An adorable pet is a great addition for an intelligent filmmaker. Check out Kamal's superhit Rappakal starring Mammootty to understand how. He quickly establishes Eeswaramangalam's warm and pleasant backdrop by developing a subplot around Kuttisankaran the elephant, its mahouts and owners. In Bharatan's Malooty -- arguably Malayalam's pilot survival thriller -- Appu the puppy is instrumental in alerting the mother to the danger her child is in. Just like horror/action thrillers can be spun around man vs beast scenarios, their camaraderie can offer us heartwarming scenes if not an entire movie itself.
Malayalam cinema for obvious reasons has many elephants. Loyal dogs have also featured often on screen and some of them will be remembered for years to come. Here's a list of Mollywood's famous animals that stole their scenes and our hearts.
Arjun the German Shepherd (CID Moosa): Sahadevan and Arjun from this 2003 superhit are arguably the Malayali audience's favourite man-animal duo. Arjun, the smart police dog, resides with the family of a policeman whose son dreams of following into his dad's profession someday. The German shepherd ignites the faceoff between his master (Dileep) and the bad guys when it sniffs out a terror plot. As Dileep's Sahadevan leaves behind his shattered dream and opts for the alternate hat of a private detective, his loyal friend's services prove vital in expanding his popularity.
CID Moosa has an entire song reserved for the canine, as we see him gradually recovering from burn injuries and getting back to action. In another unique scene, pursuing a terrorist on the run, Arjun carries Dileep's hero on a skateboard like a horse pulling a chariot. The Johny Antony film even gives the cop dog a romantic partner in a female dog Julie who, in Kochunni's words, becomes a 'Jolie' (task) for others!
Sreevidya the elephant (Gajakesariyogam): This 1990 family entertainer can be summed up in one word -- cute. Watch any quarrel scene involving Innocent and KPAC Lalitha from this PG Viswambharan movie and you will agree. In one sequence, an angry Lalitha asks her husband's tutor for the Hindi word for cruel man. "Dushtt!", she shouts at her better half before marching to the kitchen.
Ayyappan Nair (Innocent), a veteran mahout, loves the jumbos so much that he will feed biscuits and fruits bought for guests waiting at home to the giant if he comes across one on the way. Now that he is retired and bored, Nair steps out to fulfil his lifelong dream - to buy an elephant. After great effort and tiring enquiries, he finally finds a female elephant affordable with the sum in hand at a circus camp that is desperate to get rid of the underperforming beast. Sadly for Ayyappan Nair, his household realises too late that Malayalam is an alien tongue for the animal, which only responds to commands in Hindi. With a bank loan to repay and a daughter to be married off, the rest of the movie is about how Nair and his Vidya sort things out.
Well backed by a fitting supporting cast including Mukesh, Jagadish, Mamukoya and Oduvil Unnikrishnan among others, Innocent delivers a memorable performance opposite his ambitious wife Madhavi (KPAC Lalitha). Gajakesariyogam too has a song starring the animal and its master. Sung by Innocent himself, 'Aanachantham' still ranks among the cutest songs of Mollywood.
Kaiser the dog (Mrugaya): Varunni is among megastar Mammootty's career-defining projects. Written by Lohithadas and directed by IV Sasi, Mrugaya tells the story of a remote village that is often haunted by man-eating leopards from the nearby jungle. Desperate and tired, the villagers hire a hunter to bring down the leopard that is preying on them. Mammootty's Varunni, a scruffy, coarse womaniser with an old country rifle, arrives unannounced by swimming across the giant river accompanied by his pet Kaiser. Church or whorehouse, the loyal friend will follow Varunni anywhere if not shooed away. Kaiser senses trouble when it matters the most, but his master makes the wrong call -- ending their journey abruptly in a heartbreaking turn of events. The 1989 movie that won Kerala State Awards for both Mammooty and IV Sasi in their respective categories is a must-watch for cinephiles.
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Pinky the goat (Aadu, Aadu 2): A tug-of-war team in Idukki wins a female goat along with the trophy as a dreaded don from Bangkok reaches there in search of a magic herb for his boss. Their destiny becomes interlinked as the goat eats the herb and now the mammal is key to all eternal fortunes that the dried plant once held.
Aadu became such a cult spoof in Malayalam that director Midhun Manuel Thomas made a sequel featuring the same crew led by Jayasurya's Shaji Pappan. In the second part released in 2017, two years after the first, the adorable Pinky has grown up and nurses many lambs of her own but still holds the key to Pappan's future. The laughter riot resumes as the once-dreaded gangster Dude (Vinayakan) gets a shot at self-resurrection -- only to meet the gang of "bloody graamavaasis'' that he loathes so much in unusual circumstances.
The bear in town (My Dear Karadi): There is a wild animal on the loose. Falling for the madness of a dullard make-up artist, two zoo staffers decide to save their jobs instead of alerting the higher authorities. So Manikantan (Kalabhavan Mani) 'suits up' as a bear and takes its place in the cage while his colleague Vasu tries to trace the missing animal. The fur stuck on him can only be taken off by a foreign remover held by the artist, who gets seriously mauled by the bear and now faints in horror at the mere mention of the animal's name. Will Manikantan manage to escape the cage in time before the beast is spotted and brought back?
My Dear Karadi (1999) is a logicless comedy of errors purely made for the purpose of making us laugh. And boy, it succeeds!
Lekshmykkutty the elephant (Pattabhishekam): The 1999 superhit is replete with sexist remarks and glorification of the Hindu elite. It even has a scene where Jayaram's protagonist beats up the young jumbo in frustration. Yet, Pattabhishekam is unavoidable on the list as the elephant calf is an important character throughout the movie. The plot picks up pace after Vishnunarayanan (Jayaram) reaches a hotel to receive Lekshmykkutty, the "daughter" of a distant uncle, who passed away naming the nephew her guardian. The "young daughter" blossoms a thousand flowers in Vishnu's heart until he sees the loud, aggressive baby tusker with an appetite for alcohol. The movie has some memorable scenes involving the man-animal trio of Jayaram, Harisree Ashokan and the calf, with the elephant race at the royal palace being the best.
Arjunan the elephant (Aanachandam): Kerala's renowned elephant lovers' forums might find this 2006 Jayaraj movie a tribute to their tribe. With a predictable storyline, Aanachandam is plain as movies come. An evil man tries to kill the local favourite Arjunan so that his jumbo can become the alpha at all temple festivals. However, the giant escapes death by a whisker, saved by Krishnan (Jayaram) under whose care it slowly gets back on its feet to become the numero uno again.
Ruby and Rony the Labradors (Anugraheethan Antony): The Prince Joy movie is well known for the superhit song Kaamini. Sunny Wayne's Antony has seven days post his demise to complete his remaining jobs before leaving the world of mortals forever. Surprisingly, Rony, one of his father's two pet dogs, is able to see him and decides to follow him around. While Rony helps the late man's lover understand why he has not returned her calls and kept his word, Antony, in turn, reunites the dog with its partner Ruby whom he had stolen in an act of retribution against their master (Siddique). The movie ends as the canines keep Antony's grieving father company and look up at the star-studded night sky.