(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 1 and 2 were published earlier and this piece concludes Unni’s series. Next week we will continue with thoughts from other bloggers. – vc)
Wikipedia defines Item Numbers as – The “item number” features an “item girl” who appeared in the film as a dancer, usually in a bar or nightclub, and was only in the film for the length of that song.
In the late 70â€™s and 80â€™s, Malayalam movies had their share of item numbers (read cabaret) done by Silk Smitha/Anuradha/Abhilasha etc. These consisted of some scenes shot in a bar/pub with the actress dancing in
front of a smiling villain. The hero would be making some moves in the background. Sometime in the late 80â€™s, the item number syndrome subsided in Malayalam (although it continued in Tamil and elsewhere).
However this has resurfaced in Malayalam – Meghna Naidu shook a leg with a Suresh Gopi in Bada Dosth, Nayantara came for an Item Number, fought and was replaced with Sada for Janmam again with Suresh Gopi. Kalabhavan Mani did a
Sona Sona in Ben Johnson. Mohan Lal did a Thanga Nakka with Alphonsa in Narasimham.
With the exception of Alphonsa, the other imports have proved very costly to the producer. Bada Dosth is not a hit. Janmam is yet to see the light of the day.
Admittedly, Item Numbers are shot with the intent of maximum skin show to attract our Malayali audience who are well known for their affinity towards Shakeela movies. But By and large, Item Numbers donâ€™t change the fate of a movie and no sensible viewer would see a movie just to see a x-rated actress shed her clothes.
Lack of proper marketing skills
In terms of marketing, Malayalam industry continues to live in the pre-historic age. Our main mode of promotion is through colorful posters and trailers on Cable TV. Contrast with the Tamil Industry where grand events in names of promotions are conducted. Audiocassettes are released with much fan-fare.
Take the case of a film like Chithiram Pesuthadi – it was a low budget film with our own Sunil and Bhavana – virtually unknown in Tamil, at that time. The movie did not cause any noise in the Box Office. Enter producer/distributor Oscar Ravichandran – he liked what he saw – he identified that the USP of the movie was the Vala meenukku Kalyanam song rendered by Ulaganathan and picturised on a not-so-vulgar Malavika. He re-released the movie. The result – the song was played on and on in Tamil music channels -people liked the movie and it became a hit. Contrast that with what we have here – Chakkaramuthu becomes Chakkarapottan – the climaxes change – all sorts of gimmicks are done and the
movie ends up in a flop.
Lack of support from the Government
Ever since Karunanidhi became CM of Tamil Nadu, Kollywood has had huge benefits. Apart from several cost-cutting measures, the government decided to cut tax on movie titles that bore a pure Tamil Name – SJ Surya’s
BF became Anpeor Uyire. Jillindru Kaathal became Sillondru Kathal. These proved to be such a boost to the industry that now more and more people are coming to the theatres.
Contrast to our Malluwood – where the government contribution to the industry is limited to State awards.
Lack of good Malayalam literature for adaptations
Way back in 70’s and 80’s, lots of Malayalam movies were adaptations of classic literary works – Ramu Kariat’s adaptation of Thakazhi’s Chemmen is one of the best examples. There were numerous classics produced during this era that was adapted from novels. Unfortunately, the Malayalam literature being produced now is of a lesser quality than during the period of 70’s-late 80’s when veterans like Thakazhi, MT etc were at their peak