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Saturday, July 11, 2020

The good, the bad and the ugly of Malayalam cinema so far

Here is a half-yearly report on the best and worst Malayalam films of 2020 so far.

Written by Manoj Kumar R | Bengaluru | Updated: June 24, 2020 10:45:42 am
Malayalam movie Trance Fahadh Faasil starrer Trance was helmed by Anwar Rasheed.

We are halfway through 2020, and we have only had a handful of new releases, courtesy, the outbreak of coronavirus. The last three months were a total washout. And at this moment, it is nearly impossible to say when cinema halls will be allowed to re-open.

However, the fact is bad movies outnumbered the good ones in the first three months. Especially, the month of January was nothing but a punishment for cinephiles. The year began with director Midhun Manuel Thomas’ highly overrated crime thriller Anjaam Pathiraa. Midhun has a real talent in making low-brow comedy movies. But, he has no edge when it comes to writing a thriller.

Anjaam Pathiraa was supposed to be this intricate, brain-teasing movie about a case of serial killings in Kerala. The only problem is it was highly predictable and one-dimensional.

The movie takes off well. Kunchacko Boban’s Dr. Anwar Hussain, a physiologist, enters the high-security prison to meet a dreaded serial killer Ripper Ravi, played by Indrans. The meeting is set and Anwar starts recording the conversation with Ravi. Anwar asks Ravi to spare no details about his life and crime. Ravi, explaining the motivation behind his killings, gets lost in thoughts for a moment, reliving those violent crimes. He was in ecstasy just thinking about his murders. It is spine chilling. And then it goes all downhill from there. Turns out that Indrans’ realised performance in the cameo is the only high-point of the movie, which throws around Shakespearean and Da Vinci references just to sound cool. Also, the characters in Anjaam Pathiraa have this annoying habit of stating the obvious out loud, with the excitement of having found new ground-breaking information.

And then there were a couple of star vehicles. Director Siddique’s Big Brother starring Mohanlal was a lousy, dim-witted film that is not worthy of more discussion. Next up, Mammootty’s Shylock, which was a film about a flamboyant money-lender, who is a Malayali by birth and Tamilian by choice. And he is on a mission, and that mission is to make us question our life choices.

February gave the audience a much-needed break from a stream of braid-dead movies. Director Sachy’s Ayyappanum Koshiyum was a surprise package. The film has the same theme as Driving Licence, penned by Sachy. The 2019 film followed the clash between two individuals with bruised egos. But, Sachy in Ayyappanum Koshiyum was in top form as a writer. Especially, the dialogues and different social and cultural context that he places his characters in, elevates this movie on several fronts. Ayyappanum Koshiyum showed that a film made to serve a larger and broader audience doesn’t necessarily have to be a meaningless, mindless entertainer. Just when Sachy began to fully experience his potential as a writer, tragedy struck. He passed away in June following a cardiac arrest. And with him went the promise of a slew of wonderful stories.

Thankfully, Anwar Rasheed’s Trance released before the lockdown was imposed. Fahadh Faasil once again delivered. It is a sheer pleasure to see an actor, with remarkable talent, dig into a complex character. Vincent Vadakkan’s dense script was a scathing indictment of religious dogmatism that feeds off people’s fear. Anwar Rasheed beautifully imagined the film with vivid and colourful images that brought Vadakkan’s writing alive.

Forensic was made by debutant filmmakers Akhil Paul and Anas Khan. And they made the decade-old mistake of treating the audience like a six-year-old. The movie, sort of, mollycoddles the audience. Filmmakers must devise a better way to disseminate information. Akhil Paul and Anas Khan, who also wrote Forensic, use a few good techniques while revealing a few twists. But, it was not enough for a movie that half-wittedly apes western-style of narration.

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