Mollywood saw quite a few releases that won praise from critics, international acclaim and commercial success in 2019. While out-and-out commercial movies like the Mohanlal-starrer Lucifer managed to impress critics and set the cash register ringing, there were also films like Moothon, Chola and Jallikattu which received acclaim at different film festivals, including the Toronto International Film Festival. Besides, a few small budget movies like Thanneer Mathan Dinangal, Android Kunjappan Ver 5.25 and Vikrithi turned out to be box office successes. The year saw Nayanthara making a comeback to Mollywood with Love Action Drama and Bollywood actor Vivek Oberoi making his Mollywood debut. Here is a look at five Malayalam movies that found favour with both audience and critics.
One of the most-awaited movies of the year, this Mohanlal starrer had everything going for it—a steller caste and Prithviraj Sukumaran making his directorial debut. The movie, also starring Manju Warrier, Tovino Thomas, Indrajith Sukumaran, Saniya Iyappan, Saikumar, Kalabhavan Shajohn, Nyla Usha, and Prithviraj Sukumaran in an extended cameo, was one of the highest grossers of the year, collecting ₹150 crore in 21 days.
Mohanlal played Stephen Nedumpally aka Khureshi Ab'raam, a businessman with shades of grey who comes to Kerala to avenge the death of his mentor P. K. Ramdas. Lucifer was a political drama and revenge saga in equal measures. The high-octane action scenes and punch dialogues found favour with die-hard Mohanlal fans and even others. Following the success of Lucifer, Mohanlal and Prithviraj have announced a sequel to the movie, titled Empuran.
Lucifer was the only hit for Mohanlal in 2019 as his other movie, Ittimani: Made In China, tanked in the box office.
Megastar Mammootty had quite a few releases this year. From the commercial potboiler Madhura Raja, period action drama Mamangam to the critically acclaimed Peranbu, the actor tried his hand at various genres. While Mamangam continues to have a decent run at the box office, two other movies, Ganagandharvan and Pathinettam Padi in which he had an extended cameo, were panned by critics. The actor found commercial and critical success with Unda.
Directed by Khalid Rahman, Unda told the story of a motley band of cops from Kerala who get deputed for election duty at the Naxal-affected Bastar in Chhattisgarh. Taking a break from his macho hero roles, Mammootty donned the uniform of Mani, a soft-spoken, timid police officer. The movie showed the troubles faced by these policemen who could neither speak the language nor had the arms and ammunition required to counter an attack. The movie, which was also screened at the 24th International Film Festival of Kerala 2019, besides being a thrilling ride about the bravado of a few unlikely heroes, also highlighted the caste divisions existing in the police force. Unda was widely praised for its theme, narration and performances of its lead actors, including Shine Tom Chacko, Jacob Gregory and Arjun Ashokan.
One of the most talked about movies of the year, Kumbalangi Nights held a mirror to the Kerala society and its hyper masculine men. Directed by Madhu C. Narayanan, the movie had and ensemble cast and revolved around four half-brothers Saji (Soubin Shahir), Bobby (Shane Nigam), Bony (Sreenath Bhasi) and Franky (Matthew Thomas) who live in a fishing hamlet called Kumbalangi. They share a less love-more hate relationship. When Bobby falls in love with Baby, things change for the four brothers.
The movie boasts of some fine performances, especially by Fahadh Faasil, who was part of another critically acclaimed movie Super Deluxe this year, Soubin Shahir and Shane Nigam. While the story may have been run of the mill, the movie had quite a few messages to offer—that it is okay for men to cry and seek help, and that the self-imposed custodians of morality in the society are, for the want of a better word, deranged. The movie was well received by audience and critics.
Directed by Aashiq Abu and starring an ensemble cast, including Tovino Thomas, Parvathy Thiruvothu, Rima Kallingal, Soubin Shahir, Sreenath Bhasi, Kunchacko Boban, Asif Ali and Joju George among others, the movie recounted the Nipah virus outbreak in Kerala and how the entire state machinery and people came together to fight it.
There are a few central characters in Virus like Dr Abid (Sreenath Bhasi), Dr Annu (Parvathy), Kozhikode Collector Paul Abraham (Tovino Thomas), Unnikrishnan (Soubin Shahir), nurse Akhila (Rima Kallingal), Dr Suresh Rajan (Kunchacko Boban) and Health Minister C.K. Prameela (Revathy), but the film wasn't just about them. It was as much the story of their challenges and decisions as it was of the ambulance drivers, contract workers and the affected families.
The movie realistically looked at how the tragedy unfolds at a private and the government medical college hospital in Kozhikode. Aashiq Abu did not create heroes out of his characters, neither did he bother to be play to the political gallery. Virus was released to widespread acclaim and tasted commercial success.
Thanneer Mathan Dinangal
The movie had no popular names attached to it except Vineeth Sreenivasan. The director—Girish A. D—was a newcomer and the lead actors—Mathew Thomas of Kumbalangi Nights fame and Anaswara Rajan of Udaharanam Sujatha—were hardly popular. The popularity for the movie began with a song—Jaathikkathottam—which was a chart-buster.
The movie, a heartwarming tale of love, misunderstanding and the struggles of growing up, set against the backdrop of a high school, turned out to be a sleeper hit despite its familiar themes. Thanneer Mathan Dinangal had Jaison and his love interest Keerthy as its central characters. Jaison wants to profess his love for Keerthy, but he isn't exactly high on confidence quotient. The arrival of a new teacher, who begins to target Jaison, does not make things any easier for him. The movie chronicles how the young Jaison navigates through his teenage troubles.
The breezy dialogues, natural acting and humorous situations did work in favour of the movie and it turned out to be a commercial and critical success.