Alternative Malayalam cinema finding space in mainstream theatres

Alternative Malayalam cinema finding space in mainstream theatres

Alternative Malayalam cinema is finding space in mainstream theatres and such films are gaining ground, writes Deepa Gauri.

By Deepa Gauri

Published: Thu 25 Jun 2015, 9:20 PM

Last updated: Wed 8 Jul 2015, 2:46 PM

Arthouse films now have a fresh lease of life and hope in Kerala. With governmental patronage, non-mainstream films are finding a theatrical release. Crime No 89, the winner of the best film at the Kerala State Film Awards, and Unto the Dusk, which also gained critical acclaim in the film festival circuit, have finally come to theatres, thanks to the support of the Kerala State Film Development Corporation.

That should have come as just some more ‘film news’ but for the rousing reception the two films are now receiving in Kerala. Even while big budget commercial, semi-commercial and pretenders strive for success and come out with large celebratory posters, these two films have become runaway successes. And the beauty of their success is that almost any money they receive at the box office is a bonus for the makers because they had almost given up on the film reaching the masses.

Directed by Sudevan, Crime No 89 (also referred to as just Cr No 89), the film also shows how a group of young men, passionate about cinema, can make a difference. Hailing from Peringode, a village in Palakkadu, these true film and art lovers came together, formed a trust and started doing what they loved.

A real surprise awaited them at the Kerala State Film Awards. Trumping several stalwarts and big names in the industry, the film was adjudged the best of the lot. But that never made the film’s progress to ‘at theatres near you’ any easy.

Director Sudevan says he the film had some 30 screenings prior to it reaching theatres. No one had given the film much chance to make it to the big screen until KSFDC released it in its theatres in key centres. The reception, to say the least, has been rousing.

Shot with just Rs7 lakh, a figure that is far lower than the take-home pay of any recognisable actor in the state, Crime No 89 was made through funds that were sourced from friends and film lovers.

For Sudevan, even that must have been really ‘big budget’ because his first short film was made at a paltry Rs5,000.

With no formal training in film, he made the film out of his sheer love for the medium, and despite winning the award, he had only hoped to take the film to the masses through film societies (which are now coming back in fashion), DVDs and private screenings.

The story of a two people involved in weapons trafficking and a mechanic, the film’s beauty is how it makes offbeat cinema as entertaining as mainstream films.

Unto the Dusk, likewise, is another movie that has found takers through the sheer power of craft.

Directed by Sajin Babu, the film is a strong take on philosophy, nature and religion, and is inspired by the director’s travels through the forests in the Western Ghats of Kerala. Having made a documentary earlier, Sajin Babu also turned to friends for support and made the film on a shoestring budget with a new cast.

There are two corollaries now to the success of the two films. One is the revival of the film society movement, with even greater vigour, across the state. Almost every town now has a film festival of sorts.

The second is that other arthouse and award-winning films that have been languishing in the cans for long have now found a new lease of life.

Suddenly, after a prolonged lull, there is hope for filmmakers who dare to think differently.

How long this positivity will last is anybody’s guess but perhaps this is a good time in Malayalam cinema to think different and act different.

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