(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, 2 and 3 were published earlier. Following articles by Jo and Raphel we end the discussion with a few concluding thoughts)
In our discussions we often mention that Malayalam cinema had a golden age and it is no more. A lot more movies used to be released and even mediocre movies used to fare decently. While there were excellent film makers and creative script writers in that era as mentioned by other writers, there is one more factor which needs to be mentioned. At that time we had only Doordarshan on TV and Cinema was a prime source of entertainment. Theatres like Thrissur Ragam was maintained in excellent condition and going there itself was an experience.
Now there are a gazillion channels on Television and that too just Malayalam. Each channel competes with each other to show “blockbuster superhits” one after the other. Besides the movies and movie and film song based programs there are back to back mega serials often starring film stars themselves. In Sanmanasullavarku Samadhanam, the story is that of a landlord trying to evacuate his own house. There is some comedy, some sentiments and beautiful songs. A vast majority of Malayalam films are such simple stories of human relations and their complexities. Now such stories of human emotions are being covered in serials, though in a quality which will make a school play look like Shakespeare.
The quality of theatres also have deteriorated. Blogger Ratheesh recently saw Notebook in Thrissur Ragam and writes
Ragam is the best theatre I have visited so far, and watching a film from Ragam used to be quite a memorable experience during my college days. If I remember correctly, the last film I watched from Ragam was Kathapurushan, in 1996, and I was excited to go to the theatre again after ten years. The queue in front of the ticket counter was very small unlike those old days when the queue used to coil several times in the parking area like a lengthy snake. When we entered the movie hall, I inhaled that good old smell of A/C, and felt like being ten years younger. However, soon I noticed that the theatre was not really in a good condition – cushions on seats were all torn, the floor was dirty, and the screen also was not maintained well. [Notebook]
Recently Suresh Gopi had a few releases like Rashtram and Pathaka in which he takes on the system single handedly. Jayaram had two movies with Rajasenan which followed a template which Rajasenan has been using from time immemorial. Sathyan Anthikkad too has his own template and so has Shaji Kailas. They make the same movies again and again and hope that we the viewers will donate the money our family members send from abroad to them. Either they are stupid or they don’t care.
A while back, Hotmail used to give a paltry 4 MB of storage and Yahoo a generous 6 MB. Then Google came along and provided a whopping 1 GB and soon Hotmail and Yahoo were running around like headless chickens trying to play catch up. For Malayali viewers, besides the TV Channels, there are options to see well made Tamil, Hindi and English movies and looking at the amount of money Dhoom and Krishh made in Kerala you get a feel for what people want. Like Yahoo! and Hotmail, our film makers need to adapt to the changing preferences of people to remain competitive.
Producers can either turn a blind eye to these facts and make losses or they can try to adapt and make movies which will bring back audience to the theatres. We cannot make a Dhoom or Krishh, but we can make a Vadakkan Veeragatha, My Dear Kuttichathan and Classmates. We need Producers who are willing to bet on new themes and discard the template screenplay. Unless that happens it will be Doom 2 for us.