The new breed of Malayalam film directors
The Malayalam industry is seeing an influx of new directors like never before, finds Vijay G
It is perhaps quite like everyone in a sports team dreaming of becoming the captain some day. But considering the number of new entrants in the list, it is not that difficult to become a director in Malayalam cinema these days. From rank new comers to more experienced cinematographers, art directors, producers and even production managers are all hatching plans to direct their maiden films. In the Malayalam industry where about 60 films get made annually, at least 15-20 new directors make their debuts every year while aspiring to make it big someday.
During the first half of this year, among the 25 odd films that had hit the screens, more than ten were made by first time directors. Those who managed to get their films to the cinema halls are among the lucky few but in the existing scheme of things, the greatest challenge for the rest is to complete their projects and find theatres to get them released in.
This year too, among the debutant directors, Vysakh’s Pokkiri Raja and Mamas’ Pappi Appacha were among the handful of films that set the cash registers ringing in a biggish way. Vineeth Sreenivasan’s Malarvadi Arts Club is also an addition. The rest didn’t create wonders exactly but Mohan Raghavan, who directed T D Dasan Std VI B and Lijo Jose Pellissery of Nayakan, made quite an impression with their debut movies.
“There is space for more directors in the industry and it is when fresh faces emerge that new ideas, styles and experiments happen,” says Rajesh R Pillai, who made his directorial debut Hridayathil Sookshikkaan five years ago and is now all set to begin shooting for his second film, Traffic, one of the most talked about projects in the pipeline.
“If the established directors are not ready to change with the changing times and make trendier movies, they will have to give way for newer ideas,” says Rajesh. “Of course, there may be a few among the newcomers who are there just to ride on the new wave in this business, but then it is the way the system works everywhere.”
Vysakh, who came up with a casting coup of sorts having Mammootty and Prithviraj to team up for his debut film Pokkiri Raja, believes that right now it is the best time to be a first time director in Malayalam. “There is a time when changes happen and that is when new prodigies make their mark. Those who can prove their stuff at this point can emerge as winners,” says he.
Aashiq Abu, who had quite an exciting start to his career with directing Mammootty in Daddy Cool last year and who is currently busy with his next project, believes that this is a transition period and genuine talent certainly has a chance. “It is not just the directors who should have a vision while making their debut, the entire machinery should be receptive to newer ideas,” he explains.
“Malayalam cinema was enriched with directors breaking into the mould with newer and experimental ideas in the past. But debutants these days are taking the easy way out by following existing trends and they mostly never dare to go for real challenges,” feels Pradeep Nair, whose maiden film Oridam won several awards including a special mention at the National Awards.
With the rather limited commercial prospects that evidently make the total budget of films smaller compared to other languages, even in south India, Malayalam has always stood out from the rest with the brilliance in its themes. For the commercial entertainers, the budget constraints obviously mean that it is the initial collections and the hefty satellite rights that decide the fate of many films. No wonder filmmakers are eager to play it safe by adding saleable stars in the cast. Vysakh feels that “when you are doing a Rs. 5 crore film, more than one’s own likes or passion, the priority while making such big budget films is the viewers’ tastes.”
Finds Aashiq: “It’s really difficult for a new director to launch a film with rank newcomers in the current scheme of things. Naturally, they go for big stars. Likewise, it is easier for an established director to launch new faces.” But all established directors were once upcoming directors too…