Lost Malayalam

Ten Malayalam movies which deserved better attention.
*Qualification: 2011 and before.

I. Devadoothan (2000)
Genre: Supernatural Thriller
Director: Sibi Malayil
Cast: Mohanlal, Jayapradha and Murali

This is one of those movies for which I would desire for a time machine which could take me back in time to that period when this was released, so that I can watch this in theatres at least seven times a week. Yes, Devadoothan was ahead of its time, and it traveled too fast and too high and it had to face the fate of Icarus even with its perfectly created wings as the audience were too conservative was far behind it – the distance was too much for them and they had to let it go. Supported by beautiful scenes, moments of suspense and haunting imagery which rivals those of international quality, Devadoothan was a masterpiece which was left not understood. We do see lesser suspense thrillers and horror flicks getting better attention these days, and if this movie was released now, there would have been greatness in store, in the same box-office which had rejected it earlier. Consider all kinds of bloody nonsense that we encounter these days, and consider this awesomeness; the world is indeed unfair.

II. Vargam (2006)
Genre: Action Thriller
Director: M. Padmakumar
Cast: Prithviraj Sukumaran, Renuka Menon and Captain Raju

There are not many lists about police movies which can be completed without including this movie. It was the time when a honest cop had to take on the evil which was casting dark shadows over both the society and the system, and mostly that police officer had to be Suresh Gopi, and sometimes Mammootty or Mohanlal. It was to that established area that a less known Prithviraj had to enter, and as quite a bad cop with his own share of mistakes and sins kept in a loop. He has that rightly in his grasp right now, with Mumbai Police and Memories, but it was the time of the stereotypes which is why most of the viewers don’t know much about this cop movie. Both Prithviraj Sukumaran and Renuka Menon who were comparatively newcomers at that time, carries the movie on their shoulders with such an ease, and the presence of veteran actors like Captain Raju, Vijayaraghavan and Devan adds to the glory of the movie which didn’t get the much deserving fame.

III. Phantom (2002)
Genre: Action Comedy
Director: Biju Varkey
Cast: Mammootty, Malavika and Monica

There has been only a few good action comedies in Malayalam movie in the twenty first century, and it may be mostly because they rarely qualify as serious enough and doesn’t have the overdose of comedy thrown at the audience as if tsunami had come to the land. Phantom is one of those rare movies which managed to have this balance as it goes in the lines of the all-time favourite Kottayam Kunjachan and the earlier superhit Oru Maravathoor Kanavu. Phantom is undoubtedly better than the latter, but it didn’t seem to have got that attention which it managed to achieve. Mammootty as Phantom Pailey is once again at his best in that type of role which he always perfected. With Innocent and Lalu Alex contributing heavily to the comic side, and Manoj K. Jayan coming up with one of the best police villain roles he ever had, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this movie, and compared to the so called funny and entertaining blockbusters like Chattambinaadu, Rajamanikyam and Pokkiriraja, this one deserves to be worshipped.

IV. Sahasram (2010)
Genre: Supernatural Thriller
Director: Dr. Janardhanan
Cast: Suresh Gopi, Sandhya and Bala

I am more than just happy to include a movie in this list, which I had watched with no hopes, but was really glad about it. I did make a second visit to the theatre to watch this one, as this was a deserving flick. The movie is not the usual Malayalam thriller or ghost story that is thrown at you, as this is a supernatural investigative action thriller if it deserves to be in a specific genre. At a time when the path was too clear for the Malayalam movies, this one tried something different and so it deserves a lot of appreciation. It follows the lines of Manichitrathaazhu, the much older classic in many ways, but unlike the movie Flash which tried to imitate the same and failed, this one has a lot of ideas put into it. The whole movie is centered around the murder of one actor who is the son of a minister, and there is a lot of history to be unveiled, both of the human world as well as the supernatural, going back to the events which are hidden and buried. This is the best performance from both Sandhya and Bala, and with the addition of the cool work from Suresh Gopi, this becomes the thriller of the year.

V. Kana Kanmani (2009)
Genre: Supernatural Thriller
Director: Akku Akbar
Cast: Jayaram, Padmapriya and Baby Nivedita

There are only a few good full-time ghost stories in Malayalam, with Akasha Ganga having a higher place in the group of those which came later. This one is a remake of the same director’s previous Hindi movie in Hindi, Gauri: The Unborn. Well, the first impression that one has when looking at the poster and the name of this film is that it is that typical family entertainer of high quality which our dearest family actor have been providing us with – and there lies the problem. The families enter the theatres and get out with a bad word of mouth lingering through their tongue, and I guess that kept most of the groups from the theatre at that time and the chance of another Adyathe Kanmani led us away from the movie; thus both sides were kept away from this one. But let me tell you, this is a well thought out, well created flick with an incredibly powerful message against abortion, and a great reflection of how important a family is. There is so much of the thrill factor in this movie that even if you are evil enough to avoid its message of goodness, there is still a lot of entertainment to be found.

VI. Time (2007)
Genre: Suspense Thriller
Director: Shaji Kailas
Cast: Suresh Gopi, Vimala Raman and Padmapriya

This movie had to face that denial which was clearly biased if not anything else. Time’s failure to connect was more due to the fact that it created a world of its own, and even a philosophy which was not attachable to anybody. But the fact remains that it could have partially inspired many movies of the future including the recent hit Mumbai Police, and if someone likes that movie and degrades this one, that is pure hypocricy as this one came earlier and has a better plot structure as well as a better world with a better philosophy. Suresh Gopi plays two roles to perfection, and this is the most lovable performance that Vimala Raman has ever come up with. Padmapriya does a role of difference with so much quality. I shall not disrespect anybody’s inability to connect with a philosophy which has too much quality for this generation of intolerable evil, but this is still that movie which makes so many points, and still doesn’t preach like it could have done; thus supporting its own destruction at the box-office in more than one way.

VII. Winter (2009)
Genre: Suspense Thriller
Director: Deepu Karunakaran
Cast: Jayaram, Bhavana and T.G. Ravi

It is a shame that none of us really knew about the existence of this movie until it came on television. Where did this one disappear? Between the pathetic mindless entertainers made for the fans and fans only? My first thought would be to say yes, even I would doubt the inability of the audience of that time to tackle this thriller which doesn’t scare them with anything other than suspense and powerful elements of pervading mystery. No, that doesn’t make this one a Devadoothan, for the difference between the first movie of this list and the rest is quite high. The scare elements are there continuously, never resting, and never trailing in its attempt to be frightening. There are times when one might wonder if this is a little bit more focused on being frightening than focusing on its whole as a movie. But that can be forgiven, as Jayaram and Bhavana comes up with good performances and this should be the next best thriller casting Jayaram after Kana Kanmani. T. G. Ravi has a presence in this movie which Winter uses very well.

VIII. Lollypop (2008)
Genre: Action Comedy
Director: Shafi
Cast: Prithviraj Sukumran, Kunchako Boban and Roma

A movie which was much better the similar flick which released earlier in the form of Chocolate having three of the major leading actors as the same. But, for some worthless reason, this one didn’t do that well, and the praise was there for that movie and not for this one. Even as we can say that Chocolate’s success helped this movie a bit, that is not something which helped its later run. Its a shame that most of the people still like that movie better. This is an action comedy, and therefore, thinking that way should help realizing this movie’s significance a lot. Still, a good number of the funny lines are much remembered, just like from Chocolate. So, one can’t just deny this movie its place among the good action comedies which had gone less noticed. Just watch this movie and have some fun, instead of thinking a lot about why he didn’t do that and why she did that instead of doing something else.

IX. Mazhavillu (1998)
Genre: Romantic Drama
Director: Dinesh Babu
Cast: Kunchako Boban, Preeti Jhangiani and Vineeth

Here is one thing that I won’t deny, and it is that the movie did make itself noticed with its beautiful songs, and the songs Raavin Nilakkayal and Sivadham Sivanam still continue to be favourites. Ponnolathumbi and Pulliman Kidave have also been quite popular tracks. But it didn’t go on to continue that initial impact, and I would doubt if it will feature in the favourites list of any person, and at its best it seemed to have been an average grosser much below where it actually deserves to be. Literally translated as “The Rainbow”, the first impression that this movie makes is that of a light romantic comedy, but as the action progresses, the world gets darker until there is that unexpected sadistitc turn of events and death which might have shocked the audience considering what they were expecting with those light moments and beautiful smooth songs. As Vineeth scores as the character with two shades, as a double-sided coin, Kunchako Boban and Preeti Jhangiani leaves us with memorable performances.

X. Chandamama (1999)
Genre: Action Comedy
Director: Murali Krishnan
Cast: Kunchako Boban, Sudheesh and Sulekha

I wanted to end this list with a movie which most of you shall never agree with. Yes, here is one brainless comedy entertainer for you, but the question remains if you could have made this a superhit like C.I.D. Moosa and Meesa Madhavan? Or like those mindless action movies like Rajamanikyam, Chattambinaadu and Pokkiriraja? This is a question which each and every movie watcher should ask himself; does the presence of a crowd favourite superstar make pathetic movies any better? Does their presence automatically qualify a movie as very good? As a mindless comedy entertainer, this movie is perfect though. Well, why don’t you try movies like this one or the 2011 Malayalam movie Three Kings instead of those hopeless things like Besharam? Why would you watch movies like Sringaravelan when you have left this movie unwatched? As a movie centered around our comedy emperor Jagathi Sreekumar rather than any superstar or future superhero, this movie shall stay in this list.

Special Mention: Thacholi Varghese Chekavar (1995)

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