Compared to other film industries in India, Malayalam cinema has always maintained an excellent standard mainly due to brilliance of a handful of talented story writers and directors. As they wove celluloid magic, it raised the standards of viewers as well as the aspiring directors and writers. In this article we look at the careers of few writers who turned directors like M.T.Vasudevan Nair, Padmarajan, Lohithadas, Renjith, Renji Panicker, Srinivasan and others.
In the past we had some eminent writers from Malayalam literary world writing for Malayalam cinema. Gnanpith award winner M.T.Vasudevan Nair is eminent figure in Malayalam literature and stories and screenplays of some of the best Malayalam movies came from his pen. M.T. wrote his first screenplay in 1969 for the movie Olavum Theeravum, directed by P.N.Menon. Later in 1973 he decided to direct his own story for Nirmalyam, which went on to win a host of state and National awards. He directed few more movies (Mohiniattam,Varikuzhi, Manju, Kadavu) including one as recently as in 2000 (Oru Cheru Punchiri).
It’s interesting to note that the movies directed by MT usually wins a lots awards as well as critical acclaim whereas movies directed by other directors on stories written by MT usually perform very well in box office. Off late he’s not very active in this field. Directors are willing to give an arm or a leg to get MT’s screenplays to direct.
P.Padmarajan was a noted writer before he ventured into cinema and his first novel Nakshathrangalaey Kaaval won the Kerala Sahithya Academy award in 1972. His first venture, Peruvazhiambalam, as director and writer, in 1979 won national and state awards. After that he wrote for other directors(Kanamarayathu, Rathinirvedam, Thakara), as well as directed his stories himself (Aparan, Innale, Thoovana Thumbikal, Moonnampakkam).
He’s the one person whose movies were succesful whether he was the director or just writer. His death in 1991 coincided with the end of the best period for Malayalam cinema.
Lohithadas is another talented writer-director. His wrote the screenplay of Thaniyavarthanam in 1987 which was directed by Sibi Malayil. That team went on to create hits after hits afther that (Kireedom, Dasaratham, His Highness Abdullah, Bharatham). He wrote for other directors also, like Amaram, directed by Bharathan. In 1997 Lohithadas decided to go solo and he wrote and directed the movie Karunyam which was followed by Bhoothakkannadi (1997), Ormacheppu (1998), Kanmadam (1998), Arayannegalude Veedu (2000), Joker (2000), Soothradharan (2001), Kasthuriman (2003), Chakram (2003).
Lohithadas the director was not as succesful as Lohithadas the writer. None of the movies he directed became superhits. Some of them found average success while some of them didn’t do well. The person affected most by Lohithadas taking up director’s mantle was Sibi Malayil for his career was never the same after the breakup.
As a writer Renjith has amazing range for he has written comedies (Peruvannapurathe Viseshangal), action (Devasuram, Narasimham), emotional dramas (Maya Mayooram, Krishnagudiyil Oru Pranayakalathu), contemporary/social issues (Shubha Yatra) and that cute movie Nandanam. He had teamed up with a wide range of directors like Kamal, Sibi Malayil, and Shaji Kailas Then in 2001 he decided to direct the sequel of Devasuram, called Ravanaprabhu, by himself. Except for Ammakilikoodu he never wrote for any other director after that.
Renji Panikkar’s writing career started in 1991 with Aakasha Kottayile Sultan. In 1993 he teamed up with Shaji Kailas to create Sthlathe Pradhana Payyans. He found his true forte, contemporary political dramas and teamed up with Shaji Kailas to give explosive hit after hit (Mafia, Ekalavyan,Commissioner) and the careers of Shaji Kailas and Suresh Gopi blossomed along with that.
The last movie of Shaji-Renji was The King in 1995. They went in separate path for unknown reasons and Shaji Kailas didn’t see a hit again. Renji teamed up with Joshi to give a few hits and a huge miss (Dubai in 2001). In 2005 he came back with a bang as a director with movie Bharathchandran I.P.S revitalising the career of Suresh Gopi
Other writers who turned to direction include Srinivasan, Ranjan Pramod and Rafi-Mecartin. Some of these writer-directors didn’t find success in their new avatars. Lohithadas had a decent hit in Joker, but rest of his directorial ventures didn’t do well. Renjith tasted success in Nandanam and Ravanaprabhu, but rest of the movies he directed were average hits or flops. Rafi-Mecartin had hits in Punjabi House and Thenkasi Pattanam, but their later movies didn’t do well.
Some of them are coming back to where they started first – writing. Lohithadas is writing a screenplay for Pramod Pappan, Renjith is writing for Joshi, Rafi-Mecartin duo is writing for Shafi. So for directors like Shaji Kailas and Sibi Malayil, there might be still something left in their careers to look forward to.
It is a time of reunion in Malayalam cinema. This time it is the turn of the team behind ‘Kireedom’- one of the greatest films in Malayalam cinema history.
Mohanlal, who won a National award for his performance in the film, Sibi Malayil who shoot to fame with the film, Lohitha Das – the scriptwriter who tasted commercial success for the first time with Kireedom and the producer Unni who even came to be known as Kireedom Unni after the film’s phenomenal success, have agreed to work together on another project shortly.[Kireedom team unites again]