Malayalam Film Industry’s Hits and Misses of 2016

We have come to the end of 2016, a year that would probably have brought many odds and evens in everyone’s life. This again gives us the hope to dream and work for a better 2017. The year 2016 was an average year for Malayalam cinema with some great hits and some other films that did not even hit the screens.

Cinema has always been able to grab the attention of the public by its awe-striking glam and glitz. Malayalam film has also changed with the times and the evolving tastes of people, who are considered as the real judges and are bestowed with the power of deciding the destiny of a movie at the box office. Despite some much-awaited releases of 2016 like Mohanlal’s Pulimurugan, which is the first Malayalam film reaching the 100 crore clan, these movies were only able to fill the void created by more number of commercially unsuccessful films to a certain extent.

A total of 118 movies were released in 2016, out of which only 22 were hits at the box office. Though there were many other movies that received critical acclaim for their concept and the way the movies were conceived, some did not survive even one week. The collective approximate budget of all the movies released in Malayalam is roughly estimated to be between Rs. 500 crore and Rs. 600 crore, which also includes the Rs. 130 crore box office collection of Pulimurugan.

The half yearly collection reports directly show that the industry was not going through a happy phase when compared to the situation the same time last year. According to Film Producers’ Association of Kerala, 58 movies were released in the first six months of 2016, out of which only seven made profits. Actor Nivin Pauly’s two films – Action Hero Biju and Jacobinte Swargarajyam – which were released in February and April respectively gave a pinch of relief to the Malayalam film industry.

Action Hero Biju, directed by Abrid Shine and co-produced by Nivin Pauly, apart from running for a 100 days in various theatres throughout Kerala had gained a 30-crore worldwide business as well. The actor’s debut production did not disappoint him. Jacobinte Swargarajyam, yet another family entertainer by Vineeth Sreenivasan, was successful in holding the audiences to their seats and made a worldwide collection of 25 crore. Though the movie did not have a “great”story, the strong fan following for Dileep in Kerala made his movie King Liar, with Premam fame Madonna, reap a profit of Rs. 21 crore at the box office.

Fahad Fasil’s Maheshinte Prathikaram and Prithviraj Sukumaran’s Pavada though were able to collect only 16 crore each, were liked by the audiences and the actors were applauded for their different roles. The movies were liked for their simple approach and the connection they could establish with middle class people. Kattapanayile Rithwik Roshan is the latest to join the hit club of 2016.

Elaborating on how 2016 was for the Malayalam film industry, Praveen, a journalist at The Hindu, and an experienced movie reviewer says, “The year gone by witnessed Malayalam cinema making some interesting strides in the kind of stories it chose to tell and the way it told these stories. Most notable among such attempts were ‘Maheshinte Prathikaram’, which turned the idea of a revenge drama on its head, ‘Kammatipadam’, a powerful drama on the dispossessed sections of the society whose struggles hardly make it to our screens these days, and ‘Ozhivudivasathe Kali’, an indictment of the cattiest power structures that dominate our democracy. But, even as such new voices were heard in Malayalam cinema this year, the old regressive voices continued to reign supreme at the box office, with their paeans to misogyny, patriarchy and political incorrectness. As it often happens with the ones which shake the box office, hardly any new ground was tread in these movies even in the treatment of the narrative. It was generally a mixed year for the industry, but we certainly have something to hope for in the coming years.”

However, the year will be remembered mainly for the whopping success of Pulimurugan, which has broken all exiting collection records in Kerala box office and also overseas. The Rs. 25-crore movie already received Rs. 15 crore by selling it satellite rights. It was released in 330 theatres in Kerala and has reportedly collected around Rs. 60 crore from India itself in the first four weeks. It also grabbed a Rs. 20-crore profit from overseas. The movie is expected to cross Rs. 100 crore in India itself.

Mohanlal’s other hit of the year Oppam could be considered as the second most grossing film of the year. Directed by Priyadarshan, the movie through its strong story and phenomenal acting by Mohanlal was applauded by the audience and reported a worldwide box office collection of Rs. 58 crore

Despite all the stunning statistics, the shocking reality is that only 25 per cent of the movies released in 2016 sustained in the theaters for at least one week.

Blaming this as a known attempt to make profit by those who consider cinema just as a business, alternative actor and producer Prakash Bare says, “There has not been a decrease in the number of movies that really have a good subject and are sure to entertain the audience. But these movies do not see the day light when it comes to box office collections as they are not given a hype and suspense before getting released. This makes such movies lost in the crowd of commercially big movies mainly because they are not of much use for those who tend to buy the satellite rights. Channels who buy the satellite rights tend to fix the commercial aspect of a movie and the makers are forced to behave according to that. Even though it’s a bit late this trend is slowly diminishing and digitisation is gaining importance. This is the only way to save the Malayalam film industry which is known for its content and performances. Movies are now only being viewed successful according to their commercial quotient, which is pathetic and needs to be stopped immediately.”

He added that people are forced to see what is being given to them and are most of the time unaware of the few good films that are made. However, some of the average budget movies like Jayasurya starrer Pretham, Biju Menon starrer Anuraga Karikin Vellam, Oru Muthassi Gadha, Marubhoomiyile Aana, Swarna Kadva and Oozham also did a good business at the box office and had contributed their fair share to the Malayalam industry. Movies like Kali, Kammatipadam, Leela, Guppy, and Kismath, received outstanding reviews from film critics and at film festivals and international award platforms. But these weren’t commercially successful.

These statistics point to the fact the movies with substance, though are being accepted by the cinema lovers, are not receiving the status they are worthy of. The commercial factor is probably determining the fate of a movie at the box office. To make the situation worse, the year ends with no Christmas releases because of the distress between exhibitors and distributors and producers.

Main photographs copyright OPM Dream Mill Cinemas, LJ films and Mulakupadam Release

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