“Udayananu Tharam” (the Malayalam name roughly translates into “Udayan is the Star”) was a Malayalam movie released in 2005. The movie revolves around the story of a struggling director Udayan, who has to face several hurdles to get established in the industry. It narrates how his debut movie’s storyline was stolen by his friend Rajappan, who later goes on to become a famous actor using the stolen script. In one of the scenes towards the climax, the hero (Udayan) approaches the villain, Rajappan and asks him why he is acting in several senseless movies that have no good story line or theme. Rajappan replies by saying that it is the stardom of superstars like him that brings people flocking to the theatre. As a reply, Udayan counters Rajappan by saying it is not Rajappan’s stardom but the faith that Keralites keep on the Malayalam film industry which brings them to the theatres.
As the 65th National Film Awards are now being announced, it is indeed a proud moment for all those who love to watch Malayalam movies. Out of all awards that were announced, Malayalam movies grabbed 11 awards across as many as seven categories, far more than any other film industry in the country. Considering the wide reach and potential viewership of movies released in languages like Hindi, Bengali, Telugu and Tamil etc. the achievement of Malayalam film industry is one of its kind. These awards once again prove that what ‘Udayan’ said about the industry is true. For a long period of time, in fact, from its early days in the 1930s to present, the Malayalam film industry was insulated from the trend of superstar movies. Unlike its counterparts in Tamil or Telugu film industries which revolve around the cast, it always accommodated newcomers. Several good movies were born in the fertile soil of Malayalam, with many even receiving accolades in not just India but in international film festivals as well. Being the fourth largest film industry, the Malayalam film industry is known for its cinematography, story line and direction. In fact, it was the Malayalam film industry that brought a gold medal from Cannes Film Festival to India for the first time. Even though Malayalam pioneered into the film production in the late 1930s, today it produces India’s best movies.
The number of awards that the Malayalam film industry has received over years itself speaks for the quality and diversity that the films offer. Malayalam films have the second highest number of National Awards for Best Actor (Rajat Kamal), only behind Hindi. Similarly, 11 Malayalam movies have won National Award for the Best Feature Film, at par with the Bengali and Hindi films when adjusted to the potential viewership and overall size of the industry. Malayalam movies have also had the fortune to get invited to numerous regional and international film festivals over the years. While announcing the National Film Awards, the jury chairman Shekhar Kapur made a reference to the excellence of regional movies in the country. According to him, it is the regional film industries that are bringing in innovation and creativity by often deviating from the traditions and stereotypical genres of movie making. For him, the regional films are ‘completely rooted’ and their performance is “stunning”.
Though the sentiments of the jury chairman are true regarding regional movies, it must be also remembered that little has been done for the development and welfare of regional film industries. For instance, take the case of the Malayalam movies itself. The apex body in the State of Kerala to promote regional movies is the Kerala State Film Development Corporation (KSFDC). Though the corporation has initiated several exemplary projects for the welfare and promotion of the film industry, their effectivity is highly doubtful. Moving to the national level, it is a known fact that Hindi movies are often promoted at the cost of regional movies. Regional movies have been traditionally confined to the respective states and even today after the success of movies like Bahubali, very few movies get dubbed and released in other languages. Many quality films produced in the regional languages thus have to confine themselves within the geographic limits of the respective States. India, being home to several hundreds of languages, must also promote the diversity that it enjoys and one of the best mediums would be by dubbing the regional films into Hindi and vice versa. Maybe the stakeholders can consider an initiative at the national level to promote the regional movies, irrespective of the language barriers and cultural differences.
Acknowledging the hard work of all people who worked behind these films through the national awards are indeed praise-worthy. However, the governments must also create avenues so that one day, anyone can watch any movie without the problems of language barriers. As another set of National Film Awards are being awarded, it is the regional movies that took away almost all awards across all categories. And amongst them, Malayalam movies deserve special appreciation. Kudos to them!
—-Contributed by Jiss Palelil