(As mentioned in the 1st Anniversary Post, this is a series on “What Ails Malayalam Cinema”. Unni has written a three part article on this topic. Part 2 and 3 of Unni’s article will be published this week, followed by thoughts from other bloggers. – vc)
A large number of comments have been posted in Varnachitram on the evils and malaise affecting Malayalam cinema. Here is my analysis on some of these problems
Lack of subjects and knowledgeable scriptwriters
Absence of good stories is a universal problem and not the bane of just Malayalam cinema alone.
While talking in a seminar, Sreenivasan, one of the best scriptwriters in Malayalam opined, “Everyone seems to say the problem of Malayalam cinema is the lack of a good story. To search for a good story, one just needs to look around”.
Sreenivasanâ€™s statements are substantiated by the fact that almost all his scripts and the movies he directed were very realistic and based on real life experiences, with which the audience could identify – be it a Varavelpu (Sreenivasan says he was inspired by his father who was a bus owner) or Chinthavishtayaa Shyamala – the story of a husband who refuses to take up responsibilities of his family.
Our directors and scriptwriters could probably take Sreenivasanâ€™s advice and go for realistic subjects rather than going for Superman-like people-bashing heroes that may work once or twice not more.
The “safest” approach producers and stars do is to go for a formula driven theme that has been beaten to death. Almost all directors with the exception of probably Lal Jose and Blessy opt for the formula driven movies. The producers also want them. In most cases, the public is taken for a ride with some song and dance sequence, some sentiments and some crass antics in the name of comedy. What they donâ€™t understand is that you can fool the audience once or twice but not all the time.
Having said that sometimes even experiments can go awry – Bhargavacharitham Moonnam Khandam was one such case – a comic Don – a good theme let down by the director and the rare example of a proven script-writer failing to meet the expectations.
Another possible reason is that good writers of the 80â€™s movies like MT Vasudevan Nair, Padmarajan, and Bharathan etc are either not active or alive. We now have hope through a few good scriptwriters like Blessy, James Albert, Iqbal Kuttippuram, and Benny P Nayaramblam etc
Lack of Proper Planning
One of the major reasons for higher production costs is the lack of proper planning before a film shoot starts. There are a lot of producers who want to jump the gun and get started with a film somehow without doing any proper homework. The script would not have been finalized in the first place or even the locations for that matter. Producers and directors announce movies before even finalizing the cast or crew and spend lavishly on Pooja ceremonies.
The result is more and more valuable film reels being shot and discarded as a result of improper planning. Of course there are natural factors which hamper the shooting – Monsoons, Shooting Permissions, Getting the dates of actors etc. But by and large, proper planning goes a long way in reducing the spiraling production costs.
Absence of a “B team”
In the late 70â€™s and the early 80â€™s, when stars like Nazir were at their peak, Mohan Lal and Mammotty made their debut. They fitted seamlessly into the industry because of their acting abilities and ALSO because of the excellent directors/script-writers – Padmarajan, Bharathan etc. A few years later Priyadarashan, Fazil, Joshy, Sathayan Anthikad and Kamal
also struck gold at the Box Office. More movies used to be released offering more opportunities to the stars.
Unfortunately, on both fronts we are now depraved – our cupboard of talents – barring maybe Prithviraj and Sunil, look to be bare – our best directors are well past their prime – Fazil, Sibi Malayil and Joshiey, who were at their prime some 15-20 years ago are nothing but a pale shadow of themselves – the new directors barring a few are not competent.
The few good scriptwriters (read Lohithadas) thought they were good enough to be directors and never seem to learn their lesson after repeated flops.