Malayalam Cinema: The Promises of 2019

The year 2019 was indeed a great year for Malayalam cinema. From content-based movies like Kumbalangi Nights and Virus getting National level attention to hardcore entertainment packages like a Lucifer pushing the boundaries of commercial viability, on the whole, this year was a promising one. In this article, we will be talking about the new entries to the industry that made a solid impact and are sure to contribute to the future of Malayalam cinema.

Madhu C Narayanan

The movie that will be there in everyone’s top 10 of the year will be Kumbalangi Nights. The movie penned by Syam Pushkaran dealt with the emotional equations between three brothers in a dysfunctional family. Madhu C Narayanan made his directorial debut with this project and made a huge impact. The treatment was entertaining, endearing and extremely affecting. He squeezed out the best from his actors and the best example for that will be Soubin Shahir.

Anna Ben

2019 has given Anna Ben a dream start in my opinion. She was loved by everyone as that modern-day girl next door in her debut movie Kumbalangi Nights. Baby Mol was just the beginning and she then surprised everyone by doing the title role in debutant Mathukutty Xavier’s Helen. Unlike Kumbalangi Nights, this project was a major responsibility for Anna as she played the titular character in a less explored genre like survival thriller. She did a fabulous job in the movie and it was her genuine performance that made us restless even after subconsciously knowing that everything will be fine in the end.

Mathew Thomas

Mathew Thomas is another find of the team that made Kumbalangi Nights and much similar to Anna Ben he also enjoyed double success this year in the form of Kumbalangi Nights and Thanneermathan Dinangal. There is a huge contrast between the characters he played in both these films and that definitely makes him a promising actor with the ability to play diverse characters. Right now Mathew is working in the Mammootty film penned by hit combo Bobby and Sanjay.

Manu Ashokan

One movie that created waves in the theater with its strong content was Uyare directed by Manu Ashokan. He was able to understand the emotion that needed to be conveyed to the viewer and he treated the script by Bobby Sanjay very elegantly. The visual of Pallavi walking to take her first flight as her father watches and the depiction of Govind’s frustration when Pallavi’s father visits him etc showed Manu Ashokan’s minimalistic way of showing things that are detailed in a script.

Anuraj Manohar

The Shane Nigam starrer Ishq was a hard-hitting thriller that mocked the pseudo morality and masculinity in a big way. Anuraj Manohar made his debut with this thriller and it showed his ability to keep the audience at the edge of their seat through the treatment. What was also impressive about his approach was clarity and fearlessness. The twist in the tale wasn’t a mere surprise element. It also became the political statement of the movie. And Anuraj never diluted the movie in terms of treatment to make it a “how to be a real man” kind of lecture.

Ashraf Hamza

A friend of mine who had seen Ondu Motteya Katha, was a bit reluctant to watch Thamaasha when it released. He eventually saw the movie from the theater and told me that it was an adaptation that stood above the original. What makes Ashraf Hamza a promising name is perhaps this ability to understand the core of a story and make it as an original creation. The humor was extremely subtle and the movie looked at the shallow way of judging someone’s beauty in a thought-provoking way.

Chinnu Chandni

Chinnu Chandni played the role of Chinnu in Ashraf Hamza’s Thamaasha. She was an overweight girl who was always made feel bad about her body by almost everyone she met. In the beginning portions, you may feel that Chinnu is just behaving like the character as the writing was pretty flat. But towards the end of the film, we get to see that character in a more vulnerable space and her portrayal of the character in those portions had a big impact. It wasn’t just Sreenivasan sir who got moved by her facebook video.

Gireesh AD

I clearly remember going in without much hype for Thanneer Mathan Dinangal and having a great time laughing seeing all the tiny bits of humor created by Gireesh AD. The movie was in a way similar to Gireesh’s short film Vishudha Ambrose. The uniqueness in Gireesh’s making is his ability to create characters and include them in a way that by the time the movie ends almost everyone will be there in our heads as characters. The ability to create scenes that will make you laugh until your stomach hurts is a rare one and this guy knows how to do that.

Arun PR

Prior to his directorial debut with the Onam release Finals, Arun PR had previously scripted movies like Nellikka and Jamnapyari. Those movies were mediocre according to my taste and I was a bit skeptical about how Finals will shape up. But to my surprise Finals was an extremely earnest and interesting experience. As a writer, Arun gave an idea the central focus and created characters around that. Almost everyone thought it was a movie about Rajisha Vijayan becoming a cycling champion. But the movie had more to offer and within a relatively small runtime, Arun PR managed to show the story of three characters.

Sudeep Elamon

Technically the first feature film of Sudeep Elamon is Sleeplessly Yours which according to IMDB was made in 2017. But it was this year that we got to see more of his work as a cinematographer in Finals and 18aam Padi. What I liked about his visuals was that it looked more authentic rather than being glossy. Those cycling sequences in Finals felt really authentic and you could sense the visuals contributing to the emotional track of the movie. Sudeep has currently wrapped his work for the movie Ayyappanum Koshiyum starring Prithviraj and Biju Menon, directed by Sachy.

Mathukutty Xavier

Survival thriller is a genre that was less explored in Malayalam. The subject Mathukutty Xavier chose for his first film Helen belonged to that genre. The problem with the genre is that it depends completely on the treatment as the climax is pretty much guessable. Even the trailer of the movie gave away the entire plot. Well, that’s where the director in Mathukutty did the magic as the audience were kept on the edge of their seats as Helen struggled to get out of that freezer. Mathukutty Xavier was also the co-writer of the movie along with Alfred Kurien Joseph and Noble Thomas.

Ratheesh Balakrishnan Poduval

The stunning performance of Suraj Venjaramoodu was indeed a big factor in the success of the movie Android Kunjappan Version 5.25. But what one should also appreciate is the ability of the writer and director Ratheesh Poduval to place such a wacky idea in a very familiar backdrop and make us buy that. The script took notice of even the minor aspects in the life of an old man and the final output of the movie made us think about a lot of things along with the laughter package. It was satiric and emotional at the same time.

Nisam Basheer

The subject of Kettyolanu Ente Malakha is an extremely sensitive one. Some people may still feel that the movie is problematic. But in my opinion, Kettyolanu Ente Malakha was a movie that got made in the right way and Nisam Basheer managed to do that in his very first film. A movie that talks about the necessity of proper sex education, the idea of consent, etc demanded a sensible making and Nisam provided exactly that. And it was nice to see a movie with that typical dramatic texture at a time every movie was trying to have that realistic mood.

Dimal Dennis

Valiyaperunnal was a movie that got polarized reviews. I am writing this article under the label of promising people who made a debut this year and I feel Dimal Dennis definitely fits into that category. Dimal took the risk of telling the story of an entire place and it’s not an easy task. Even though there were flaws in the making, the movie managed to create a lot of striking characters and as a viewer, I was never forced to look at the watch and that’s a big deal considering its duration of 3 hours and 8 minutes.

These are some of the names that made a good impression as debutants according to me. There are a few more names that need a shout out and that includes Ahmmed Kabeer who made June, Aji Peter Thankam who wrote Kettyolanu Ente Malakha, Alfred Kurien Joseph who co-wrote Helen, Naslen who entertained everyone in Thanneermathan Dinangal, Ifthi who composed the songs in June and Fara Shibla who was memorable in Kakshi Amminippilla.

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Final Thoughts


Green: Recommended Content

Orange: The In-Between Ones

Red: Not Recommended