South flicks have a reputation of being senseless action/romance fests built around a star. This is not entirely false. The vast array of talent and styles that the southern film industries have is many a times ignored, while focusing only on the pot-boiler remakes that Bollywood picks up. If one looks past the usual suspects, amazing films can be uncovered.
A few years ago, when you went to watch a Malayalam film, there were always some predictable yet dearly loved aspects to it. They portrayed a typical village scene which had interesting characters with numerous layers. The films mostly revolved around the main hero, who would save the day and the village from evil capitalists. Today, we have multiple urban heroes who live the fast life, bending tradition to their will. This change is so tumultuous that it has earned itself the name ‘New Generation’. Although described in a limited manner, the term ‘New Generation’ means more than young directors and unknown actors. It’s a whole new way of looking at the film-making process. Malayalam cinema is now a medium of telling the unusual stories without relying on the pre-1990’s system of thought. Fresh faces, digital improvements, quirky dialogues, tight plots and a whole new definition of what cinema should entail is the latest trend. After a list of superstar films which flopped in theatre, these budgeted urban tales started a buzz. Exploiting the avenue of social media, these films managed to get their message across to the intended urban audiences.
Actors like Dulqar Salman, Nivin Pauly, Fahad Fazil have ditched the masculine ‘lungi’ wearing man and played bold unapologetic yet sensitive men. Films like Traffic, 22 Female Kottayam, Ohm Shanti Oshana, Neram , Bangalore Days have all managed to be successful in the box office and gain critical acclaim.
Western elements when used correctly in Indian contexts can indeed lead to brilliance. The accusation of plagiarism is always thrown at our industry, but it is much less pointed when the film turns out to be good one. A film that can ignite strong emotions and leave the audience in thought is the order of the day. With the many changes in our world view, there had to be a change in the way our movie characters walk and talk. This brings us to the perennial question of whether we make cinema or our cinema makes us? Is reality mirrored onto the silver screen or moulded with the hammer of films?
By Shreya Nair