Malayalam film industry is turning almost 75 years old. Therefore, it is very much interesting to have a glimpse of the history of Malayalam filmdom. The first Malaylam movie was JC Daniel’s Vigathakumaran. It was a silent movie. Then came Balan with audio recording. The following years Malayalam film industry witnessed lot of Tamil movies with Malayalam dubbing. Most of them were the stories from our epics like Ramayana and Mahabharatha, etc. In another words, they were the recreations of puranas.
It took more than a decade before Malayalam film industry started to produce movies of social stories. Neelakkuyil, Rarichan Enna Pouran, etc. produced in 1950s belong to this category. Then Malayalm film industry witnessed the screening of lot of films with stories taken from our puranas and epics. Rajah Harichandran directed by Antony Mithradas, Bhaktha Kuchela and Kumara Sambhavam both directed by P Subramaniam, Sree Guruvayoorappan directed by S. Ramanath, Vaishali by legendary Bharathan and Devi Kanyakumari, etc. are some most popular movies based on purana stories. Chemmeen is a classic movie in Malayalam. It bagged the President of India’s award. During the first couple of decades Malayalm movies were accompanied by either Tamil songs or tunes adopted from either Hindi or Tamil films. But by fifties Malayalam films started to get songs and music with Malayalam identity. The popular lyrists were P. Bhaskaran, Vayalar Rama Verma, etc. During those days Malayalam film discovered some talented music directors like Dakshinamoorthy, Baburaj, Devarajan, LPR Verma, etc. Their music was rich with Hindustani or Karnatic domination. Arjunan Master and Raveendran Master were shining stars among music directors Kerala has ever seen and embraced with loving hands. Chemmeen gave the opportunity to the Keralites to enjoy the heavenly music of Salil Choudhury. It was a rare opportunity for the integration and combination of Bengali-Kerala-Hindi art values. There are several other Malayalam movies which have contributed towards the cultural ethos of our country. Ramayana, Sabarimala Sri Dharma Sastha, etc. belong to purana category. The same time, lot of Malayalam movies have come out with social stories but highlighting the Bharathiya culture like bhakathi, temple and linked with God fearing thoughts. Kaliyattam, Paithrukam, Nandanam Rajashilpi, Guru, Kanchana Seetha, Njan Gandharvan, Rishi Vamsham, etc. belong to this batch. The songs and tunes used in these movies are really doing justice to the aforementioned statement. Padmarajan, Jayaraj, Renjith, Rajiv Anchal, world famous Malayalam movie maker late Aravindan, etc. have made serious contributions through these moves.
Malayalam film industry has got all reasons to take pride in having world famous film makers like Aravindan, Adoor Gopalakrishnan and Shaji N. Karun. Shaji has got the advantage of being a globally lauded cinematographer as well. These three film makers have been instrumental to raise the pride of the country, along with Satyajith Ray, in the international film industry. They have made our country’s presence felt in big way in international festivals. Adoor’s Swayamvaram, Kodiyettam and Elippathayam were classic movies. Shaji N Karun’s Piravi is the story of a missing son which reminds the viewers the dark Emergency days when random arrests and crushing the dissident voices were order of the day and missing the arrested youths were not isolated incidents. Aravindan’s first movie Uthrayanam pictures the frustration of the Kerala youths of 1970s.
Malayalam filmdom is fortunate enough to have movies picturing our freedom struggle against Britishers and other foreign aggressors. Movies like Pazhashi Raja, Marthanda Verma and Kunjali Marikkar do belong to this division.
Malayalm film industry’s rich contributions towards the value based social and family life are exemplary. John Abraham’s Ammayarian and Agraharathile Kazhutha, Swahm, etc. are noteworthy in this regard.
Jayaraj’s Shantham is a movie explaining the political clashes and killings taking place in Kerala. His another movie Karunam and Sathyan Anthikkad’s Manassinakkare are pointing towards the old parents suffering from the alienation of their grown up children. Sathyan’s movies are always considered as ‘family movies’.
MT Vasudevan Nair, Janapeetam laureate, is a celebrity film maker in Malayalam. His movie Nirmalyam brought Bharath Award to Kerala first time in the history.
Priyadarshan is another film maker who have become a veteran on national level. And, he is popularising popular and successful movies of value based social life by remaking them into Hindi. His entry into the Malayalm film was through the humour movies he made during his younger age. Lot of other directors followed the suit in view of the success these movies reaped. Rafi Mcartin and Sathyan Anthikkad have successfully tried this zone.
Legendary music wizard Dr KJ Jesudas scaled the esteemed heights in the arena of Indian film songs only due to his talents and excellence in the realm of music. We can not find a single regional language film industry in India which did not get the fortune of his golden voice at least once. And, he is famous even abroad in the same level of Mohammed Rafi, Lata Mangeshkar and Kishore Kumar. KS Chithra also has sung in almost all Indian regional language movies. Mega Malayalam stars like Mammootty and Mohanlal have acted in several Hindi and Tamil movies and bagged the appreciation of the viewers cutting across region and language.
Likewise celebrity singers of Hindi and Tamil movies have graced Malayalam movies with their sweet voices. Lata Mangeshkar, Manna Dey, Balasubramaniam, Shreya Ghoshal, etc. are a few to mention in this context. Several music composers have given their golden touch to Malayalam movies. Bombay Kamal, Bombay Ravi, Ilayaraja, AR Rehman, etc. belong to this celebrity club.
Late Dakshinamoorthy and Raveendran Master gave the classic touch to the Malayalam songs hence they have got a spiritual flavour. Now, M. Jayachandran, Bijipal, Deepak Dev, Alphons, etc. are the leading young music composers.
Lyrists like Vayalar Rama Verma, P. Bhaskaran, Prof ONV Kurup, Kavalam Narayana Panicker, Kaithapram Vasudevan Namboothiri, S. Rameshan Nair, Girish Puthencherry, Sreekumaran Thampi, Bichu Thirumala, etc. are some of the leading lyrists Malayalam film world have produced.
Malayalam movie has got the credit of having an actor Prem Nazir who got the Guinness entry for having acted in the maximum number of movies. The number of movies he has acted are about 550 whereas John Wayne had acted in 250 movies and got the Guinness entry before Prem Nazir !
Satyan, Prem Nazir, Kodiyettam Gopi, Murali, Soman, Sukumaran, Sheela, Jayabharathi, Sarada, Miss Kumari, etc. were the film veterans of the yester years.
Mamootty, Mohanlal, Suresh Gopi, Dileep and Jayaram are the lead actors in Malayalam moview. Kavya Madhavan, Navya Nair, Swetha Menon, Reema Kallingal, etc. are leading heroines.
The significance of the mainstream Malayalm movies is the stress it gives on cultural values of social life. People of Kerala does not accept negative film with open heart.