The March of the New Brigade in Malayalam Cinema

in 17th Kerala International Film Festival

by Subrahmanyan Viswanath

Malayalam cinema is on a new high and rightly so. The eclectic body of offerings that were on show at the recently concluded 17th Edition of the International Film Festival of
Kerala – 2012 (IFFK 2012) is a case in point.

Not that the richly cinema conscious and aesthetically productive film fraternity of God’s Own Country (as Kerala is eulogized) was wanting earlier.

The state boasts of a rich tradition of creative celluloid creations that have won both national and international acclaim, accolades and appreciation in the 100 years that cinema has come to entertain and educate its diaspora, championing various facets of social issues on the celluloid.

The highly respected repertoire of creative output from the ensemble of directors at IFFK 2012 only reiterated the fact that Malayalam cinema is indeed in a league of its own coveting a hallowed place in the pantheon of Indian movie marquee that is feting its centennial year.

The bounteous bouquet of seven scintillating films strung together under the Malayalam Cinema Today section, and the two other equally erudite explorations in the IFFK Competition Section, were a true testimony that Kerala is indeed a truly cinema city throwing up new brave breed of ambitious film-makers seeking to carve a niche of their own in the field, vying with the best of breed internationally.

The Fipresci jury was indeed truly blessed to have witnessed such a rich tapestry of narrative styles, divergent and delectable thematic concerns, individualistic innovativeness in approaches to cinema aft, providing a kaleidoscopic perspective into the genres and métier of cinematic craft which the blessed blend of debutant talent and seasoned practitioners of the medium portrayed on the silver screen.

Under the Malayalam Cinema Today section you had seven sterling showpieces in Manoj Kana’s Hues of Red (Chayiliam), Colour of Sky (Akashathinte Niram) by Dr Biju, A Document of Separation (Ozhimuri) by Madhupal, Lijin Jose’s Friday, Arun Kumar Aravind’s In Recent Times (Ee Adutha Kaalath), Indian Rupee by Ranjith and K. Gopinathan’s Postscript (Ithramaathram).  

In the Competition Section you had seasoned stalwart T.V. Chandran’s Inheritors of the Earth (Bhoomiyude Avakashikal) and Joy Mathew’s taut and tense-filled thriller Shutter.
The tantalizing tableau of themes and delectable directorial that dealt with them in their individual, inimitable styles, mise-en-scene and narrative structures, not only wowed the highly informed and appreciative enthusiastic audiences that filled the theatres but also warmed the cockles of every cinephile but also the highly demanding art house aficionados who gathered to savor the best of cinemas under one ubiquitous umbrella of IFFK-2012. The mixed medley of movies that turned into the talk of the town with their powerful portrayals, excellent mastery over the medium, went on to prove that Malayalam cinema had a distinct live feel that was world class and out of the ordinary.

True to their reputations and pre-screening expectations, each of nine Malayalam film-makers were the toast of the festival. For instance, Kana whose Hues of Red won the Netpac Jury Award, was a meditative, telling and fluent work on how a widow with a son to take care of tries to fight the social traditions of turning her into a God woman much against her wishes as also her father’s. How the woman, who has lost her husband, like Ibsen’s Nora, after much rumination, turns her back on the society and walks away into the sunset to be the mother of her son, giving into her natural, maternal instinct rather than be worshipped as a Goddess, and submit to social mores, is indeed a film that sets it a class apart. Kana’s work reminds one of the late Satyajit Ray’s The Goddess (Devi (1960) and Aparna Sen’s Sati (1989) which too tackled similar concerns.

Likewise, Postscript, winner of the Fipresci Jury award, and based on Kalpatta Narayanan’s novella, is another wondrous study revolving around its female protagonist. Delectably dealt with and told with the finesse of a true master, the film fluently brings into focus how the woman has impacted the various people she has come into contact with, be it her husband, school friend, a youthful woman, and various vicissitudes of her life told in a simple, sedate fashion.

Each of the Malayalam movies showcased at the fest sparkled with individual merits of their own, even though they may not matched the high expectations of the critical eye of the discerning and demanding critics. In summary, one can truly say Malayalam cinema today not only stands at the threshold of a new era but also marks the march of a new breed of brave and creative directors who are not afraid to neither experiment nor shy of tackling themes that test their métier to the maximum.

Edited by Steven Yates