Saturday, January 9

Best Movies of 2009 - Malayalam

2009 has been a great year for Malayalam Cinema with great films with different ideas coming in, some becoming successful and some remaining as experiments alone. But the industry as a whole has started to feel a sense of revival with such good films coming our way this year. Here are 10 movies which I think should be considered as the best of the year.

1o. Rithu
Director - Shyamaprasad
Cast - Nishan, Rima Kallingal, Asif Ali, MG Sasi

Rithu was a completely different attempt from director Shyamaprasad who is known for arthouse cinema, which he usually makes by adapting literary works. But this time around, he chose to tell the tale of 3 friends who work in a software firm in Technopark, Trivandrum and their relationships. Like the caption which goes, 'Seasons change, do we?', the movie showed the change in characters during different phases of life. Nishan and Rima Kallingal came up with decent performances and Asif Ali is a promising newcomer if he does not go overboard. Music by Rahul Raj and cinematography by Shamdat were the other highlights of the movie. The movie was written by Joshua Newtonn and is one of the better films of the year. If the pace had been a little more faster, it could have created a big difference in the box office fate of the movie.

9. Neelathamara

Director - Lal Jose
Cast - Archana Kavi, Kailash, Rima Kallingal, Samvritha Sunil, Sreedevi Unni, Suresh Nair

Lal Jose and MT Vasudevan Nair coming together, was a dream combination for many. Neelathamara was Malayalam Cinema's first official remake of an earlier Malayalam film, made 30 years ago. It was a sweet and simple film told with lots of old-world charm, amazing visuals, great music and excellent performances.  The song 'Anuraga Vilochananayi' from the movie became a rage all over Kerala with its inherent sweetness and charm. Archana gave a confident performance in her debut film and had a great screen presence. Kailash is also a promising newcomer.

8. Bhagyadevatha

Director - Sathyan Anthikkad
Cast - Jayaram, Kaniha, KPAC Lalitha, Naren, Nedumudi Venu, Innocent, Venu Nagavalli

Sathyan Anthikkad gave his finest film since he began writing on his own, through Bhagyadevatha.  A refreshingly simple story, told in the backdrop of the luscious Kuttanad, this movie had Jayaram delivering yet another huge hit after Veruthe Oru Bharya. Kaniha was impressive as the demure bride. The interval point of the movie is the finest in recent times. Ilaiyaraaja's music and Venu's cinematography added much more appeal to this movie. The movie had smooth 100 day run in the cities with family audiences flooding the theatres, which is the case with every movie from brand Sathyan Anthikkad. KPAC Lalitha gave a superb performance as Jayaram's mother, which would easily feature among the year's best.

7. Loudspeaker

Director - Jayaraaj
Cast - Mammootty, Sasikumar, Gracy Singh, Jagathy Sreekumar, Salimkumar, Janardhanan

Mammootty had been going through a rough patch in his career till this film came to him. Even though this film was not a big hit, it gave a chance to the performer in Mammootty to strike back after so many of those inane movies which were made in the name of comedy. In this movie, he showed how comedy can be done without resorting to buffoonery. A completely charming performance which bowls you over with goodness, one cannot imagine anybody other than Mammootty as the simpleton Mike Philippose in this film. Media moghul Sasikumar made a comeback to the silver screen through a good character in the movie. It was the first release in Malayalam to be done in sync-sound completely, where the dialogues were recorded on the spot instead of dubbing. The movie also featured a wonderful re-rendering of the timeless classic, 'Alliyambal Kadavil' by Vijay Yesudas. Despite receiving rave reviews, this movie sadly could not become a financial success. But that doesnt deprive it from being on this list. 

6. Passengerpassenger

Director - Ranjith Shankar
Cast - Dileep, Sreenivasan, Jagathy Sreekumar, Mamta Mohandas, Nedumudi Venu, Madhu

Passenger, which released in May, was the first among the good movies of the year. The movie had a completely new treatment, something which we have never seen before in Malayalam Cinema. The movie discussed the power of the common man and the impact he can bring about, if he stands up for an issue. The movie had excellent performances from an ensemble cast. Dileep shed all his superstar image and portrayed Advocate Nandan Menon as realistically as possible. Sreenivasan as the common man made a huge impact. Mamta got the maximum screentime and showed us that she's just not another 'beauty without brains' with her excellent performance. But the best of all was the performance of Jagathy Sreekumar in a negative role as villainous minister. Cast against his stereotypical roles, Jagathy played a cruel and cunning villain with superb effect. The film had no songs and had a racy narrative which kept everyone on the edge of their seats. Ranjith Shankar shows lot of promise as a new writer-director.

5. Bhramaram

Director - Blessy
Cast - Mohanlal, Bhumika Chawla, Suresh Menon, Muralikrishnan, KPAC Lalitha, Lakshmi Goplaswami

Bhramaram boasts of the best performance of the year by an actor. Mohanlal showed us why he is the best yet again through his bravura performance as the eccentric Sivan Kutty who has lost everything in life. The movie, which can be considered as Malayalam's first road movie, was full of unexpected turns and had amazing technical work, especially by cinematographer Ajayan Vincent. The way Blessy conceived the different shots during the travelling sequences in the movie deserves special mention. Amazing locations, edge-of-the-seat thrills and Mohanlal's stunning performance make this movie one of the best of the year. Suresh Menon and Muralikrishnan also impressed with their supporting roles. Blessy came back into form after Palunku and Calcutta News which didnt rise up to his usual standards.

4. Palery Manikyam : Oru Pathirakkolapathakathinte Katha main

Director - Ranjith
Cast - Mammootty, Mythili, Shwetha Menon, Sreenivasan, T Damodaran

Ranjith adapted TP Rajeevan's famous novel for the screen through this movie which made a compelling watch. Quite unlike the usual investigative movies made in Malayalam, this movie showed the unraveling of the murder mystery step by step with the investigator, played by Mammootty, taking us through various incidents. Most of the cast consisted of rank newcomers who were selected through an acting workshop prior to the movie. Some of them gave really impressive performances. Shwetha Menon gave her career-best performance as Chiru. But it was Mammootty who gave an absolutely superlative performance in a second role as Ahmed Haji who was the highlight of the movie. As a cruel, sadistic and lecherous landlord, Mammootty delivered a stunning performance totally unexpected from him. His getup, make-up, accent and body language further added to the strength of the character. The dialogues were excellent throughout the movie and Manoj Pillai gave some of his finest frames ever. The climax was a bit of a let down, but still, this movie is certainly one of the finest this year for the sheer brilliance it maintains till the hurried climax.

3. Ividam Swargamanu

Director - Rosshan Andrrews
Cast - Mohanlal, Thilakan, Lalu Alex, Sreenivasan, Kaviyoor Ponnamma, Lakshmi Rai, Priyanka, Jagathy Sreekumar

The year came to a close on a high note with Mohanlal's Ividam Swargamanu, which gave us everything that it promised. A light-hearted family film, which dealt with a serious contemporary issue in a satirical way, this film gave back the Mohanlal of yesteryears, whom we thought we had lost. The movie has a huge star cast with a lot of amazing combinations which have always worked in the past including Mohanlal-Thilakan, Mohanlal-Sreenivasan, Mohanlal-Kaviyoor Ponnamma-Thilakan and Mohanlal- Jagathy Sreekumar. Lalu Alex gave his career-best performance as Aluva Chandy, the villain in the movie. The movie's only negative was that it moved at a very slow pace, but the brilliant climax more than made up for it. Rosshan took the risk of not including any songs in the movie because songs would have hindered the pace of the movie, which was already very slow. The movie is running successfully across movie halls now.

2. Keralavarma Pazhassiraja

Director - Hariharan
Cast - Mammootty, Sarathkumar, Manoj K Jayan, Suresh Krishna, Padmapriya, Kaniha

Such a movie can come in our industry only once in a blue moon. Made on an estimated budget of 27 Crores (supposedly), this magnum opus had the brilliant team of Hariharan, MT Vasudevan Nair and Mammootty who had earlier created the epic, Oru Vadakkan Veeragatha. This movie told the story of Pazhassiraja's guerrilla warfare against the British in the jungles of Wayanad. With excellent performances by the whole cast, good battle scenes (except for some really awkward rope-fights), great music, brilliant cinematography, extraordinary sound effects and clever marketing, this movie truly lived up to its epic proportions. It got one of the biggest openings ever in the history of Malayalam Cinema, completed 65 days and is still running successfully in many centres. Mammootty, Sarathkumar and Manoj K Jayan gave awe-inspiring performaces, out of which, Sarathkumar was the most impressive. The movie is the biggest hit of the year (even though getting back the invested money is still a big question mark) and proved that Malayalam Cinema can also make movies of such large scale and proportions.

1. Kerala Cafe

Directors - M Padmakumar, Shankar Ramakrishnan, Uday Ananthan, Shaji Kailas, Anjali Menon,
B Unnikrishnan, Shyamaprasad, Anwar Rasheed, Revathy, Lal Jose
Cast - Mammootty, Suresh Gopi, Dileep, Prithviraj, Sreenivasan, Jayasurya, Jagathy Sreekumar and many others.
Producer - Ranjith

Kerala Cafe tops this list because of the courage and dedication that all these people had, to bring about a change, a new kind of storytelling, in Malayalam Cinema. By telling 10 stories set in 10 different places, with an underlying theme of 'journey', this movie was a completely new experience for our audience. Hearing them applaud after each movie was over was indeed a great feeling. The movie brought out different facets of many popular directors, things we didnt expect out of them. Shaji Kailas made a story of extra-marital relationships, moving away from his action films; Shyamaprasad made a comedy with Suraaj Venjarammood in the lead, completely different from his art-house cinema; and Anwar Rasheed was the biggest surprise of them all, making the finest movie among the ten, and giving a whole new impact. One could not imagine that it was the same person who directed Rajamanikyam, Chotta Mumbai and Annan Thampi. Anjali Menon and Revathy made their debuts in Malayalam as directors and Malayalam Cinema got 2 female directors for the first time, through the same film. Each and every actor, including superstars like Mammootty and Suresh Gopi took some time off to be a part of this great experiment. Movies like these, restore hope in the minds of a Malayali film lover, that our industry has not totally deteriorated. We still stand a chance to bounce back. :)

The other movies of the year which would fall among the good/average categories would be - 2 Harihar Nagar, which was a superhit entertainer running to packed houses for almost 2 months; Sagar Alias Jacky Reloaded, which perhaps is the most slick and stylish movie to have come out in Malayalam, but sadly with no content at all; Ivar Vivahitharayaal, which was a decent family entertainer; Gulumaal, a comedy movie which delivered what it promised; Makante Achan, the first hit of the year which had some nice moments between the real-life father and son, Sreenivasan and Vineeth;Vairam, which was a hard hitting movie based on a true incident; a very mediocre Puthiya Mukham which turned into a big hit, due to smart marketing and packaging and Swa Le, which had a good and short concept, which was stretched to eternity and ultimately became a flop. All in all, 2009 has been a great year compared to the recent years and shows a good sign of improvement in the quality of movies that have come out. Lets hope we have better things in store for 2010.

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