2022 has been a breakthrough year for Malayalam cinema for the sheer number of films that impressed us with their originality of screenplay, distinctive making style, creative storytelling, powerful characterization, and so on. If you’re somebody who is yet to delve into the magic of the Malayalam cinema of 2022, here is a list of films that would entertain you and leave you with a sense of awe even after you leave the screens.
- Minnal Murali
Indian films have historically struggled with portraying non-mythological superheroes on screen for many reasons. Largely, it came down to creating a relatable superhero/heroine character that served a purpose and existed in a social context that demanded his presence. Minnal Murali does remarkably well in all categories as it creates a homegrown superhero who is addressing a problem that is not relatable to an Indian audience and yet not compromising the wow factor. All this is done convincingly with minimal VFX and at a shoestring budget of 20 crores. Much like in the world of business, sometimes lack of money may become the breeding ground of creativity. So if you want to revisit your tinkle-Amar Chitra Katha reading days and watch all that fantasy come on screen, watch Minnal Murali. You may never know, there could be a sequel in the works.
Over the years, for all its glorious history of great auteurs and captivating screenplay, Malayalam cinema has struggled to put together horror films that met the audience’s expectations. The Malayalam cinema relied solely on gory monsters or folktales from the past narrated through cliched tales. Bhootakalam strikes you differently. It’s a familiar story of people going through everyday struggles and the horror enveloping them like a mist on a chilly morning without them knowing it. With some powerful performances from Revathi and Shine Nigam along with the just-show-no-tell approach to portraying horror comes out as perfect in giving us the chills. So next time, as you casually pull over your blanket and you see something moving in the darkness, you might not ignore this time.
- Thinklazhcha Nishchayam
Marriage and the financial burden that comes with organizing have been the central plot of many films from the past. Most of them go through the cliched route of telling the story of unidimensional characters – evil father, all-suffering mother, opportunistic groom, and so on. Thinkalzhcha Nishchayam is a welcome break from the monotonicity for two reasons – honest characterization of lead actors and a mix of everyday unforced dark humor in the backdrop of the north Malabar area of Kerala. It is a window to the unhealthy practices, customs that followed, and expectations that people carry while conducting a marriage. The subplots around alcoholism, dowry, consent, abuse, gender identities, etc come up at various points of the film making it a layered one.
A loud, obnoxious, abusive, lewd, and toxic family member that you don’t do much about! That’s how one can describe the titular character of the father played magnificently by Alencier in this stellar film. This is a film that makes us turn our faces away not from its violence or disturbing images but rather just from the mere sight of the character. It is through the suffering that is imposed on the members of the family that the viewers get to know their vulnerable side to each of them. The film is an anticipation of death which in many ways is liberation from the living hell that they are trapped in. Watch it to experience a Shakespearean drama with all the macabre backdrop of death, violence, and disgust from everyday lives.
A film that feels like an Instagram reel – a splash of color, fast edits, flashy comic-book-style action sequences, and peppy songs. Based on a simplistic plot, this film is the story of how a series of fights that starts off for love and friendship snowballs into a game of ego and self-destructive oneupmanship. A deeper analysis of the film makes it feel like a satire of our times – shorter attention span, flings, influencers, and branded wear. Watch it if you want to take a break from all the grey tones that you’ve experienced so far on screens.
Real-life incident-based political films have been a rarity these days. It becomes even more special when it is a gripping thriller that carries a social message. A vigilante takeover of the town’s most important government official at a time when communication was limited to analog technology and awareness was limited to print ones is remarkable. A film that captures the anger of the public like Rang De Basanti in a much less glamorous and cinematic way. Watch it now that the history of struggles against unjust laws and corrupt administrations has many shades. It is a friendly reminder that the power of the common public can never be underestimated – Ask the head of state during the Arab Spring!
- Enna Thaan Case Kodu
The courtroom drama breaks the stereotype of being too serious, having lengthy English monologues and posturing. The makers bring down the courtrooms to everyday courtrooms of what we see. No high-nosed judges, no holier-than-thou advocates and no earth-shattering legal plot either. Framed as an accused of a theft, he didn’t commit, the lead actor played by unrecognizable Kunchako Boban ventures out to prove his innocence. The story takes twists and turns and it ends up becoming a social commentary of our times – justice, class struggle, corruption in public services and goods, and so on.
- Jana Gana Mana
A courtroom drama combined with the aspirations of a political thriller that tries to touch upon so many layers of social issues, that one loses count of it. Investigation of a professor’s death leads to startling revelations about the administration, it’s agenda in the backdrop of India’s changing social and political inclinations. It dares to call out hypocrisies through thundering monologues from the vengeful lead character played by Prithviraj. The most likable fact about the film is that it lays down a canvas so big that the viewer is made to be part of something bigger.
- Bheeshma Parvam
An aging head of a large wealthy family with godfather-like influencing power over his followers goes on to avenge the unjust killings and unleashes violence to protect his family! If you were a Malayalam film viewer for some time now, there is a good chance that you’d have guessed who’d be the natural choice to play the lead character. There is a sense of inevitability of excellence to such characters played by Mamooty. He carries the gravitas to make believe that he’s not the superstar but a shrewd head of the family who will protect his family at all costs even if he’s physically past his prime. Much like the mythological character from Mahabharatha, the film is about the mental tug-of-war he’s going through on whether to tolerate all those who are trying to shake the very foundation of the family, its wealth and reputation that he has painstakingly protected over the years. Watch it for all those micro-expressions from Mamooty that convey a multitude of emotions in a single frame.
- Pathonpatham Noottandu
An epic retelling of the life and times of a warrior who saw the path of independence and emancipation can only be achieved through the destruction of caste and associated evils. Documented popular Indian history has often been dominated by only a certain section of freedom fighters and social reformist leaders choosing to ignore the voices of the subaltern. Here is a film that captures the social message without losing out on the entertainment value, historical accuracy, and cultural grounding. A film that saw Siju Wilson rising up the ranks to perform the lead’s role with conviction and charm in perhaps the most groundbreaking of his to date.
A coming of age film that takes us through the boy-becoming-a-man journey. Unlike overly glossed romantic drama films before, this one dares shows the entire spectrum of shades of the lead actors including the grey ones – watch the lead actor being an emotional wreck, abusing themselves, manipulative, jealous and violent all the while being completely genuine to the story. It is almost like taking one of those hill roads with hairpin bends, where every now and then something unexpected comes up and we are excited to see how the characters react. Watch it to revisit your bittersweet memories in college and something inspiring that happened to you that just gave you the clarity you were seeking for.
Like a puzhu (worm) that crawls into its host’s body to feed off of them, the lead character played by Mamooty is showcased as somebody who is a worm in the heart of a progressive society. Puzhu deals with trust issues, inexplicable hatred of people over their identities, passive child abuse, and imposition of power over one another. The mind of the lead actor played Mammootty is shown as a complicated mix of insecurities, fear, anger, and shame and evokes a certain sense of revulsion without any external or physical vulgarities. That’s the brilliance of the film as well. It mocks people and society at large’s attempt to control everything to the point of oppressing people’s choices. Watch it for Mamooty’s excellent performance rising above his superstardom and Parvathy for getting into the skin of a character so different from what she is in real life.
A grandma’s folk tale coming to life takes you to an eerie world where shadows are longer, nights are darker and demons walk freely. After creating a setting very similar to Thumbaad, the makers of the film setups this film that deals with a curse that has affected a family and the story is about what happens in the pursuit of lifting it. The film in the backdrop of a village supernatural setting places characters that we are all familiar with – a young pregnant mother who is unaware of what’s happening around her but mustering the courage to protect her baby, an unassuming meek male member who rises above the ranks to establish his dominance with the help of demonic forces. Aishwarya Lakshmi through her acting prowess carries the film and makes it relatable for the audience who might be so distant from where the film is set and the values it is trying to convey.
A twisted psychological thriller once again with Mamooty. A tale of vengeance that once again relies on creating revulsion for the lead character. As the title indicates, the lead character displays borderline schizophrenia and signs of other mental illnesses as well. Makers of the film are willing to keep the character backstories abstract to keep the audience guessing and to add to the enigma of the characters. Seemingly naive and unthreatening characters assume the role of perpetrators of violence on a moment’s notice giving chills to the views and knowing that they are in a world where no one can be trusted. Watch it to discover and feel the darkness inside of you!
- Jaya Jaya Jaya Jaya Hey
A social satire that mocks the state of conservative marriage in our part of the world. As a seemingly ambitious lady is married off against her wishes and is confronted with an abusive husband, she has no other option but to push her physical boundaries. It becomes her salvation as well. It’s symbolic of women’s empowerment journey in different walks of life and the need to be stronger physically as well. The film calls out the social hypocrisies, the unjust treatment meted out by families, poor parenting methods, and the lack of progress orientation around us by toggling between humor and melodrama as the medium to express it. Watch it for Darshana, Basil, and a fantastic supporting cast making it an enjoyable watch.
Featured Image credits: Mallu release