This year has been a good one,with a variety of movie releases ranging from the sci-fi film ‘9’ to the survival thriller Helen and yet another scifi robot venture in Android Kunjappan. Also, the box-office success of the critically acclaimed Jallikkattu showed the changing viewing habits of the Malayali film goers. Though we had over 150 films releasing this year, only around 30 of them could be called financially successful.
And the massive success of Lucifer meant that Malayalam cinema was now able to enter newer markets post the success of Drishyam, Bangalore Days and Premam.
Here are my picks for the Top 5 Malayalam movies of 2019 :
What happens when you get trapped in a -16 °C cold storage room with no forms of communication to alert anyone outside the world? That’s the storyline of the movie, but what the director and the writer does with it, accompanied by good acting makes this survival thriller stand apart. Never was there a dull moment and the film which began as a feel-good family drama, goes onto become an edge of the seat thriller once Helen gets trapped. Also, the humane feeling to the rat and the use of it as a metaphor of much of the things to follow added a new side to the story telling. The film could stand on par with any other survival thrillers in other languages too.
- Android Kunjappan 5.25
While watching Enthiran in 2010, I was thinking will there ever be a Malayalam sci-fi movie with a robot playing a major role. And come 2019, we have Android Kunjappan. And its not the usual sci-fi movie where machines become more intelligent and try to overcome humans like in the Terminator series or in I Robot or in Enthiran, when Chitti begins to have romantic feelings for the heroine Aishwarya Rai. But here it comes with a twist. The robot here is happy doing household chores, cooking food, helping the old guy to have medicines on time and helping old people to know when the next ‘Ekadashi’ is. Kunjappan is the robotic replacement of a home nurse, the house maid and all. It also does all the work of Alexa too. And can’t forgot the scene when it goes to the temple and chants mantra and shows the picture of Ram and Sita in his heart (monitor) a la Hanuman style. Also seeing a robot grinding coconut on the ammikallu gave the heart warmness that no Chitti could ever give. Though I didn’t like the climax and the portions leading to the ending, but the joy and the insights the movie makes is enough to be put in the Top 5 list.
And not to forget the Stellar performance of Suraj Venjaranmoodu as the old guy. He carried the role with such a panache, the shaking of the head of old person, hand movements, the normal stubbornness they carry and the attachment the old people have with their belongings. And Suraj is truly having a superb year with good performances in Vikruthi, Finals and Driving License too.
It is the cinematic retelling of how Calicut (or moreover Kerala) braved the Nipah outbreak in 2018. A straightforward, detailed and humane story of how people from different walks of life come together against the deadly virus. The director and the screenwriters made sure that the movie won’t be of documentary kind, but they set it up in a investigative thriller mode with dramatic moments thrown in. Watching some scenes can be painful for the weaker heart because of the suffering and the pain people go through, but watching the movie itself was a rewarding experience. We get to know more about the people involved in it and what all experience they had to go through while overcoming the virus as well as the way the quarantine is done. Kudos to the Aashiq Abu who could have made a propaganda movie by adding a scene or two but refrained from doing so.
A Lijo Jose Pellissery marvel, which has already won accolades in film festivals (TIFF and Busan) and Lijo winning the Best Director award at 5oth IFFI (International Film Festival of India) for the second consecutive time. The movie’s story is simple as in what happens when a buffalo runs amok and the whole village joins in to catch it. What underlies the movie is man becoming a beast under testing situations. Rather delving too much into the underlining message it was fun watching the things unfolding in the screen, like the tick sound of the clock and the people going on with the daily chores, the absurdity happening on the screen when the cattle escapes, the one shot sequence when the bride’s father orders the menu for the marriage reception, the numerous single shots, the ‘well’ sequence, the climax fight part was all fun. And the closing portions showing it was all the same in the prehistoric ages too.
- Kumbalangi Nights
A movie about relationships and that too without being preachy about it. The movie flows without any hurdles and handles serious issues in a pleasant manner. Also, when was the last time in the recent past, you saw the leading character breaking down like a child, here the scene where Soubin breaks down to the doctor?Showing the leading man too is made of flesh, he repents his action and is on-course to be a changed man without any preaching or such. And the movie looks at two families one full of men headed by Saji (Soubin) and other full of women headed by Shammi (Fahadh). And the un-familyness of one whose home doesn’t even have a door and the other following a close-knit masculine patriarchy. What I loved about the film is how the writers and director was able to convey and translate it to screen as a lovely enjoyable beautiful film and this makes it on top of my list.
Honorable mentions, films which had merit but failed to make in Top 5:
A highly inspirational movie of a girl whose dreams are quashed by the pangs of toxic masculinity.
A hard-hitting story of a Police group from Kerala when they go for election duty to the Maoist area in the North.
- Thannermathan Dinangal
A funny enjoyable movie on the life of a boy going through his Class 11th and 12th.
Movies That Stood Out for its Theme or Portrayal
Kettyolanu Ente Malakha
Other Movies with Merit
And the Oscar goes to…
Kakshi Ammini Pilla
Porinju Mariam Jose
Prathi poovan kozhi
Vijay superum Pournamiyum
Movies which I couldn’t watch, but Have got Rave reviews:
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PS: A special shout out to my editor who likes to remain anonymous and doesnt want any credit. Thanks Rappunni.
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Gautham Jayan GopiKrishna