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Malayalam film

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Title: Malayalam film  
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Subject: Mayabazar, Madhoo, Hariharan (director), Baba Kalyani, Lal Salam, Harisree Ashokan, Vargam, Nandanam, List of Malayalam films of the 1970s, Sangeeth Sivan
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Malayalam film

"Mollywood" redirects here. For other uses, see Mollywood (disambiguation).

Malayalam cinema is the Indian film industry based in Kerala, India, dedicated to the production of motion pictures in the Malayalam language.

At first (beginning in the 1920s), the Malayalam film industry was based in Trivandrum. Although the film industry started to develop and flourish only by the late-1940s. Later, the industry shifted to Chennai (formerly Madras), which then was the capital of the South Indian film industry. By the end of 1980s, the Malayalam film industry returned and established itself in Kerala.[1] Several media sources[2][3] describe Kochi as the hub of the film industry, while the Kerala government publications[4] and government sponsored Kinfra organisation[5] states Thiruvananthapuram is the centre.

The first 3D film produced in India, My Dear Kuttichathan (1984), was made in Malayalam.[6] The first CinemaScope film produced in Malayalam was Thacholi Ambu (1978).[7] The world's first film with just one actor in the star cast was the Malayalam film The Guard (2001).[8][9]

Rajiv Anchal's Guru (1997) and Salim Ahamed's Adaminte Makan Abu (2011) are the only Malayalam films to be sent by India as its official entry for the Best Foreign Language Film category at the Academy Awards. Films such as Piravi, Swaham, Marana Simhasanam, Chemmeen, Mathilukal and Vanaprastham were also screened and won awards at several international film festivals.

History of Malayalam cinema

Active Malayalam film production did not take place until the second half of the 20th century: there were only two silent films, and three Malayalam-language films before 1947.The film industry is also known as mollywood.[10][11] With support from the Kerala state government production climbed from around 6 a year in the 1950s, through 30 a year in the 60s, 40 a year in the 70s, to 127 films in the year 1980.[10]

Origins (1907-1950)

The first cinema hall in Kerala, with a manually operated film projector, was opened in Thrissur by Jose Kattookkaran in 1907. In 1913, the first permanent theatre in Kerala was established in Ollur, Thrissur city by Jose and was called the Jose Electrical Bioscope now known as Jose Theatre in Thrissur city.[12][13][14] The first film to be made in Malayalam was Vigathakumaran. Production started in 1928, and it was released in Trivandrum Capitol Theatre on 23 October 1930. It was produced and directed by J. C. Daniel, a businessman with no prior film experience, who is credited as the father of Malayalam cinema.[15] Daniel founded the first film studio, The Travancore National Pictures Limited, in Kerala.[15] A second film, Marthanda Varma, based on a novel by C. V. Raman Pillai, was produced by R. Sundar Raj in 1933. However, after only being shown for four days, the film prints were confiscated due to a legal battle over copyright.[15]

The first talkie in Malayalam was Balan, released in 1938. It was directed by S. Nottani with a screenplay and songs written by Muthukulam Raghavan Pillai. It was produced at Chennai (then Madras) in the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu. Balan was followed by Gnanambika in 1940 which was directed by S. Notani. Then came Prahlada in 1941 directed by K. Subramoniam of Madras and featuring Guru Gopinath and Thankamani Gopinath. Until 1947 Malayalam films were made by Tamil producers. Artist P. J. Cherian was the first Malayali producer to venture into this field and the trend then changed. He Produced Nirmala in 1948 with Joseph Cherian, Baby Joseph his son and daughter-in-law in the lead roles as hero and heroin; and many other family members in other roles breaking the taboo that noble family people do not take up acting. Thus 'Nirmala' became the first film produced by a Malayali setting many firsts for introducing play-back singing, cinema with a social theme where the entire family could sit together and watch it. Artist P.J. Cherian was the first cinema producer to explore the possibility of music and songs in cinema; and thus became the pioneer to introduce play-back singing in cinema. The lyrics of the film penned by the legendary Malayalam poet G.Shankara Kurup became so popular that song-dance sequences became essential ingredients of Malayalam cinema. Vellinakshatram (1949) was the first movie to be made in Kerala and it took shape at the Udaya Studios at Alleppey.


Malayalam cinema has always taken its themes from relevant social issues and has been interwoven with material from literature, drama, and politics since its inception. One such film, Jeevitha Nouka (1951), was a musical drama which spoke about the problems in a joint family. This movie became very popular and was probably the first "super hit" of Malayalam cinema. However, this movie's success was bittersweet. Although its success accelerated Malayalam movie-making, films that were produced after Jeevitha Nouka closely mimicked its structure, hoping to find some sort of "success formula", thus hampering creativity for a long time. Nevertheless, this time was hailed as "the period of giants" in Malayalam film industry, due to the work of film stars Thikkurissy Sukumaran Nair, Sathyan, Kottarakkara Sreedharan Nair and Prem Nazir.

In 1954, the film Neelakuyil captured national interest by winning the President's silver medal. Scripted by the well-known Malayalam novelist Uroob, and directed by P. Bhaskaran and Ramu Kariat, it is often considered the first authentic Malayali film. Another notable production was Newspaper Boy (1955), which contained elements of Italian neorealism. This film is notable as the product of a group of amateur college filmmakers. It told the story of a printing press employee and his family being stricken with extreme poverty. The music took a turn away from the trend of copying Tamil and Hindi song. The poets Tirunainaarkurichy Madhavan Nair - Thirunaiyarkurichy, P Bhaskaran, ONV kurup, VR varma, rose up in this period as film lyricists. Brother Lakshmanan, Dakshinamurty, K Raghavan, Paravoor devarajan, MS Baburaj, Pukhenthey Velappan Nair etc. started a distinct style Malayalam music. Kamukara Purushotamman, Mehboob, Kozhikode Abdul Kader, AM Raja, Sreenivas, KP Udayabhanu, Shanta P Nair, Leela, Janaki, Shusheela, Vasantha, Renuka, Jikki etc. were the Singer from the 50s. The drama artist and school teacher Muthukulam Ragavhan Pilla lend many of his skills to cinema in this period.


Ramu Kariat, one of the directors of Neelakkuyil (the other was P. Bhaskaran), went on to become a successful director in the 1960s and 1970s. P. Bhaskaran directed many acclaimed and hit films in the 1960s and 70s. The cameraman of Neelakkuyil, A. Vincent, also became a noted director of the 1960s and 1970s. Notable films of this decade include Odayil Ninnu, Bhargavi Nilayam (1964), Chemmeen (1965), Murappennu (1965) and Iruttinte Athmavu (1966). The era of colour films came to Malayalam cinema with its first colour film, Kandam Bacha Coat (1961). Chemmeen (1965), directed by Ramu Kariat and based on a story by Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai, went on to become immensely popular, and became the first Malayalam film to win the National Film Award for Best Feature Film. Most of the films of the 60s were animated by the nationalist and socialist projects, and centred on issues relating to caste and class exploitation, the fight against obscurantist beliefs, the degeneration of the feudal class, and the breakup of the joint-family system.[16] In 1960s M Krishnan Nair, Kunchacko and Subramanyam were the leading malayalee producers.

During the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, Kunchacko made significant contributions to Malayalam cinema, both as a producer and as director of some notable Malayalam movies. He started Udaya Studios in Alleppey (Alappuzha) in 1947, reducing the travel to Madras (Chennai) for film crew and actors. This boosted Malayalam film production in Kerala. Many directors sprang up in this period, PN Menon made 'rosy'and later 'Chemparanthi', then Aravindan and Adoor too started work in 1960s to became famous later. Arguably M Krishnan Nair was a the most prominent director producer of this period.


The 70s saw the emergence of a new wave of cinema in Malayalam. The growth of the film society movement in Kerala introduced the works of the French and Italian New Wave directors to the discerning Malayali film enthusiasts. Adoor Gopalakrishnan's first film, Swayamvaram (1972), brought Malayalam cinema to the international film arena. In 1973 M. T. Vasudevan Nair who was by then recognized as an important author in Malayalam, directed his first film Nirmalyam, which won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film. G. Aravindan followed Adoor's lead with his Uttarayanam in 1974. K. P. Kumaran's Adhithi (1974) was another film which was acclaimed by the critics. Cinematographers who won the National Award for their work on Malayalam films in the 1970s were Mankada Ravi Varma for Swayamvaram (1972), P. S. Nivas for Mohiniyattam (1977), and Shaji N. Karun for Thampu (1979). John Abraham, K. R. Mohanan, K. G. George, and G. S. Panikkar were products of the Pune Film Institute who made significant contributions.

During the late 1970s, some young artists started seeing Malayalam cinema as a medium of expression and thought of it as a tool to revitalize society. A noted director, Aravindan was famous in Kerala as a cartoonist before he started making films. His important movies include Kanchana Sita (1977), Thampu (1978), Kummatty (1979), Chidambaram (1985), Oridathu (1986), and Vasthuhara (1990). 1970s also saw the emergence of a notable director P. G. Viswambharan with his debut film Ozhukinethire and mythical film Sathyavan Savithri from the same director, which was well accepted. Also, commercial cinema in this period saw several workerclass themed films which mostly had M. G. Soman and Sukumaran in the lead followed by the emergence of a new genre of pure action themed films, in a movement led by action star Jayan who is usually considered the first genuine commercial superstar of Malayalam cinema. But this was short-lived, and almost ended with Jayan's untimely death while performing a stunt in a film called Kolilakkam (1980).


Adoor Gopalakrishnan made Elippathayam in 1981. This movie was widely acclaimed and won the British Film Institute award. I. V. Sasi the path breaker who has directed more than 131 odd films over a span of 34 years made Kanamarayathu (1984). Padmarajan made his early works in this period including the movie Koodevide (1983).

Golden age of Malayalam cinema

Most critics and audiences[17] consider the period from the late 1980s to early 1990s as the golden age of Malayalam cinema. The Malayalam cinema of this period was characterised by detailed screenplays dealing with everyday life with a lucid narration of plot intermingling with humour and melancholy. This was aided by brilliant cinematography and lighting. The films are also remembered for their warm background music by composers like Johnson, as in the motion picture Namukku Parkkan Munthiri Thoppukal (1986) by Padmarajan. Mohanlal established himself as the Super star of Malayalam cinema of all time. His movies like Rajavinte Makan, Spadikam, Thoovanathumbikal brought him critical accolades along with the stardom. Mammootty's had some of his noted movies making him one of the most successful leading actors of Malayalam film industry and superstardom like Yathra, Nirakkoottu, New Delhi and Oru Vadakkan Veeragatha during this period. This era also uncovered acting talents like Nedumudi Venu, Gopi, Thilakan in many movies which changed the course of narrative styles hitherto followed in Malayalam Cinema.

K. G. George had some of his critically acclaimed and commercially successful movies like Yavanika, Adaminte Vaariyellu during this decade. This was the period during which acclaimed litterateur and script writer M. T. Vasudevan Nair started teaming up with director Hariharan to produce some of the evergreen works like Panchagni, Nakhakshathangal, Aranyakam, Oru Vadakkan Veeragatha etc.

Many of the movies released during this time narrowed the gap between art cinema and commercial cinema in the Malayalam film industry. John Abraham continued to tread an unbeaten path of making movies like Amma Ariyaan on people's issues by raising the finance directly from people. Fazil was another noted director who had his significant movies in this era. The decade also saw significant number of movies with female characters becoming important or even central. This facilitated the discovery of some of the best female actors of the Malayalam Cinema like Shobhana, Seema, Urvashi, Suhasini, Geetha and Revathi.

The period had an abundance of movies rich in creative humours from directors like Priyadarshan, Sathyan Anthikkad, Kamal and Siddique-Lal. The internationally acclaimed [according to whom?] Piravi (1989) by Shaji N. Karun was the first Malayalam film to win the Caméra d'Or-Mention at the Cannes Film Festival. Other notable contributions of this period include His Highness Abdullah (1990) directed by Sibi Malayil, Spadikam (1997) directed by Bhadran, Abhayam (1991) directed by Santosh Sivan, and the motion picture Daisy (1988) an expressive depiction of separation and longing set in a boarding school, directed by Prathap K. Pothan.


Some examples are Mathilukal (1990) directed by Adoor Gopalakrishnan,Kattu Kuthira (1990) directed by P. G. Viswambharan, Bharatham (1991) by Sibi Malayil, Ulladakkam (1992) directed by Kamal, Kilukkam (1991) directed by Priyadarshan, Kamaladalam (1992) by Sibi Malayil, Vidheyan (1993) by Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Devaasuram (1993) by I. V. Sasi, Manichithrathazhu (1993) by Fazil, Ponthan Mada (1993) by T. V. Chandran, and Desadanam (1997) by Jayaraaj. Swaham (1994), directed by Shaji N. Karun, was the first Malayalam film entry for the competition in the Cannes International Film Festival, where it was a nominee for the Palme d'Or. Murali Nair's Marana Simhasanam later won the Caméra d'Or at the 1999 Cannes Film Festival.[18] Guru (1997) directed by Rajiv Anchal was chosen as India's official entry to the Oscars to be considered for nomination in the Best Foreign Film category for that year, making it the first film in Malayalam to be chosen for Oscar nomination.


Slapstick comedy was the predominant theme in the films of this era. C.I.D. Moosa (2003) by Johny Antony, Meesa Madhavan (2002) by Lal Jose and Kunjikoonan (2002) directed by Sasi Shanker are examples. Sequels to a number of successful films were made. There were some movies which were examples of exemplary film making like Meghamalhar, Madhuranombarakaattu, Nandanam, Perumazhakkalam, Kazhcha etc. In 2008, Malayalam movie artists came together in a multistar film Twenty:20 to raise funds for the AMMA.[19]


After several years of quality deterioration, Malayalam films saw the signs of resurgence post-2010 with the release of several experimental films (known as New Generation Films[20]), mostly from new directors.

Salim Ahamed's Adaminte Makan Abu was chosen as India's official entry to the Academy Awards to be considered for nomination in the Best Foreign Film category for the year 2011. Christian Brothers (2011) was released worldwide with a total of 310 prints on 18 March; 154 centres in Kerala and 90 centres outside Kerala and 80 centres overseas making it the widest release for a Malayalam Movie.[21]

Pioneering film-making techniques

Malayalam films cater to people living in the South Indian state of Kerala and emigrants from it. The total population of Malayalees is around 4 crore (40 million).[22] Despite the apparent budget constraints, Malayalam cinema has pioneered technical, thematic and production techniques among films in India and South India.

Notable personalities


Malayalam cinema boasts many brilliant film directors, starting with J. C. Daniel, the director and producer of the first Malayalam film, Vigathakumaran (1928). Unlike other Indian films at that time, most of which were films based on the puranas, he chose to base his film on a social theme.[28] Though the film failed commercially, he paved way for the Malayalam film industry and is widely considered the father of Malayalam cinema. Till the 1950s, Malayalam film didn't see many talented film directors. The milestone film Neelakkuyil (1954), directed by Ramu Karyat and P. Bhaskaran, shed a lot of limelight over its directors.[23] Ramu Karyat went on to become a celebrated director in the 1960s and 1970s. P. Bhaskaran also directed a few acclaimed films in the 1960s. The cameraman of Neelakkuyil, A. Vincent, also became a noted director of the 1960s and 1970s.[29] Another noted director of the 1950s was P. Ramadas, the director of the neorealistic film Newspaper Boy (1955).

In the 1970s, the Malayalam film industry saw the rise of film societies. It triggered a new genre of films known as "parallel cinema". The main driving forces of the movement, who gave priority to serious cinema, were Adoor Gopalakrishnan and G. Aravindan. People like John Abraham and P. A. Backer gave a new dimension to Malayalam cinema through their political themes. The later 1970s witnessed the emergence of another stream of Malayalam films, known as "middle-stream cinema", which seamlessly integrated the seriousness of the parallel cinema and the popularity of the mainstream cinema. Most of the films belonging to this stream were directed by PN Menon, I. V. Sasi, P. G. Viswambharan, K. G. George, Bharathan and Padmarajan.[30]

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, a period widely regarded as the Golden Age of Malayalam cinema, a new array of directors joined the stalwarts who had already made a mark in the industry. The Golden Age saw the narrowing of the gap between the different streams of the industry.[23] Directors like K. G. George, Priyadarshan, I. V. Sasi, John Abraham, Fazil, Joshy, Bhadran, P. G. Viswambharan, Kamal, Sibi Malayil, Hariharan, Sathyan Anthikkad, K. Madhu and Siddique-Lal contributed heavily in the Golden Age. Then there were extraordinary screenwriters like M. T. Vasudevan Nair, T. Damodaran, A. K. Lohithadas and Sreenivasan who contributed their part as well.

The 2000s witnessed the decline of quality of Malayalam films. Many directors who excelled in the Golden Age struggled as many of their films continuously failed critically and commercially. As a result the gap between parallel cinema (now known as art cinema) and mainstream cinema (now known as commercial cinema) widened. The 2000s also saw a commercial film formula being created in line with Tamil and Bollywood films. Directors like Shaji Kailas, Rafi Mecartin and Anwar Rasheed directed blockbusters which had few artistic merits to boast of. Despite the overall decline, some directors stood apart and made quality cinema. Shaji N. Karun, Lenin Rajendran, Shyama Prasad and Jayaraj made films that won laurels. Notable directors who debuted in this time include Blessy, Lal Jose, R. Sharath, Renjith, Roshan Andrews, Amal Neerad, Aashiq Abu, Vineeth Sreenivasan and Lijo Jose Pellissery.

Malayalam film directors have made their mark in the national level as well. Out of the 40 National Film Awards for Best Director given away till 2007, Malayalam directors have pocketed 12, trailed only by Bengali (14 awards). The directors who have won the prestigious award are Adoor Gopalakrishnan (1973, 1985, 1988, 1990, 2007), G. Aravindan (1978, 1979, 1987), Shaji N. Karun (1989), T. V. Chandran (1994), Jayaraj (1998) and Rajivnath (1999). There are several recipients of the Special Jury Award as well: Mankada Ravi Varma (1984), John Abraham (1987), Shaji N. Karun (1995) and Pradeep Nair (2005).


Lead actors

A lead actor is called as a superstar when that person has become a driving force at the box office. Just like other Indian film industries, there are no clear-cut guidelines for decorating an actor as superstar, and this designation is almost always bestowed by the media after an actor proves to be a champion at the box office.

Thikkurissy Sukumaran Nair was the first person in the Malayalam film history to be called a superstar,[23] following the tremendous success of his second film Jeevithanauka (1951), which is touted as the first superhit of Malayalam cinema. Later Prem Nazir, Sathyan, Madhu, Jayan, M. G. Soman, Sukumaran,and Shankar came to be called superstars. Prem Nazir and Sathyan formed a bipolar industry in which a considerable number of films made in Malayalam in the later 1960s and almost the whole of 1970s starred one of them, until the rise of Jayan. Curiously, the trend was continued in the next era as well, with Mammootty & Mohanlal being established as superstars in the 1980s. Dileep and Kunchacko Boban rises to superstar status. 2000s and early 2010s. As with most of the other Indian film industries, the Malayalam film industry is driven by male actors. None of the female actors who have been part of the industry have come to be known as superstars, though there have been immensely popular stars like Miss Kumari, Sharada, Sheela, Jayabharathi, Vidhubala, Srividya, Shobhana, Revathi, Urvashi, Manju Warrier, Samyuktha Varma, Kavya Madhavan and Meera Jasmine.

Many actors have brought laurels to Malayalam films with their performances. As of 2011, Malayalam film actors have won 13 out of the 47 National Film Awards for Best Actor ever given away, including two occasions of double awardees. 13 is the second highest number of award wins by a film industry trailed only by Hindi (19 awards). The Malayalam film actors who have won the award are P. J. Antony (1974), Gopi (1978), Balan K. Nair (1981), Premji (1988), Mammootty (1989, 1993, 1999), Mohanlal (1991, 2000), Suresh Gopi (1998), Balachandra Menon (1998), Murali (2002) and Salim Kumar (2011). Additionally, Malayalam film actors have won several Special Jury Awards as well: Mohanlal (1990), Kalabhavan Mani (2000), Nedumudi Venu (2004), Thilakan (2007).

Malayalam female actors are not far behind. As of 2007, they have won the National Film Award for Best Actress 7 times. The winners are Sharada (1969, 1973, 1979), Monisha (1987), Shobana (1994, 2002) and Meera Jasmine (2004). The actresses to win the Special Jury Award are Jomol (1998), Manju Warrier (1999) and Jyothirmayi (2003). Sharada did win another award in 1979 for the Telugu film Nimajjan; so did Shobana in 2002 for the Indian made English language film Mitr, My Friend.

Notable current Lead actors include Mammootty, Mohanlal, Dileep, Kunchacko Boban, Prithviraj Sukumaran and Dulquer Salman.

Supporting Roles

In the early times of Malayalam cinema, supporting roles, though mostly donned by established theatre artists, did not have any noted supporting actors. In the 1960s and 1970s several supporting actors like Kottarakkara Sreedharan Nair, Adoor Bhasi, Bahadoor, Balan K. Nair, Adoor Bhavani and Aranmula Ponnamma came into the scene. Most of them went on to have lifelong careers. In the 1980s and 1990s many more joined them, notably Thilakan, Nedumudi Venu, Jagathy Sreekumar, Oduvil Unnikrishnan, Biju Menon, Vijayaraghavan, Innocent, Siddique, Jagadish, Kuthiravattam Pappu, Manoj K. Jayan, Murali, Narendra Prasad, Rajan P. Dev, Sukumari, K. P. A. C. Lalitha and Bindu Panicker. Some of them had short careers with title roles as well.

Despite the presence of a number of talented actors, Malayalam films have only won 2 out of the 24 National Film Awards for Best Supporting Actor so far given away, as of 2007. Thilakan (1988) and Nedumudi Venu (1991) are the only actors to win the award. The same is not the case with female actors. They have won 7 out the 24 National Film Awards for Best Supporting Actress given away, trailed only by Hindi (10 awards). The winners are K. P. A. C. Lalitha (1991, 2001), Santha Devi (1992), Aranmula Ponnamma (1996), Sheela (2005) Urvashi (2006) and Kalpana(2012).

Film music

Film music, which refers to playback singing in the context of Indian music, forms the most important canon of popular music in India. The film music of Kerala in particular is the most popular form of music in the state.[31] Before Malayalam cinema and Malayalam film music developed, the Keralites eagerly followed Tamil and Hindi film songs, and that habit has stayed with them till now. The history of Malayalam film songs begins with the 1948 film Nirmala. The film's music director was P. S. Divakar, and the songs were sung by P. Leela, T. K. Govinda Rao, Vasudeva Kurup, C. K. Raghavan, Sarojini Menon and Vimala B. Varma, who is credited as the first playback singer of Malayalam cinema.[32]

The main trend in the early years was to use the tune of hit Hindi or Tamil songs in Malayalam songs. This trend changed in the early 1950s with the arrival of a number of poets and musicians to the Malayalam music scene. People who stormed into the Malayalam film music industry in the 1950s include musicians like V. Dakshinamurthy (1950), K. Raghavan (1954), Brother Laxmanan, G. Devarajan (1955) and M.S. Babu Raj (1957) and lyricists like P. Bhaskaran (1950), Tirunainarkurichy Madhavan Nair, O. N. V. Kurup (1955) and Vayalar Rama Varma (1956). They are attributed with shaping Malayalam film music stream and giving it its own identity.[33] Major playback singers of that time were Kamukara Purushothaman, K. P. Udayabhanu, A. M. Raja, P. Leela, Santha P. Nair, P. Susheela, P. Madhuri and S. Janaki. Many of this singers like A. M. Raja, P. Susheela, Madhuri and Janaki were not Malayalis and their pronunciation was not perfect. Despite that, these singers got high popularity throughout Kerala. In the later years many non-Malayalis like Manna Dey, Talat Mahmood, Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle and S. P. Balasubrahmanyam sang for Malayalam films. This trend was also found among music directors to an extent, with outside musicians like Naushad Ali, Usha Khanna, M. B. Sreenivasan, Bombay Ravi, Shyam, Bappi Lahiri, Laxmikant-Pyarelal, Salil Chowdhury, Ilaiyaraaja, Vishal Bharadwaj and A. R. Rahman scoring music for Malayalam films.[33] This can be attributed to the fact that film music in South India had a parallel growth pattern with so many instances of cross-industry contributions.

K. J. Yesudas, who debuted in 1961, virtually revolutionised the Malayalam film music industry and became the most popular Malayalam singer ever. Vayalar, G. Devarajan and Yesudas trio also made unforgettable songs like the earlier trio of Kamukara, Tirunainaarkurichy & Brother Laxmanan. Yesudas became equally popular with classical music audience and people who patronised film music.[34] He along with P. Jayachandran gave a major facelift to Malayalam playback singing in the 1960s and 1970s. K. S. Chithra, who debuted in 1979.By the mid-eighties, she became the most sought after female singer in South India. Malayalam film music also received heavy contributions from composers and musicians like Johnson, M. B. Sreenivasan, Pukezhenty Vellappan Nair, MS Vishwanathan, Kannur rajan, Shyam, M. G. Radhakrishnan, Raveendran, S. P. Venkatesh, Mohan Sithara, Ouseppachan and Vidyasagar, lyricists like Sreekumaran Thampi, Yusuf Ali Kechery, Bichu T, Rameshan Nair, Papanamcode Laxmanan, Chyrinkil M Nair, Baharanikavu Shivakumar and Kaithapram Damodaran Namboodiri, and singers like M. G. Sreekumar, G. Venugopal and Sujatha Mohan. A notable aspect in the later years was the extensive of classical carnatic music in many film songs of the later 1980s and early 1990s. Interestingly, that particular period is also considered as the peak time for Malayalam cinema itself and is quite widely known as the Golden Age of Malayalam cinema,[33] a period in which the difference between art films and popular films was least felt. Similarly, classical carnatic music was heavily used in several popular film songs, most notably those in films like Chithram (1988), His Highness Abdullah (1990), Bharatham (1991), Sargam (1992) and Sopanam (1993).

At present, the major players in the scene are young musicians like Rahul Raj, Alphonse, Gopi Sundar, Jassie Gift, Deepak Dev, and Biji Pal, lyricists Rafeeq Ahmed, Vayalar Sarath and Anil Panachooran, and singers Madhu Balakrishnan, Afsal, Shewtha, Manjari and Jyotsna Radhakrishnan, along with stalwarts in the field.

Young composers like Rahul Raj and Gopi Sundar are not only known for their catchy tunes, but also known for bringing in a lot of electronics, digital sound and a variety of genres in Malayalam film songs.[35]

The National Award-winning music directors of Malayalam cinema are Johnson (1994, 1995), Bombay Ravi (1995), Ouseppachan (2008), Ilaiyaraaja (2010) and Issak Thomas Kottakapally (2011). Till 2009, the 1995 National Award that Johnson received for the film score of Sukrutham (1994) was the only instance in the history of the award in which the awardee composed the film soundtrack rather than its songs. He shared that award with Bombay Ravi, who received the award for composing songs for the same film. In 2010 and 2011, awards were given to film score and both were bagged by Malayalam films: Pazhassi Raja (2010; Score: Ilaiyaraaja) and Adaminte Makan Abu (2011; Score: Issak Thomas Kottakapally). Ravindran also received a Special Jury Award in 1992 for composing songs for the film Bharatham. The lyricists who have won the National Award are Vayalar Ramavarma (1973), O. N. V. Kurup (1989) and Yusuf Ali Kechery (2001). The male singers who have received the National Award are K. J. Yesudas (1973, 1974, 1988, 1992, 1994), P. Jayachandran (1986) and M. G. Sreekumar (1991, 2000). Yesudas has won two more National Awards for singing in Hindi (1977) and Telugu (1983) films, which makes him the person who has won the most National Film Awards for Best Male Playback Singer with seven awards, closely followed by S. P. Balasubrahmanyam with six awards. The female singers who have won the award are S. Janaki (1981) and K. S. Chithra (1987, 1989). Chitra had also won the award for Tamil (1986, 1997, 2005) and Hindi (1998) film songs, which makes her the person with the most National Film Awards for Best Female Playback Singer with six awards, closely followed by P. Susheela with five awards.

Remakes into other languages

Many Malayalam films have been remade in other languages, including Garam Masala, Gardish, Kyon Ki, Billu, Bhool Bhulaiyaa, Hera Pheri, Chup Chup Ke, Khatta Meetha, De Dana Dan,Mere Baap Pehle Aap,Dhol, Malamaal Weekly, Bhagam Bhag, Bodyguard, Kyon Ki, Hulchul, Yeh Teraa Ghar Yeh Meraa Ghar (in Hindi), Dindigul Sarathy, Sundara Travels,Seedan, Friends, Ninaithale Inikkum, Perazhagan, Kuselan, Chandramukhi, Kaavalan, Chennaiyil Oru Naal, Kreedam, Dheena, Veerappu (in Tamil), Classmates, Chandralekha, Nagavalli, Vajram (in Telugu), Aaptamitra, Manmatha, Bellary Naga, Mr. Theertha (in Kannada)

Landmark films

The films in this list are those which have influenced the growth, trends, fame and acclaim of Malayalam cinema through its 80-year-long history.

Year Film Director Major cast Note(s)
1948 Nirmala P. J. Cherian[36] Joseph Cherian, Baby Joseph First film produced by a Malayali. Also the first film with songs. Lyrics were by G. Sankara Kurup.
1954 Neelakkuyil Ramu Karyat, P. Bhaskaran Sathyan, Miss_Kumari Considered the first mature film in Malayalam. The film excelled in direction, screenplay, acting and music.[23]
1961 Kandam Bacha Coat T. R. Sundaram Thikkurissy Sukumaran Nair, Prem Nawaz, Ambika First colour film.[37]
1964 Bhargavi Nilayam A. Vincent Prem Nazir, Madhu, Vijaya Nirmala, P. J. Antony First horror film. Story and screenplay were by Vaikom Muhammed Bashir.[38]
1965 Chemmeen Ramu Karyat Madhu, Sathyan, Kottarakkara Sreedharan Nair, Sheela First film to participate in an international film festival. First South Indian film to win the National Film Award for Best Feature Film.[39]
1965 Murappennu A. Vincent Prem Nazir, P. J. Antony, Adoor Bhasi, Sharada First film to shoot extensively outdoors. It was the first film venture of writer M. T. Vasudevan Nair.[40]
1966 Iruttinte Athmavu P. Bhaskaran Prem Nazir, Santha Devi Noted for being the first serious attempt at sensitive storytelling. Considered to be the masterpiece work of P. Bhaskaran and Prem Nazir.[40]
1967 Chithramela T .S. Muthiah Prem Nazir, Sharada, Sheela, K. P. Ummer Noted for being the first anthology film.[41]
1972 Swayamvaram Adoor Gopalakrishnan Madhu, Thikkurissy Sukumaran Nair, Sharada Pinoeered "new-wave cinema movement" in India. It was the director's debut film and it was also the first Malayalam film to win the National Film Award for Best Direction.[42]
1974 Kanchana Sita G. Aravindan Rama Chenchu tribal people Pinoeered independent filmmaking in South India.[43]
1988 Adipapam P. Chandrakumar Abhilasha This was the first superhit theatrical softporn film and it inspired a series of similar productions in the next few years.[44]
1997 Aniyathipravu Fazil Kunchacko Boban, Shalini, Thilakan This film is said to be the one which catapulted Kunchako Boban to stardom. This film celebrated its silver jubilee run in many centres and it can be called a cult film which inspired a lot of youngsters with its storyline and treatment. It ran for more than 255 days.[45]
1997 Guru Rajiv Anchal Mohanlal, Suresh Gopi Movie was chosen as India's official entry to the Oscars to be considered for nomination in the Best Foreign Film category for the year 1997, making it the first Malayalam film to be chosen for the same.[46]
1998 Harikrishnans Fazil Mammootty, Mohanlal, Juhi Chawla First Indian film to have multiple climaxes.[47]
2005 Athbhutha Dweepu Vinayan Prithviraj, Ajaykumar The film got entry into the Guinness Book of Records for casting the most number of dwarfs in a single film and its lead actor Ajaykumar won the same for being the shortest actor to play the lead in the history of cinema.[48]
2009 Pazhassi Raja Hariharan Mammootty, Sarath Kumar, Manoj K. Jayan, Kanika, Padmapriya It was also the first Malayalam film to get a home video release in Blu-ray format. The film grossed close to INR490 million (Template:INRConvert/USD) and is currently the highest-grossing film in the history of Malayalam cinema.[49][49][50]

Kerala State Film Awards

The Kerala State Film Awards are the most prestigious film awards for a motion picture made in the Malayalam language. The awards have been bestowed by Kerala State Chalachitra Academy since 1998 on behalf of the Department of Cultural Affairs of the Government of Kerala. The awards were started in the year 1969. The awardees are decided by an independent jury formed by the academy and the Department of Cultural Affairs. The jury usually consists of eminent personalities from the film field. For the awards for literature on cinema a separate jury is formed. The academy annually invites films for the award and the jury analyses the films that are submitted before deciding the winners. The awards intends to promote films with artistic values and encourage artistes and technicians.

International Film Festival of Kerala

The International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) is a film festival held annually in Thiruvananthapuram, the capital city of Kerala. This film festival was started in 1996 and is organised by Kerala State Chalachitra Academy on behalf of the Department of Cultural Affairs of the State Government. The festival is held in November/December every year and is acknowledged as one of the leading film festivals in India.

Film studios

The Travancore National Pictures was the first film studio in Kerala. It was established by J. C. Daniel in 1926 in Nagercoil, which was then a part of Travancore. Producer-director Kunchacko and film distributor K. V. Koshy established Udaya Studios in Alappuzha in 1947. The studio influenced the gradual shift of Malayalam film industry from its original base of Madras, Tamil Nadu to Kerala. In 1951, P. Subramaniam established Merryland Studio in Nemom, Thiruvananthapuram. The other major studios are Sreekrishna (1952, Kulathoor), Ajantha (1964, Thottumukham), Chithralekha (1965, Aakkulam), Uma (1975, Vellakkadavu), Navodaya (1978, Thrikkakkara) and Chithranjali (1980, Thiruvallam).


Association of Malayalam Movie Artists

The Association of Malayalam Movie Artists (AMMA) is an organisation formed by artists of Malayalam cinema to safeguard their interests. It aims to act against piracy, to safeguard the interests of member actors and actresses, and to serve as a common forum to raise concerns and address issues. The activities of AMMA include endowments, insurance schemes, and committees on wages and benefits on revision, fund for research, pensions, education loans for their children etc. for the members. The organization ventured into film production in 2008 with Twenty:20 to raise funds for its activities.

AMMA was involved in the film industry deadlock of 2004 and the alleged denial of work to senior actor Thilakan.

Other organisations

  • Malayalam Cine Technicians Association (MACTA)
  • Kerala Film Chamber of Commerce
  • Federation of Film Societies of India - Keralam
  • Malayalam Film Chamber of Commerce
  • Kerala Film Producers' Association
  • Film Distributors Association, Kerala (FDA,Kerala)
  • Kerala Cine Exhibitors Association
  • Kerala Film Exhibitors Federation
  • Film Employees Federation of Kerala (FEFKA)[51]

See also


External links



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