Karikkamuri Shanmughan to Bilal: Gangs of Kochi rule M-Town
KOCHI: ‘Sometimes it is good to be bad’, was the excuse given by filmmakers in the past while presenting a rough and tough gangster as the lead in a movie. The writer will cleverly justify the act and deeds of the badass hero with a dramatic flashback. Meanwhile, the new-gen films have taken the liberty of ‘not all films need to convey a social message’ and started to give a realistic portrayal of gangs and gangsters. However, the debate is always on whether glorifying the larger-than-life of the criminal and glamourising his life leave a negative influence on viewers.
“Every writer, I believe, might have faced that dilemma while penning the story of a goon or the so-called anti-hero as the central character. The moral side of the character will come under scrutiny in gangster movies. But let me ask you one thing? While narrating a tale of virtue, how can we neglect ‘vice’? It is the gravity of wickedness that glorifies the virtuous act of the hero,” said writer-filmmaker AK Sajan. Sajan’s debut movie Stop Violence (2002), scripted by AK Santhosh, is one of the widely appreciated movies in Malayalam which tells the story of gangs and organised crime. The movie has Prithviraj playing the role of Sathan, the leader of the gang nurtured by Circle Inspector Stephen.”We got the inspiration for the movie from some real-life characters.
During the late 90s and first half of 2000, the real estate sector in Kochi witnessed a boom. Many new gangs mushroomed in Kochi. To eliminate/neutralise these gangs, the police promoted or nurtured a team of goons. They infiltrated other gangs and acted as police informants,” said Sajan.
Port and airport
During the golden era of Malayalam movies, known as the golden 80s, several movies had anti-heroes as their central character. In Athirathram (1984), the central character that Mammootty played was that of Tharadas, a don. Though the character was into smuggling, it was presented in a glorified manner and hence it was well received by film buffs. The film also elevated Mammootty to superstardom. Incidentally, Mohanlal too attained superstar status by playing the character of an underworld don in Rajavinte Makan (1986).
Irupatham Noottandu (1987) Aryan (1988), Samrajyam (1990), Abhimanyu (1991), and Mafia(1993) were some of noted Malayalam movies which had underworld dons as central characters. These underworld stories mostly revolved around ports, airports or metro cities like Mumbai or Chennai.
Post-2000, following the success of movies like Stop Violence, many gangster movies which had Kochi as the backdrop were made in Malayalam. Notable characters like Karikkamuri Shanmugham (Black-2004) and Bilal (BigB-2007), both played by Mammootty, were celebrated by cine-goers.
“The sudden stream of gangster movies in Malayalam, which have Kochi as the setting, is due to a variety of reasons. Kochi becoming the film hub of Kerala is the foremost reason. The construction boom that the city has witnessed resulted in many landowners deploying a team of goons for various purposes. For scriptwriters, the uniqueness of Kochi dialect is another attractive reason,” said writer Bipin Chandran who has penned many hit movies, including Best Actor, which narrates the tale of a school teacher who reached Fort Kochi to learn about the underworld for landing a role in a film.