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Malayalam Cinema - Its Birth and Development


The year 2012 celebrates in India the Centenary of Indian Cinema. It was a 100 years ago the first Indian film "Raja Harishchandra" was made by the métier of Indian cinema, none other than Dhundiraj Govind Phalke, better known as The Father Of Indian Cinema.Even though Indian Cinema bloomed in 1912 it took time for the movement to reach the South to hit the Malayalam screens. This article is an earnest endeavor to cobble up into a brief article the birth and development of Malayalam Cinema.

The year 2012 celebrates in India the Centenary of Indian Cinema. It was a 100 years ago the first Indian film "Raja Harishchandra" was made by the métier of Indian cinema, none other than Dhundiraj Govind Phalke, better known as The Father Of Indian Cinema. His adamant character and hardwork fulfilled his dream of having in India a Desi Film Enterprise which he made into reality with his own Phalke Film Company which later integrated with The Hindustan Film Company.

Even though Indian Cinema bloomed in 1912 it took time for the movement to reach the South to hit the Malayalam screens. This article is an earnest endeavor to cobble into a brief article the birth and development of Malayalam Cinema.

Indian Cinema even though yielded to the magical hands of Phalke the genre took its own time to creep into the Malayali lives. The main reason remained that none was aware enough to start such an endeavor in Kerala. The early Malayalam Cinema was all the creations from the Chennai based Film studios. It was only later in 1947 the first film studio of Kerala ,Udaya was established by Kunchakko in Aleppy.
The first Malayalam Film Vigathakumaran (1928) was a silent movie by J.C.Daniel who was a dentist by profession.But the economic failure of the movie discouraged him from advancing further in the industry.
The second silent film, Marthandavarma (1933) by Sunderraj based on the story by C.V.Raman Pillai would have created a ripple in the state but getting entangled in a legal embargo the second and last silent Malayalam Movie passed to the oblivion just after 2 days of exhibition. It was the 1st Indian adaptation from Literature than puranas.

1938 saw a new beginning for the Malayalam Cinema with the release of the film Balan produced by R Sunderam and directed by S Notani which was a melodramatic film that dealt with the story of 2 orphans struggling under their stepmother. The film but had a strong Tamil influence and failed picturise the true Kerala.Following the lead of Balan, many films trailed the path, namely Jnambika (19400, Prahalada (1941) Nirmala (1948). P.J.Cheriyan's Nirmala was the first film that explored the possibility and vitality of songs in Malayalam Films. With songs penned by the veteran writer, G.Shankara Kurup

The 50's brought into the field path breaking endeavors such as Jeevithanauka in 1951 directed by K.Venmbu in the form of a musical drama dealing with ego clashes in a joint family. The film was the first super hit of Malayalam and Thikkurishi Sukumaran Nair emerged as the first Super star. 1954 saw yet another path breaking endeavor, Neelakuyi that broke the naval string of Malayalam films from the Tamil influence and emerged with a story that was exclusively Kerala. It dealt with the untouchability that prevailed in Kerala. Penned by the renowned writer Uroob, the duo Directors P.Bhaskaran and Ramu Karyat made it a success and this became the first Malayalam Film to capture International Attention by winning the President's Silver Medal.

1955 witnessed an innovative venture ,The Newspaper Boy ,following the tracks of Italian Realism portraying the struggles of a boy Appu who loses his father at a very young age and takes up the job of a newspaper boy to run his family. The film directed by P.Ramdas was entirely a project by amateur college students.

1960's brought in a handful of films that captured the Malayali hearts as well as winning attention in national level. Kandam Bacha Coat (1961) became Malayalam's first full length colour film. Bhargavi Nilayam !1964) also stole the hearts of the audience . Chemmeen (1965) directed by Ramu Karyat became the first South Indian Film to pocket the President's Golden Lotus Award for the best film. Based on a novel by Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai the film brought in new technical aspects into the Malayalam film making.

Karutharathrikal in 1967 by Mahesh was the !st science fiction film in Malayalam. Oolavum Theeravum (1969) by P.N.Menon signaled the big change that was to come forth in the upcoming years.

1970's and forward experienced a seachange in the filmmaking field of Malayalam Cinema under the trained hands from the Pune Film Institute including John Abraham, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, K.R.Mohanan, K.G.George and G.S.Paniker. The changes were radical and with the setting up of the first film society under the nomenclature , Chithralekha Film Society boosted the arrival of these young talents who were impressed by the techniques of Italian and French New Wave Cinema. They utilized the maximum of the uniqueness of the language and methods of narration and mixing of the film.

Adoor Gopalakrishnan's 'Swayamvaram' (1972) pioneered the movement that ramified the techniques and excellence in the genre. Followed by M.T.Vasudevan's Nirmalyam, G.Aranvindan's Uttarayanam (1974), K.P.Kumaran's 'Adithi' !1974), P.A.Backer's communist favoring film, Kabani nadi Chuvannapol (1975), Shaji. N.Karuns Thampu !1979) Padmarajan's Swapnadanam and K.G.Geaorge's Peruvazhiyambalam later become the main proponents of the New Wave in Malayalam Cinema also called Parallel Cinema.

The 70's also witnessed the Commercial Cinema focus on the worker class class themed films from which superstars like Jayan rose. Hailed as the frist Action star of Malayalam film his short span ended with his demise in 1980 while starring in Kolilakkam.
In 1980's even though the New Wavw faced a decline excluding the contributions from Adoor Gopalakrishnan and G.Aravindan, Shaji.N.Karun triggered a whole lot of attention with his Piravi (1988) bagging awards in both national and International levels.80's saw the most from the auteur Adoor Gopalakrishnan :Elipathayam (1981) that is considered to be his magnum opus which bagged the British Film Institute Award, Mukhamukham (1984), Anantharam (1987) and Mathilukal (1989). Padayottam in 1982 by Navodaya group became India's first indigenously produced 70 mm film.

Middle Stream Cinema that incorporated in it the artistic qualities of Parallel Cinema and popular form of Commercial Cinema eclipsed the New Wave in the 80's. The movement brought in films with low quality stories yet most of them became commercial successes. Some among the notable presence were of K.G.George ( Kolangal in 1980 , Adaminte Vaariyell in 1983) Padmarajan ( Oridathoru Phayalwan in 1981, Koodevide in 1983, Namukk Paarkkan Munthiri Thoppukal in 1986, Moonnampakkam in 1988, Aparan in 1988) , Bharathan ( Lorry in 1980, Marmaram (1982), and Ormakkayi (1982) ) Lenin Rajendran ( Oppol (1980) ) . My Dear Kuttichathan by the Navodaya group in 1984 was the first 3D film. John Abraham's Amma Ariyan (1986) produced by the Odessa Collective was made by money raised from the public by filming Charlie Chaplin's The Kid.

I.V.Shashis Avalude Raavukal and T.V.Chandran's Aadipapam pioneered the trend of soft porn films that became rampant over the industry during the 90's and the 2000's. 90's and the 80's together can be called as the Golden age of Malayalam Cinema. 90's nourished by the presence of ventures like Perumthachan (1990) by Ajayan,Amaram (1991) by Bharathan Sargam (1992) by Hariharan His Highness Abdullah (1990) by Sibi Malayil, Abhayam (1991) by Santhosh Sivan, Kaattukuthira (1990) by P.G.Viswambaran, Manichithrathaazhu (1993) by Fazil Deshadanam !1997) by Jayaraj etc became the notable works of the decade. But then Malayalam Industry had to face a huge decline due to the recurrent themes of Super Star oriented films and the flooding of Soft porn films. The characters were mainly made to be larger than life replicas in every movie and gradually the decline became so severe that most of the theatres were converted to marriage halls.

The slow yet promising rise of Dileep as a star and the entry of youth actors like Jayasurya, Kunchakko Boban, Prithvi Raj, Anoop Menon, Asif Ali, Fahad Fazil etc and promising script writers like Sreenivasan and his son Vineeth Srinivasan have slowly survived the industry from its great downfall. The presence of Sequential films like Ravanaprabhu and Sethuramayyar CBI became interim successes in the genre. Meghamalhar , the film that pioneered the exemplerific movie making and the comeback of Malayalam film due to promising directors like Lal Jose , Roshan Andrews, Blessy , Anwar Rasheed brought in successes like Udayanaan Thaaram, Notebook, Classmates Pardesi, Karuthapakshikal, Arabikadha , etc.

The past 5 years have seen a great build up in the quality and quantity of Malayalam Films. This can almost be termed as the Renaissance of experimental films in Malayalam with Salim Ahmed's AAdaminte Makan Abu that marked India's first Official entry to the Academy Awards nominated in the Best Foreign Film Category.

20-20 (2008) brought in a trend of ensemble cast films and Kerala Café, the anthology film ensure a change in the conventional film making techniques of Malayalam. Films like Kuttisrank, Bhramaram, Paaleri Manikyam, pranchiyettan and The Saint, Urumi, DD Dasan std 7B, Chapakurish, Traffic, Gaddama, Pranayam, City of God, Melvilasam, Salt n Pepper, Beautiful, Ee Aduthakalath, 22 Female Kottayam, Diamond Necklace, Nidra, Rithu etc fill up the long list of experimental films that also ensured the huge box-office success in the Malayalam Film Industry and finally the Golden days are back with pride for the industry.


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