Malayalam Cinema: Beginning

November 28th brings a birthday, and it is not just another birthday, but the date of birth of the man who is considered as the father of Malayalam Cinema, JC Daniel. He is maker of the first Malayalam film (even though it was a silent film like the rest of the flicks of that time), Vigathakumaran; meaning “the lost child” in the year 1928, it is the first Malayalam movie, and also the first movie to be made at this part of India. The Travancore National Pictures established by him at Trivandrum was also the first film studio in Kerala.

Vigathakumaran was followed by Marthanda Varma based on the 1891 Malayalam novel by C. V. Raman Pillai of the same name, but that came five years later. JC Daniel had to go through many hardships to bring the movie to the screen and also after the release, and so it was not really a path which the later movie makers were confident in following, even though his legacy has been accepted now, and Kerala Government introduced the Kerala State Film Award for Lifetime Achievement in his name as part of the Kerala State Film Awards from the year 1992.

Celluloid is the bipoic on which most of our information about the man is based.

Celluloid is the bipoic on which most of our information about the man is based.

All of these came very late, and the path after the release of movie was never smooth for the man, even though the film was one of its kind, dealing with a social issue rather than traveling the usual style of the other films of the time. With problems over a lower caste woman PK Rosy playing the heroine character far above her, the conservative sections of the society created big problems over the movie. The first actress of Malayalam Cinema didn’t have much to remember during her time.

As the movie couldn’t go on to become a commercial success at that time, the studio at Trivandrum had to be closed down and Daniel had to sell his belongings and leave, to live as dentist and go deeper into poverty in later stages. It wasn’t a fitting journey for the man who brought the cinema to Kerala. As the government earlier refused to give him the recognition as he was born and died in Tamil Nadu, it was the journalist Chelangatt Gopalakrishnan who worked for bringing the attention to the man behind the first Malayalam movie. It was late, but thanks to him, the deserved recognition arrived.

Most of the Keralites will know him now, thanks to the movie Celluloid from Kamal, starring Prithviraj Sukumaran in the role of JC Daniel and doing the same to perfection providing him the Kerala State Film Award for Best Actor and the movie with the Best Film Award. The movie has Mamta Mohandas doing the role of his wife Janet, the newcomer Chandni in the role of Rosy and Sreenivasan performing the character of Chelangatt Gopalakrishnan. It is a movie which I recommend the most among the films of the last few years.

The awards to this biopic is part of the justice which is served to the man.

The awards to this biopic is part of the divine justice which is served to the man.

The movie was based on Life of J. C. Daniel, a biography of the man which was written by Chelangatt Gopalakrishnan and also Nashta Naayika by Vinu Abraham. Receiving also the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Malayalam, the movie made its point so well that by the end of the movie, people knew the man who was behind the first Malayalam movie, and this movie was a tribute to the man who did something which none other could dare to do at that time, as it was the big risk.

Some movies make the big impact and some don’t. The one special thing about Celluloid is that it released at a time when one just couldn’t be sure about its success. A lot of the viewers did have the doubt because the period drama wasn’t a preferred genre at that time, especially when it was not about kings and warriors. The situation is safer these days, with Iyobinte Pusthakam becoming a hit and Ennu Ninte Moideen becoming a success despite its slow pace. But the latter movie was a very safe bet as it released these days, and when considering the same, Celluloid is a true and righteous tribute to JC Daniel with its success well earned during difficult times.

***The images used in this blog post are from the Official Facebook Page of the movie, Celluloid.

TeNy

November the Fourteenth

The thing about November the Fourteenth is that it is the birthday of a popular actress – she has been a favourite among the youth since her debut through Mayookham in the year 2005 along with Saiju Kurup. It was a much appreciated movie even though there were cliches present. Due to cancer and the relapse, Mamta Mohandas hasn’t been much active in the Malayalam movie industry as expected. She was my favourite actress for a long time, and as she returns to the big screen with the movie Two Countries, I wish her all the best! Here is something about a few of her fine movies, as we celebrate Children’s Day in India.

Big B (2007): After Lanka and Madhuchandralekha, came Big B for Mamta Mohandas. Even though there is not much here for the leading actresses in this movie with nobody opposite Mammootty as the main heroine, this one had her catching our attention, thanks to the song “Muthumazha Konjal pole” in which she featured along with Bala. An unofficial remake of the American movie Four Brothers, the movie was more style than anything else, but it surely had Mamta as the main lady to be in the spot-light. That one song will be the first thing I will remember about this movie for sure.

Passenger (2009): After her fine debut in the movie Mayookham, there were many movies in which she caught out attention including Lanka and Big B, but I consider Passenger to be her big role. In this movie, she plays a journalist named Anuradha Nandan who tries to bring to light an influential politician’s secret plot to finish off a group of villagers who stand as threat to him. The movie which talks about the common man’s responsibility to the society, and how he has the right to challenge the system has been effectively portrayed in this movie. The movie works as a social thriller which tells us that we should be responsible.

Kadha Thudarunnu (2010): Another flick in his usual style from Sathyan Anthikad, this one still has the strength to make the desired impact. His 50th film as a director has Mamta Mohandas in the role of the protagonist Vidyalakshmi who runs away with a man from another religion Shanavas (Asif Ali) who is killed a few years after the birth of a child. The rest of the story talks about how she survives later, with no money or help from her relatives who have abandoned her, as an auto-rickshaw driver named Preman (Jayaram) along with local people who struggles with their daily lives decide to help her and her child.

My Boss (2012): Undoubtedly the funniest movie of the year, this one from Jeethu Joseph came before his two big ones Memories and Drishyam. Dileep and Mamta Mohandas made sure that this movie was full fun and among the big comedy entertainers, this one will have a special place. Mamta gave her most memorable performance in the comedy genre in this movie. Rich with the visuals of Kerala backwaters, this was a movie which came up with standard jokes instead of the low level which the genre was following during those days. You will see the comedy scenes from this movie very often on television.

Celluloid (2013): Winning the Kerala State Film Award for Best Film and National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Malayalam, Celluloid also went on to become a hit at the box-office. As the movie tells the story of J.C. Daniel who is known as the father of Malayalam cinema, Mamta plays the character of the protagonist’s wife. The winner of seven Kerala State Film Awards, this movie had Mamta in another memorable character which she managed amazingly well. It is a beautiful, tragic story of a man who tried to make the first Malayalam movie, Vigathakumaran and had to sacrifice a lot for the same.

I hope to see Mamta back in the Malayalam movies very soon. Even though I don’t like the movie Anwar because its original Traitor is a lot better movie with no slow-motion action sequences and having a more believable story-line, “Kanninima Neele” from that particular movie is the best song which she has been part of. I will leave you all with the video of that song. The movie also has another nice song “Kizhakku Pookkum”, but this one with its visuals remain my favourite. I am sure that you will love this one.

TeNy

Where Did They Go?

I have watched so many Malayalam movies in the theatres. It is a procedure which started long before I began watching the movie in other languages. I have always loved them for the power of their scripts. There were interesting flicks even from the new directors. But nowadays, one has to wonder what has happened to the quality of the flicks. There have been too many mediocre movies being released, and the quality has really come down. There seems to be a struggle going on with finding the right story.

Lets go back to 2013. There were seven top quality movies in the year, or even more. I can easily remember a few of them right now because they had created that awesome impact like no other movie which came in the later years. Celluloid had become that tribute to Malayalam cinema which seems to have created that impact among all kinds of audience. I consider it as the best movie of the year and Prithviraj Sukumaran had lead the way in the story of J. C. Daniel, the father of Malayalam cinema.

Among the movies of 2013, Amen had a status close to glory. It was a fairy-tale kind of tale with magic realism, and using the strength of the backwaters of Kerala to create scenes of visual magic. Lijo Jose Pellissery builds on and on through that magic, and in this love story of divinity and hope, Indrajith Sukumaran and Fahadh Faasil runs through with their brilliant performances. It stays in one’s mind for long and makes sure that it feels awesome. There was also news that there were chances for the same to be remade in Bollywood having Ranbir Kapoor in the lead role.

amen0

Philips and the Monkey Pen was another beautiful work which made the point perfectly, and with kids as the major characters, the movie comes up giving very relevant messages. It manages to be a heart-touching story with simple elements. Sanoop Santhosh stars as protagonist in this movie which has the older performers like Jayasurya, Remya Nambeesan and Joy Mathew playing supporting roles. It is sad that the same producers couldn’t recreate the magic in their later movies and the two directors of the movie were not much heard about after that.

Then there was Drishyam. There are no doubts related to the highest grossing movie in the history of Malayalam film industry. Jeethu Joseph’s masterpiece which has been remade into four languages already, has the final one releasing this month-end. With Mohanlal right there with what he always does the best, Drishyam was the one movie everyone was talking about at that time, ruling the theatres for quite a long time. Lets hope that the Bollywood version will also do justice to the movie like the Tamil version, Papanasam.

Among the movies of the year, Left Right Left also had a special place in the heart of the common viewer, as it was the political drama thriller which was closest to that less explored genre. It was great to see so many powerful characters in one movie, and those amazing performances in it. Then there was another class act from Jeethu Joseph, in the form of Memories, which was a special dark thriller. With Prithviraj’s stunning performance and the script which is once again the winner, this one is also wonderfully taken with a protagonist having his lack of perfection.

memories (6)

The final movie is North 24 Kaatham, which won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Malayalam and also provided Fahadh Faasil with the Kerala State Award for the Best Actor. The man had played a character suffering from OCPD, and with very less words being said, could create a big impact. The movie goes through the incidents which changes his life on a day of harthal. Are there movies of this quality these days? May be one or two which can be found here or there. Is it too far away from 2013 to continue making movies of such quality? The best we had this year so far is Mili, and the last year, it was Iyobinte Pusthakam.

***The images used in this blog post are from the Official Facebook Pages of the movies, Amen and Memories.

TeNy