varnachitram

A Blog on Cinema

A Contrarian view

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Reader and frequent commenter George has a response to VC’s Malayalam Death watch series, we encourage other readers to let us know if you agree or disagree .

If Malayalam cinema has a death watch, then the rest of Indian cinema is very ill. Hindi simply copies Hollywood and western culture(the worst case, in my opinion). Many of the tamil and telugu movies feature superhuman “thalapathis” acting to cliched story lines. Kannada seems to simply copy Tamil and Telugu.

When filmmakers make movies simply to gain money or fame, the result is the cliched “commercial movie.” The filmmaker seems to have no real interest in the characters or the story of the movie.

In most of the movies that are considered “classic” or “very good” the filmmaker pays attention to these characteristics…Whether it is Padmarajan’s movies or entertainers like “Summer in Bethlehem” or “Thenkasipattanam”, there is an element of originality in the characters and the story or at least in the way the story is told.

Every film industry had its own “Golden Age.” In my opinion, most of the Indian film industries are far from a golden age due to the commercialization of the actual making of the film. Since I am more familiar with Indian movies, I cannot say anything about other countries…maybe they are in a similar position, I don’t know.

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19 Comments

  1. George,

    Last year only 5 Malayalam movies made money. In Hindi/Telugu/Tamil, the rate is much higher. I am not looking at the quality of the films, but success rate. If producers make money, they will make more movies and there is no need for a death watch.

  2. “When filmmakers make movies simply to gain money or fame, the result is the cliched “commercial movie.” The filmmaker seems to have no real interest in the characters or the story of the movie.”

    I would have to agree here…true indeed.

  3. It is true that the success rate in those languages is higher, and therefore there’s no need for an actual death watch. However quality – wise, the state of these industries is in bad shape, and that’s what i was referring to in my comment.

    If those low quality movies become hits, then the producers will only continue to make such movies. As a result, there is a cycle of “brain dead” movies. There is a lack of originality that is present, that’s needed for any healthy movie industry. For example, you wouldnt read a novel that is almost exactly the same as the one before. I think the same should be true for a movie.

    So, there is no problem as far as producer’s income is concerned. But these industries have been declining as far as quality is concerned, and often, they no longer have a connection with the people anymore.

  4. Do you think Hindi and Tamil are still making bad movies only? I would disagree. They still make Vijay/Salman Khan type movies a lot, among them there are superb movies like Kaathal, Subramaniyapuram, Saroja, A Wednesday, Aamir, Black Friday, Khosla ka Ghosla too. Note that this genre was totally absent in Tamil/Hindi, but are gaining steam now. So I would say those two industries are seeing a sea change in attitude in scripting as well as in viewer sensibilities. We don’t have good movies. We don’t have good sensibilities. So the death watch is apt only for Malayalam.

  5. If malayalam cinema is dead at least mohanlal can run his restaurant and Anthony can drive taxi.Mamootty can go back to high court, dileep and jayaram can do mimicry but what will Suresh Gopi do………

  6. Yes,

    I have to agree with Jibs.

    In Hindi Cinema, new filmmakers are propping up and are
    coming up with some excellent works. A sort of new movement is happening there.

  7. A interesting article by film critic Pauline Kael.
    http://www.paulrossen.com/paulinekael/whymoviesbad.html

    “Why Are Movies So Bad? Or, The Numbers”

  8. I am from Tamil Nadu. I was attracted to Malayalam movies for its originality. Alas, of late, only Vijay-type movies and group songs dominate Malayalam movies. The number of good Tamil movies is increasing over the last few years. Yet, many Tamil and Telugu films are based on Malayalam films where you can still find more original stories than any other language.

    What’s ailing Malayalam cinema? I love to see more good movies from the God’s country.

  9. “In Hindi Cinema, new filmmakers are propping up and are
    coming up with some excellent works. A sort of new movement is happening there.”

    There are good works here and there in Hindi cinema, but in my opinion, Hindi cinema has lost most of the moral values that characterizes Indian culture.

    the traditional range of Hindi cinema has been North India, the Middle East, and Africa. In the Middle East and Africa, ive read that there has been a marked decrease in the popularity of “Bollywood”, which was once preferred over Hollywood for its higher moral values – (less kissing, exposing, vulgar language, etc.) Nigeria is one example.

    But by the early – mid 2000s, Bollywood changed, as filmmakers began to copy the very culture of the west, while the culture of the vast majority of the original audience has changed to a much lesser extent. For example, the only time that i have been in North India was summer of last year. And i noticed that in the rural areas, there are posters for movies that were released a decade ago!

    I would agree that there is an increase in the quality of Tamil movies – the Vijay type movies by no means generalizes an entire industry…

    But hindi, is a different matter. I would say the industry alienates most of the people of India (its original audience) to an extent that they no longer can relate to the movie. It represents a completely foreign, and almost vulgar culture. Again, this is a generalization, but for the most part, i think this is true. There have been good movies, but the industry by no means is progressing. I would say it is losing its quality at a rapid pace.

    Take a look at this article about the globalization of hindi cinema
    http://worldroom.tamu.edu/Presentations/India/Bollywood/The%20Globalization%20of%20Bollywood….pdf

  10. George,

    The discussion started on the imminent death of malayalam cinema and on the subsequent discussions it looks like you are eager to prove why Hindi Cinema is degrading or why this is the worst film industry in India . I agree with you that Hindi cinema is not greater than any other industry , when we talked about the quality of the movies. However as like Jibs pointed out we cant ignore movies like ‘A Wednesday’, ‘Bheja Fry’ , Ghosla….’ etc – whatever small the change appears to be , that is the significant change. Yes, the major part of the Bollywood industry is still on the glamour world- (you were insisting on the vulgarity – is it only restricted to Bollywood?), but there are new promising changes. The same apply to Tamil too . However , when we come to the point of discussion on the death whistle to malayalam industry , I tend to agree to VC. Unfortunately ours is the most hopeless industry in recent times (I dont believe in comparing to Kannada industry – as they never was significant movie industry except few prominent personalities like Puttana Kanagal, Girish Kasaravalli , Girsih Karnad etc). Which was the last malayalam movie which can be said as thought provoking or show the power of the medium? On the last decade, I believe we can count these movies on our fingers .Reasons may be plenty – commercialism, star oriented movies, plain lack of talent etc etc, but matters are only going worse with the latest political-trade union drama . If this is not showing the immeinent death of the industry, then I wonder what else show it. These causes remains intact , even after we satisfy ourselves by comapring with another industry

  11. It’s true that movie industries throughout the country are facing tough times. Quality wise there are decent efforts in all the languages including malayalam. But the problem is that unlike in the other languages, we are not able to bring people to the theatres for those good movies (with the possible exception of Thirakkatha). Bollywood had one hit in the current year while there were only a couple in tamil and telugu.

    People in general are less interested in cinema. There are a lot of rehashed stuff, hollywood copycats, masala potboilers etc. Added to this there is the economic crisis (multiplexes are empty– reason why SAJ is having a 4th straight week in PVR Bangalore).

  12. Also, nowadays if people want to see a good movie all they need to do is turn on their tv to watch an old movie, with Mohanlal, Mammootty, etc in their prime.

  13. Sachin,

    I do think that a death watch is appropriate for Malayalam, and i think it is due to bad wording on my part that people have misunderstood…But what I am trying to say is that other industries are in a bad situation as well (in terms of quality and making of movies, music, etc), and that is a point that is often neglected when talking about the state of Malayalam cinema. But yes, comparing the state of Malayalam cinema to other industries does not change the situation that it is currently in.

    You have made a good point that vulgarity also applies to Tamil and Telugu as well…But, on the whole, I think Hindi cinema has been the most drastic in this vulgarity, and also in adopting western culture as its own.

    Again, I am only generalizing…Hopefully the trends in all of the industries (especially malayalam!)keep changing in a good way.

  14. Q) You wrote that 2009 would be a turning point in Cinema, so what exactly do you mean by this turning point? In what context, would we see a change hitherto unseen?

    In the sense that independent films, made by people working outside the studio system, produced by independent producers, would find themselves being released at a popular scale. For instance, January 30 saw the release of Luck By Chance, the subsequent week saw the release of Dev D., and then there were films like Delhi 6, which though a failure, can be termed an ambitious failure. Recent weeks have seen a simultaneous release of films such as Barah Aana, Firaaq and as such.

    Q) But apart from the fact that these films are independently produced, which is clearly a matter of commerce, what cinematic progress does a film like Barah Aana entail?

    There is cinematic progress as well. One has to be clear that it is relative. In a country like India, a 4 or a 5 is a development, since our cinema is a 3. We cannot think of being at 7 or 8 straightaway. The process of change would be gradual.

    interview with filmmaker Anurag Kashyap
    by the The Indian Auteur Team
    http://www.indianauteur.com/apr_21_interview_a_kashyap.php

  15. George,
    Go watch the foll hindi movies apart from the more popular hindi ones mentioned above –
    Manorama 6 feet under
    Mumbai Meri Jaan
    Sorry bhai
    Dev D
    Mukhbir
    8×10 tasveer
    Oye lucky lucky oye
    Ahista Ahista
    99
    13B
    and many more. Hindi movies are miles ahead both in content, talent, technical aspects and production values. You are probably stuck in the 1990′s when hindi movies were stuck in a bad rut.

    Not all Malayalam movies release on DVD and the ones that do, are substandard with no subtitiles either. Hindi movies are slowly moving to HD and we are still stuck with VCDs. Malayalam cinema and moviegoes are are so used to mediocrity that a simple movie with a decent screenplay like cycle is seen a great achievement and every sathyam anthikad movie is a hit. Malaylam cinema like most malayaless is still haunted by its superiority complex and hightime it realises its stuck in a bygone era.

  16. Sreejith,

    i wasnt referring to the 1990s. I was referring to the present scenario. Although i didnt see all of the movies in your list, from what I have seen, those movies are indeed very well made..however, most hindi movies today continue to portray an alien way of life and way of thinking to the majority of the Hindi speaking population…a hit such as Om Shanti Om has nothing to do with India in the 70s or today, for example

    Many hindi movies today are actually flops, not in the traditional sense of the word of production costs, but with only 30 percent attendance in the theaters. However, with tickets that sell for as high as Rs. 120, most movies are able to well cover their production costs…

    However, I must agree that hindi movies are technically superior to Malayalam.

    And it is true indeed that Malayalis have become so used to mediocre movies that a movie with a decent plot is a great achievement. Great movies can be made with great technologies…but they can definitely be made without them as well.

  17. I agree with George: Great movies can be made even without using great technologies.

    Sreejith,
    Who must be blamed for getting stuck in a bygone era? Who must be blamed for lack of good scripts in Malayalam? Who must be blamed for a talented director like Lal Jose remaking a 35 year old script by the veteran M.T. Vasudevan Nair?
    We are still waiting for M.T, Sreenivasan, Lohithadas, Dennis Joseph, Venu Nagavally and other great writers to entertain us.
    We, the new generation, are good at blaming our present. We are good at appreciating other language movies. We are good at playing with English vocabulary while writing a review for a forgettable movie. Why don’t we come up with good movie scripts?
    The 35 Rupee question is: Where have all the new-gen writers gone? Shh… Do not disturb them. They are busy finding faults in what’s happening around.

    “Be the change you want to see in the world” – Mahatma Gandhi.

  18. Great movies can be made even without using great technologies.

    I thought that was a fact.

  19. LOL….
    James, that was an intelligent catch. :)

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