay, like i said before i have featured only those movies i got to watch very recently. writing about other movies(which may be better than my list) i watched until a few years back would be injustice to them, as i may not have been able to imbib the nuances of those film like you said.

karthik, the reason i didn't mention beemapalli was deliberate...i was thinking, why give publicity to pirates? piracy is causing immense losses to cinema...but if the industry cant rise up to the challenge of demand and supply and improve their production and distribution of dvds/vcds i guess we shouldn't blame pirates.


p2c2, run wild man...go for won't be disappointed!

Ashok said...

A major effort. Thanks Jiby. I've already started using this list.

flaashgordon said...

My dad being a fan of art movies, had watched many of these long ago , but could not appreciate any then. Probably after an exposure to Hollywood and a few European ones, appreciating the nuances of many of those classics elsewhere , i've also started goin back to the roots, trying to rediscover the classics in Malayalam.

Started with Padmarajan movies ; realizin with surprise, the acting, the storylines, and the people involved were much superior to those in the industry now. The titles which you listed provide a great ready-reckoner for this journey ..

Really superior post Jiby ! U are an inspiration to get back to bloggin again

Geo said...



Jiby, you have become a brand now. What you watch becomes the Top 10 and bestseller and all that. :D So you cant shy away from the responsibility of amending your list. ;)

Amazing effort man, hats off! Agree with Flash, " U are an inspiration to get back to bloggin again"

Jiby said...

ashok, thanks. hope you don't end up berating me for wasting your valuable time. :)

flaash, if this post will get you back to blogging, it will have served yet another noble purpose! after all, in the history of the blog world i am exposed to, i can still think of no post to rival the motorcycle diaries saga, even three years since you wrote it.

geo, anna...jeeviche pottade. :) this the return of my old favorites then? jithu, flaash and now you too commenting on one of my posts like in the old it blogging nostalgia!

Jina said... was worth all the trouble i should say...
'Daivathinte Vikrithikal' is something which I would probably I wud add to urs..:)

Karthik said...

Buy original malayalam film cd's at

abhishek said...


Lots of effort and insight went into this post and thank you very much. You have truly highlighted some gems in the glorious sands of Malayalam cinema.

Happy Vishu, btw!

Emmanuel said...

"Kidilam" ennallathe veronnum parayaanilla. :)

Arun said...

Im visiting your blog after a long time jabba, and this post I had to comment on... I myself was trying to compile a list of parallel/alternative/breakaway movies of that period, and here is the silver bullet of a post!

Do you remember the times in college when we went to watch Ustad, Niram, Parasala pachan payannur paramu....yeowch...our college times were definitely not the golden period of malayalam cinema!

DD said...

Superb list Jiby! Great work. I have been branching out onto art in too many languages - Indian and I have a list of malayalam movies to focus on.

Nice to see "Panchavadi paalam" on this list, thats one true classic! Thanmatra was another very brilliant movie from recent times..

But I have to say this - "Namukku paarkan.." and "Thoovanathumbikal" are majorly overrated movies. To each his own :)

Karthik said...

@dd- If they are overrated, so is "katha Parayumbol". And the sad part is they term it a Mammootty film. The satirical comedy in it is nowhere near 'Sandesham' or 'Thalayanamanthram".

But anyway it is far better than the other dished out films like Rowdram or Ali Bhai!

b v n said...


Excellent post man! and thanks for reminding because thats exactly what you did through the post. Actually i missed this one and then was reading it in a few sessions, its that long. But its worth it! and the effort you put in shows in this great list...not all are my picks...but great list. Now abt K G George, how bout "Irakal"? thats a classic isnt it.

Yeah malayalam cinema had a great time and thanks for reminding!

alakananda said...

that is some list jiby. while it is true that i have seen most of the movies u mentioned, the list makes me want to go back and watch all of them again. i watched most of them years back. maybe if i watch them now i may see more :)

anyway thnx for reminding people, atleast bloggers that once upon a time there was a malayalam film industry that one could be proud of. i am sorry but i am awfully disappointed these days.

Kris Sab said...

Hey Jibi, u have done a really great work.:)

Ur blog starts like this, " Om Padmarajanaaya Namaha..." But I hope that the first film that comes to our mind when we speak abt Padmarajan is THOOVANATHUMBIKAL.
That film was released in 1986. So I dont know whether that film was a box office hit at that time. But I have seen that movie many times and I strongly believe that it should be given the first priority when ever we speak abt Padmarajan.. Just see the movie and add that also in ur list..

Anonymous said...

Hi Jiby,
I came across this post while searching for the lyrics of the song mere duniya mein from kathavaseshan. This is a wonderful post and I am glad I came across it. I am myself a loyolite (ISC'01) currently in US catching up with some of the classic works in malayalam cinema. While I have seen your comments on Ashok's blog often, I have rarely followed your blog.

I have seen probly a third of the movies you've mentioned here.. and many of the others are in my must-see list. Thanks a lot for that beemapalli tip.. I really do not know of any place where one can catch hold of adoor's or aravindan's or'e movies..
I too really enjoyed watching Kathavaseshan. I must admit the first time I watched it I was totally awstruck to see a quote from Camus at the beginning of a Malayalam movie. I think it was a really nice concept movie.. though it could have been improved.. especially in the acting and directing dept.s.. e.g. I think Mohanlal or Mammooty could have done a much better job in the lead role... and the scene where Dileep sees Indrans the thief crying by the side of the road.. how realistic is that?

Anonymous said...

That philosophical postscript was also really nice!

Arjun said...

Hi Jibby...

Our thought process seems to be on similar lines.. as far as mainstream malayalam cinema is concerned....As many co bloggers have pointed out...I feel u should include " Thoovanathumbikal" and "Moonampakkam" in your list of milestones of malayalam cinema...
I am very sure that you will immediately associate urself with Jayakrishnan of Thoovanathumbikal...
Anyways,....all the best...

Unknown said...

Faazil .. who has been givings us such crap recently as Moz n' Cat, Harikrishnans had given us great gems like Noketthadooratthu Kannumnattu, Revathikkoru Paavakkuty, ente Maamatikuttiamma, 1000 Shivarathrikal. Don't know how he is able to manage movies like Moz n' Cat. Bharathan and PAdmaraajan had together created some great gems for us like Kathodu Kaathoram. I.V. Sasi also had his days of glory before downgrading himself to all the crap he has been delivering these days. I.V. Sasi got Kaanamariyathhu written for him by Padmarajan. I think we forgot to mention Moonampakkam. We have a few directors today like Blessy, who remind us that all is not lost from malluwood. His recent Bhramaram reminded me so much of Bharathan. Kaazcha, Thanmathra, Palunku .. all have been weel crafted. Though, I was slightly dissapointed with Calcutta news. Thankfully he was back on track with Bhramaram... Wow this is one of my fav topics. I can talk/write hours and hours about my fav movies. I'll stop for now. Thanks for opening up this space. Otherwise I keep looking for people with similar interest to throw open my mind. LEts keep adding to this list.