Manjummel Boys to Aadujeevitham: Malayalam films are hitting it out of the park and how!

The films that have worked in the past three months are entertaining and can be enjoyed with friends and family members.
Manjummel Boys to Aadujeevitham: Malayalam films are hitting it out of the park and how!

Today, if I am envious of anyone, I would say it's Malayalam writers and actors -- SS Rajamouli.

The director of the mega blockbusters Baahubali and RRR is only half right.

Not just the writers and actors, but the entire Malayalam film industry is on a roll in 2024.

Four films have hit it out of the park in the year already -- creating new records at the box office -- even as filmmakers experiment with new themes, unexplored topics and terrains, winning critical appreciation all around.

The situation was completely different a couple of years ago.

The Malayalam industry witnessed the release of a spate of films but only a few of them turned out to be hits. Covid-19, the lack of good-quality films and the presence of OTT platforms meant the industry, like any other film industry in India, was struggling.

Then 2024 happened.

The prediction by music composer Sushin Shyam that 'Manjummel kurachu scene maattum Malayalam industrye' (Manjummel Boys will change the tide for Malayalam industry) has come true.

From Manjummel Boys to Premalu, Mammootty's Bramayugam to now 'Aadujeevitham' (Goat Life), the industry is looking brighter than ever. While Premalu and Aadujeevitham entered the Rs 100-crore club, Manjummel Boys, a film based on a real-life incident, became the first Malayalam film to enter the Rs 200-crore club.

And in this Vishu festival season, the industry is looking forward to Fahad Fasil's Aavesham, Pranav-Dhyan combo's Varshangalkku Shesham, Jai Ganesh, Maarivilin Gopurangal etc.

"The acceptance of recent films in Malayalam shows that people will choose to watch films in theatres if there are good films," says NM Badusha, film producer.

According to Siyad Kokker, film producer and exhibitor, what has helped Malayalam films to be financially successful and achieve box-office success is the change in the mindset of the people.

"Unlike before, the audience is willing to come to theatres to watch films. They have realised that the experience of watching films in theatres and on OTT platforms is different. It is the merit of these films that attracted the public. They are aware of the film, its content and quality from the trailer and promotion videos," he says.

Badusha adds that not many films are going to OTT and these platforms only take up films they believe can increase their subscriber count.

The films that have worked in the past three months are films that people think are entertaining and can be enjoyed with friends and family members.

"What we have observed after the pandemic and the mushrooming of the OTT platforms is that the audience distinguishes films that can be watched on OTT and films they believe deserve a theatrical watch. Premalu is a funny rom-com that young people want to watch together, Brahmayugam is about the atmospheric and black and white experience and Manjummel Boys is a survival thriller where music plays an important role. We are not going to get the same effect if we watch these movies on OTT," according to Sowmya Rajendran, a film critic and writer.

She adds that Blessy's Aadujeevitham has also benefited from the success of these films. "With the popularity of the novel, the landscape and the making of the movie, it deserves a theatrical experience," Sowmya emphasises.

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Earlier, Malayalees used to wait for the release of Rajinikanth's or Vijay's films to flock to theatres. With Premalu and Manjummel Boys, what we are witnessing is audience in other states waiting for the release of the Telugu or Tamil versions of Malayalam films, say industry officials.

"Usually, Malayalam films are screened only in big cities in other states. Recently, we have seen how the theatres in small towns of other states are screening Malayalam films. Similar to the theatres in Kerala, the theatres in other states were also struggling. Our films have brought people back to theatres in other states. These Malayalam films have thus helped theatres there as well," points out Kokker.

Adds Sowmya: "I think initially the plan for Premalu and Manjummel Boys was not to push these films to other states. However, these films went beyond the state. Nivin Pauly's Premam, which was released in 2015, also clicked very well in Tamil Nadu. Premalu was a small film where Malayalees explored Hyderabad. It is a youth film. That is also a factor that is drawing people from other states to watch the film. Not many movies in these genres were done in other languages. It's been a long time since we have watched such a light-hearted and well-written film."

Audience interest is unpredictable. The movies that were released recently were from different genres. Premalu is a movie about youngsters, while Manjummel Boys is a survival thriller and Bramayugam is totally different. The audience lapped it up all.

"If the making and content are good, people watch it," Sowmya says.

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The art department plays a key role. Artwork made a significant impact in 2018 - Everyone is a hero, Aadujeevitham, Manjummel Boys and Bramayugam.

"Audience is more intelligent. We cannot simply fool them by showing something on screen. We need to invest more in artwork to make it realistic. There is a compromise in the artwork. Also, in recent times, more funds have been allocated for the artwork in the industry," says Hamsa.

People come to theatres for the story and the characters, according to Sowmya.

"The art department makes a film look more realistic. It makes the film immersive. It has to convince people to be drawn to watch the film in theatres. It is only a factor in the success. Primarily people come for the story, for the characters and how well the story is told and the art department is a very integral part of it," she explains.

There is a lot of awareness about Mollywood now, says Sowmya.

"The film industry in India was earlier equated with Bollywood. That has changed. Malayalam filmmakers receive more respect. Malayalam films still don't have that big a budget that other film industries have. Because the audience in Kerala is relatively small. The strength of Malayalam cinema has been that small films have become big and that is not predictable," she adds.

The last few months have been really good for the filmmakers, producers and distributors. The trend will continue, opines Badusha.

"We wish to see all films entering the Rs 100-crore club. It also encourages the filmmakers to come up with more variety and good quality films," he says.

"The number of superhits at the beginning of 2024 hints that the golden era of Malayalam film has started. More people are now willing to come to the field. The films that are set to be released are also of good quality. The trend is set to continue," adds Siyad.

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