Malayalam Versus Hindi: Thank you FullyFilmy Blog!

A friend just sent me this super interesting link, which I encourage you all to follow!  It lays out 10 things that make the Malayalam film industry special among Indian film industries.

Now, I know basically nothing about Malayalam films.  I have seen Utsav Hotel and Bangelore Days, and that’s it (feel free to give me recommendations in the comments! I’m already planning to watch Ohm Shanti Oshana next, but after that I am open!).  But I know a lot about Hindi film, and this list got me to thinking about why Hindi films don’t do these things, or in some cases, don’t do them any more.

The link lays out 10 things that make Malayalam film special all of which, in my minuscule experience, seem to be true.
1. Contemplative Pacing
2. Multi-starrers
3. No Foreign location songs
4. Working within small budgets
5. Not afraid to address the tabu topics
6. Fully conceived female characters
7. Nostalgia inducing
8. Human, not larger than life, characters
9. Extremely young artists, from crew members to actors
10.  Writers are valued.
The pacing issues, the tabu topics, the female characters, and the human level characters, I completely agree that Malayalam films are amazing at those things and, except for a few exceptions, I can’t think of many examples of when Hindi films have succeeded in those areas.  But the other points made me start thinking about how Hindi cinema used to do that, or does it in a modified way, but could be better.
Multi-starrers were so much more common before liberalization in 1999.  Even Karan-Arjun, which I just covered, had not only Salman and Shahrukh, but also Kajol and Mamta, and Raakhee as their mother.  But that was back in the 90s, when everyone was working on 3 films at once.  Now, even the lesser stars want to do only one film at a time (except for Akshay), which means it is just harder to schedule them all at once.  I don’t know why it is different in the Malayalam industry, whether there are more stars available, or they have fewer releases, but I know in the Hindi industry, in order to have a major film come out every few weeks, you have to conserve your stars and parcel them out one at a time.  Or else go back to having everyone work 20 hour days.
The Foreign location songs only started in the Hindi industry with Sangam (although there were plenty of fantasy songs before that, they were never set overseas).   And they only became the norm for even a modestly budgeted film for about 20 years.  In my Baazigar post, I noticed that the first love song is all shot in local Bombay “Public Gardens”.  Which I recognized from all the other movies that have shot in those locations.  Love songs used to be in greenhouses, in parks, on the beach, places just a few minutes drive from the studio.  But now there is more money available, and a bigger diaspora audience, who wants to see their next potential overseas vacation spot on film, not the park down the street.
But shooting in the park down the street gives them a much warmer and more relatable feeling.  I definitely noticed in the 2 Malayalam films I saw what a strong sense of place can do. They almost made me homesick for somewhere I had never been, just by filming everything within the same few miles of space.
Nostalgia I think goes hand in hand with that.  Every once in a while there will be a Hindi film that draws on it, like Dum Laga ki Haisha, but I wonder if it is less used because the Hindi films have such a weak sense of place?  How can you be nostalgic for Bombay in the 90s, for instance, if the love song clearly takes place in modern Switzerland?  The biggest nostalgia inducing movies for me (meaning they make me feel nostalgic for a particular time and place, whether they are set in the past or not) are: Dum Laga, the original Chashme Baddoor, and Dil Chahta Hai.  They were all fairly low budget, so they didn’t have the option of big location shoots, and were forced to stay more or less within the same few square miles.  Even Dil Chahta Hai used the familiar space of a movie theater to insert their big fantasy song (which I talked about in Farah’s birthday post), and actually stayed there moved the characters to Australia rather than just flying in and out for a song.  Oh!  Which goes to the point about low budgets being a boon, since they make you think outside the box!
But the last two points are the ones that I think are the most interesting differences.  For the age, Hindi cinema seems to go through generations, so the same group of people will run things from 21 to 50, and then a new group will take over.  Like, the giants of the 50s golden age were all between 21 and 27 when they made their first films.  But then they stayed in charge until the 70s, when another group of super young people took over.  And then the same pattern happened in the 90s.  So it isn’t a constant stream of new 20-somethings, it is a periodic refresher period of 20-somethings, that is then replaced with a new group once they retire.
And the other big difference is that the crew members and everyone else below the creative heads is on a separate age cycle.  So, Adi was working with his Dad’s old crew when he made DDLJ.  But then he took over after that and slowly started mentoring and hiring his own people.  Who will probably still be in place for the first ten years of Adira’s reign over the studio until she finds her feet and hires her own group.  So there is always a balance of old hands versus young enthusiasm.  It would be very different to have a whole crew who were all enthusiastic and young and fearless.  Which is probably why Malayalam cinema is so willing to tackle tabu topics.  Even when you have something like Shudh Desi Romance in Hindi cinema dealing with live-in relationships, you have Aditya Chopra guiding young Maneesh Sharma to make sure it doesn’t go too far in making its point, that it still has song sequences, that it is marketed only to the cities, and so on.
(Young faux-afro haired Ramesh Sippy on set of Sholay.  And Dwarka Divecha, the 50 year old cameraman his father hired to work with him, who had been trained in turn by Guru Dutt, the most brilliant young director of the 1950s.)
And for the writing, of course the biggest difference is that the Malayalam writers can be sure that the majority of their audience will all be speaking the same language!  Which is not true for the Hindi film audience, which makes the writers less important than the directors and composers and actors in actually conveying the message of the film.  And is also why there are so many director-writers, because the director crafts the general story and plot, and then just hires some random guy to fill in basic Hindi dialogue that anyone can understand anywhere in India (going back to my analysis of the territory earnings for films, this is why script-driven Tanu Weds Manu Returns did so well in the northern areas but no where else, while action and images driven Dilwale did great in the least-Hindi speaking places).

11 thoughts on “Malayalam Versus Hindi: Thank you FullyFilmy Blog!

  1. Omg omg omg omg omg.
    I am a Malayali.
    I have a WHOLE LIST.

    Any preferences regarding old/new or anything goes?

    Among the new ones, Ohm Shanti Oshana is amazing. Try out
    Celluloid (it made me cry),
    Ennu Ninte Moideen,
    How Old Are You,
    Iyobinte Pustakam,
    Pranchiyettan and the Saint,
    100 Days of Love,
    Mumbai Police,
    Annayum Rasoolum,
    Ayalum Njanum Thammil,
    Adaminte Makan Abu,
    Arabikatha

    Among the older ones, most of my list will be from the 80s and 90s though
    Manichitrathazu!!! (Omg this movie would be perfect for a spoiler post series and I’m so so sad that there aren’t a lot of blog posts on this amazing amazing film)
    Any of Padmarajan’s movies -Thuvanathumbikal, Namakku Paarkan Munthirithoppukal, Njan Gandharvan
    Ramji Rao Speaking
    Vanaprastham
    Kireedam
    Chemmeen
    Kilukkam

    These are off the top of my head…I’m sure I missed many many more.

    I’d really really agree to the last point on that listicle. One of the movies I mentioned, Manichitrathazhu, is famous precisely for the script and the direction ( the actress, Shobhana, got known as a real actress only after this film). It got remade in Kannada, Tamil, Bengali and later on in Hindi, and the writer, Madhu Mattom, was disappointed because he hardly got credited at all in the remakes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! I definitely have something to work on now. The first step will probably be just googling and seeing which of these I can find, with subtitles, streaming or on cheap DVDs. I know that Malayalam is the best in terms of script, and I’ve been meaning to learn more about it (and more about Tamil and Telegu and Bhojpuri and Pakistani soaps and mythologicals…..) but it is so hard to get started! This will give me a nice little roadmap.

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      • I think first you should know Hindi remakes of malayalam movies , it will be an easiest way to understand malayalam movies for non malayalies
        Some Hindi remakes of Malayalam movies :
        Anokha Rishta – Kanamarathu
        Beti No. 1 – Aadyathe Kanmani
        Bhagam Bhag – Mannad Mathai Speaking
        Bhool Bhulayya – Manichitrathazhu
        Billu Barber – Kadha Parayumbol
        Body Guard -: Body Guard
        Chup Chup Ke – Punjabi House
        Dhol -: In Harihar Nagar
        Doli Saja Ke Rakhna – Aniyathipravu
        Dor – Perumazhakkalam
        Garam Masala – Boeing Boeing
        Gardish – Kireedam
        Golmaal : Fun Unlimited – Kakkakuyil
        Har Dil Jo Pyar Karega – Chandralekha
        Hera Pheri -Ramji Rao Speaking
        Hulchul – Godfather
        Hungama – Poochakkoru Mookkuthi
        Julie – : Chattakarai
        Khatta Meeta – Vellanakalude Naadu
        Krodh – Hitler
        Kyun Ki – Thalavatam
        Mere Baap Pehle Aap – Ishtam
        Muskurahat – Kilukkam
        New Delhi – New Delhi
        Police Public – Our CBI Diary Kurippu
        Saat Rang Ke Sapne – Thenmavin Kombathu
        Shabd – Rachana
        Tujhe Meri Kasam – Niram
        Traffic – Traffic
        Yeh Tera Ghar Yeh Mera Ghar – Sanmanassullavarkku Samadhana
        Drishyam – Drishyam

        and i suggest you to watch ennu ninte moideen a new movie, its a true love story too

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Shahrukh just did something awesome! – dontcallitbollywood

  3. Pingback: I Watched Another Malayalam Film! That Makes 3! Oh, and I LOVED it! (Spoilers for Ohm Shanti Oshana follow) – dontcallitbollywood

  4. Pingback: Weekend in Kerala! – dontcallitbollywood

  5. Lots of Malayalam movies have been remade in Bollywood later. I can recall couple of movies too like:
    Bhool Bhulayya – Manichitrathazhu
    Garam Masala – Boeing Boeing
    Body Guard – Body Guard
    Khatta Meeta – Vellanakalude Naadu
    Chup Chup Ke – Punjabi House
    Hulchul – Godfather
    Hera Pheri – Ramjirao Speaking
    Doli Saja Ke Rakhna – Aniyathipravu
    Saat Rang Ke Sapne – Thenmavin Kombathu
    Gardish – Kireedam
    Muskurahat – Kilukkam
    – Traffic
    Gardish-Kireedam
    Kyun Ki-Thalavatam
    Yeh Tera Ghar Yeh Mera Ghar-Sanmanassullavarkku Samadhanam
    Hera Pheri-Ramji Rao Speaking
    Hulchul-Godfather
    Bhool Bhulaiya- Manichitrathazhu( this was directed by Faazil)
    Khatta Meetha – Vellanakalude Naadu
    De Dana Dan- Vettam
    Billu Barber- Kadha Parayumbol
    Dor – Perumazhakkalam
    Mere Baap Pehle Aap – Ishtam
    Billu – Katha Parayumbol
    Krodh – Hitler
    Beti No. 1 – Aadyathe Kanmani
    Shabd – Rachana
    And many more…

    I don’t think it’s actually a bad idea to remake Malayalam movie in Hindi because when a Malayalam movie remade in Bollywood, it usually gets more exposure and people can enjoy the taste of different movies too!

    I have a blog where I regularly write about Indian film industry. You may visit my blog and share your feedback too please. Here is my blog: http://sultansongs.in/

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  6. I think you should try watching
    1. Drishyam
    2. 1983
    3. Thanmatra
    4. Kazcha
    5. Kadha parayumbol
    6. Action hero biju
    7. Jacobinte swargarajyam
    8. Anuraga Karikkin vellam
    9. Su su sudhi vatmeekma
    10. Amen
    11. Philips and the monkey pen
    12. Pranchiyettan and the saint
    13. Passenger
    14. Classmates
    15. Udayananu tharam
    16. Diamond necklace

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    • Good news! I’ve already seen Drishyam, 1983, Thanmatra, Action Hero Biju, Jacobinte Swargarajyam, Classmates, and I just watched Udayananu Tharam last week! There should be reviews in my archives for the first 6, and I’m writing my review of Udayananu Tharam now, to go up on Monday. I’ll probably be watching Amen in the next few days, after Angamaly diaries, I want to see everything Pellisary did!

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  7. Hai, I’m From Tamil Nadu, I love Malayalam Movies, and they are soft romantic and gentle. On the whole Malayalam movies give a gentle good feeling without much violence (from the films I watched). I have only one thing to say for Malayalam Industry, Really the actors should look after their physique both male and female actors. Malayalam Actors who work in other Industries have transformed very well about their physique. Those who did thing are still in the Industry and those who don’t are disappeared long ago. Nayanthara is the perfect example for this. In every other technique Malayalam is much better than the other Industries In India. I hope someone will listen and think about this. I read lot of
    Malayalam cinema news (chalachithram ) mollywood news
    here. Hope you enjoy too. Wishing a great year for Malayalam film Industry.

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