varnachitram

A Blog on Cinema

What ails Malayalam Cinema – Part 3

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(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)

Item Numbers

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 70’s and 80’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 80’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 don’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

One Comment

  1. It is a well-written article. Sh Unni has succeeded in getting to the root of the problems and in the process slight misses, which I feel are there. May be it is my own thoughts.

    The B team was very well in the making during 2003-2004. The arrival of Prithvi paved the way for such an opening. I was very well there in Kerala during that period. The 2Ms failed miserably, and then the Shakeela wave. The movie I remember, Stop violence’ was very good for a new comer and followed up with Nandanam, Nammal(Kamal-Vishnu), Vellithira (which opened very big, we had to get it booked two days in advance in Kavita) etc. Most of his earlier movies run for 50 days minimum in Ernakulam. But, then realizing the potential danger, the film world led by the super stars woke up and did everything possible to project him as an actor who is having poor skills, head weight etc. The print media supported very well, publishing endless articles against him. Many of the film weekly’s made strongly biased articles, depicting the youngsters are nemesis and clubbing Prithvi along with the likes of small time guys like Sidarth, Vishnu etc. It was a deliberate attempt to reduce his importance. Unfortunately the public who is generally media maniac fell and with it started the complete domination of the 2Ms.
    The media outside Kerala published articles on this Mallu Phenomenon, of depending on Aged stars and the near empty chances of Young heroines, who fled to Tamil or Telugu. Where they will act, where Bhavana, Navya, Meera, will fit in to, they can act the most as heroines of Dileep or Prithvi, no one else. This unfortunate situation is our own making. We, public especially youth develop an envy factor against any Younger actor, which is the reason no youngster was accepted by Keralite in its history, but with lots of struggle. This never happens anywhere. What is the problem with our Keralites and the Mallu media? Is it their mind-set? A man like Dileep who is over 38 year old is still considered as Young super star!!. I just made these points only to highlight the reason for lack of any support team is the making of vested interests. Why big directors are not coming to make movies with Youngsters. If they are confident they can make it. But I feel all the Big Directors are either do not want to antagonize the Super Stars or have no self-confidence at all. Shaji, Blessy, Joshy are proving again and again. Joshy made in fact some of the huge flops of 2006. Blessy ended up visiting all channels to promote his movie, which become a monotonous masterpiece.

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