Premalu’s gross collection at the box office has crossed 70 crore in about three weeks. Manjummel Boys and Bramayugam have also both grossed more than 60 crore at the box office since their release on February 15 and February 22 respectively. (Also Read: Mammootty’s experimental choices give us confidence to do something different, says Bramayugam director Rahul Sadasivan)

Premalu, Bramayugam and Manjummel Boys have set the cash registers ringing since their release
Premalu, Bramayugam and Manjummel Boys have set the cash registers ringing since their release

What is common among these three is that they are Malayalam films and while Bramayugam features Malayalam superstar Mammootty, the other two have a much lesser-known cast. All three also have a very strong – and novel – storyline and some splendid performances. 2024 is really turning out to be the year of Malayalam cinema, once again, with audiences rushing to theatres globally to catch these films.

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Content is king, not the star

In the last decade, south Indian cinema seems to be going back to the story formats of the 80s and 90s where content was king. And Malayalam cinema has been playing a key role in this new paradigm. If 2023 saw films like Neru, Kannur Squad, 2018, Romancham, Kaathal – The Core and Iratta, in just two months of 2024, Malayalam cinema has delivered some superhits. Bramayugan, for instance, was made on a budget of 27 crore and is a monochrome film featuring Mammoottty as an old man and a ghost.

Baramyugam director Rahul Sadasivan says, “Malayalam cinema allows for creativity and when a movie works, it helps directors push boundaries. Superstars like Mammootty also sign on to different kinds of films even if experimental. I am also thankful that producers believed in the film and invested in the project which was quite different – a monochrome period film. I believe that content needs to be strong and that’s what I strive for first; it doesn’t matter what format the film is in. During the pandemic, people discovered Malayalam cinema and many producers took advantage of OTT to release their films online.”

Mollywood films like Drishyam 2 (Mohanlal), Minnal Murali (Tovino Thomas), Kala (Tovino Thomas), Joji (Fahadh Faasil), C U Soon (Fahadh Faasil), Nayattu (Kunchako Boban, Joju George) and The Great Indian Kitchen, released directly on OTT platforms and were loved by the global audience. The Mollywood film industry decided to seize the opportunity that the pandemic provided and didn’t consider the shut down of theatres as a disaster but a hurdle. Minnal Murali, for instance, became such a blockbuster for Tovino Thomas and writer-director Basil Joseph that today there is talk of Basil now writing and directing Shaktimaan for Ranveer Singh. Meanwhile, Tovino Thomas became a household name for portraying a local superhero!

Audience connect

Others also echo the thought that strong content will organically bring the audience not just to OTT platforms but to theatres today. Manjummel Boys is based on a real-life story and is about a group of young boys from Kerala who visit Guna Caves in Tamil Nadu. The movie, featuring some unknown names, takes us through how one of them falls through a deep crevice and a rescue mission ensues. This movie has captivated the audiences not just in Kerala but in other states and countries as well. In Tamil Nadu, for example, the film is expected to gross around 10 crore which is huge business for a Malayalam film with no stars.

A Tamil film producer on condition of anonymity says, “Malayalam cinema has always been content-driven and even Tamil cinema was. But commercial mass films have become the order of the day now and stars here won’t do small films. Star salaries also mean that the producer has to make big budget films to recover the cost and this is a challenge. Having said that, recently we have seen some very good small budget Tamil films like Blue Star and Lover do really well at the box office. Malayalam films have very realistic stories and natural performances which connect with the audience emotionally. The audience wants stories they can connect to and if the storyline is new and captivating, they’re more than willing to come to the theatres.”

Stories that are rooted in the local ethos are what make Malayalam films interesting. Moreover, they are mostly sans glamour, sans frills, sans over-the-top acting and their stars love novelty. Malayalam cinema lets the stories and performances speak and the global audience, which has an insatiable appetite for quality content, really savours this. Malayalam cinema is truly on a roll in 2024.

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