Malayalam filmmakers zoom in on history, myth for big-budget movies

In the pipeline are the life of Kunjali Marakkar, Kerala’s Robin Hood Kayamkulam Kochunni; the ballads of Nila — Mamankam.

Published: 04th June 2018 02:18 AM  |   Last Updated: 04th June 2018 07:10 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

KOCHI: The colour, costumes, drama and love that lace Kerala’s history and folklore have often made Malayalam filmmakers to turn to it whenever they planned wide-canvas, big-budget movies. In the past, several Vadakkan Pattu movies were made in studios, mainly Udaya, while some of the most expensive productions in the past few decades — be it Oru Vadakkan Veeragadha (1989), Kalapani (1996) or Pazhassi Raja (2009) — were based on Kerala’s history, ballads, folklore and legends. Like elsewhere, technology dictates terms in modern-day Mollywood, but history and myth continue to fascinate big-budget movie makers.

In the pipeline are the life of Kunjali Marakkar, Kerala’s Robin Hood Kayamkulam Kochunni; the ballads of Nila — Mamankam; Marthanda Varma, Kaaliyan and Nangeli’s protest against the breast tax system. Are our directors inspired by Baahubali’s success?

“Of course, Baahubali’s success has given south Indian film makers the courage that big ventures can be sold globally with the help of superb marketing. But that’s not the only reason for selecting the tale of Kunjali Marakkar for my next movie,” ace director Priyadarshan told Express.

His next venture, Marakkar: Arabikadalinte Simham starring Mohanlal, is likely to be the costliest Malayalam movie ever.“For Malayalees, wide canvas once meant Udaya-stable movies, which narrated Vadakkan Paattu tales. Later, in the ‘80s too, movies with heroes from history and folklore were made in Malayalam. However, budget constraints didn’t give them the desired technical finesse, with Oru Vadakkan Veeragadha being the only exception. Marakkar was in my mind since 1996 and, in fact, I had planned it with the late scenarist T Damodaran. Back then, our industry size was very limited and most producers weren’t ready to invest hugely in such big ventures,” said Priyadarshan.

Malayalam cinema is yet to experiment with 360-degree camera shooting and augmented reality and virtual reality, but the producers’ willingness to invest big will provide filmmakers with an opportunity to give world-class visual effects.

It will in turn give them the freedom to come up with more perfect computer generated imagery. Instead of going for plug-ins and stock footages for effects, they will be able to create 3D dynamics and stimulation, which will give sharper visuals.

“Without much technical perfection, those subjects told in the past were able to attract masses. So, what if we are planning it on a big scale? The acceptability will be high,” said director K Madhu. His movie Marthanda Varma will have Baahubali fame Rana Daggubati playing the Travancore ruler’s role.

Director Vinayan, who is planning Irulinte Naalukal, said not everyone is lured by the dynamism of historical figures. “After Baahubali’s success, there’s a trend of filmmakers going behind valiant heroes from the past, both real and fictitious ones,” he said.

“But my attempt is to portray history as such. I have noticed that not even a single film had narrated the pathetic state of women in yesteryear Kerala, who were not even allowed to cover their breasts. The GenX should know about them,” he said.

Willingness to invest big
■ Producers’ willingness to invest big provides filmmakers with an opportunity to give world-class visual effects
■ Director Vinayan said not everyone is lured by dynamism of historical figures

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