2016 was an excellent year for Malayalam cinema. Out of 105 Malayalam films that released this year, 23 were box-office hits. Heading that list was Mohanlal’s Pulimurugan, which broke collection records by becoming the first Malayalam movie to enter the 100 crore club, and the fourth highest grossing south Indian movie of the year (after Janatha Garage, Theri, and Kabali). Even better, the industry produced a number of critically acclaimed films this year.
Here’s a Silverscreen Original round-up of the best Malayalam films of 2016.
Set in a highland hamlet in Idukki district, this comedy-drama was Malayalam cinema’s first hit in 2016. Maheshinte Prathikaram is the story of an ordinary young man Mahesh (Fahadh Fazil), the owner of a small photo studio. His modest life turns upside down after a series of unforeseen events. Directed by Dileesh Pothen, the film was director Aashiq Abu’s first production. Maheshinte Prathikaram performed well at the Kerala box-office, where it ran for over 125 days in some theatres and collected over Rs 17 crores. Aparna Balamurali was the female lead while much of the supporting cast comprised of local actors from and around the village where the film was shot. Maheshinte Prathikaram stood out for its realism, beautiful soundtrack, and excellent technical work.
Rajeev Ravi’s third directorial Kammattipadam saw the former cinematographer moving closer to mainstream cinema’s turf. The climax featured a face-off with the hero taking the villain to task for all the injustice his kind had meted out to the poor. The film had heavily choreographed action sequences and even a romantic song where the hero throws filmy glances at his lady love. Nevertheless, Rajeev Ravi’s film was so much more than a product of the masala genre. It had a solid screenplay, fine performances, and a lovely soundtrack composed by K.
Ozhivu Divasathe Kali
State award winner Sanal Kumar Sasidharan’s second film, Ozhivu Divasathe Kali (An Offday Game) is a brilliant film that starts with a slow pace and gradually culminates in a nail-biting finish. Written by Unni R, the Offday Game has a powerful story-line that lays bare the casteism lurking beneath society’s politically correct mask. The film won the Best Feature Film award in Kerala, and got a warm reception at theatres when it released. Ozhivu Divasathe Kali has cemented Sanal’s position as one of the most promising contemporary filmmakers in the country.
Directed by Sameer Thahir, starring Dulquer Salmaan and Sai Pallavi, Kali was one of the top grossing films of 2016. It collected Rs 2.33 crore on the first day and over Rs 16 crores just from the Kerala box-office. The film was given a thumbs up by critics as well. Backed by a strong script, Kali narrated the story of Siddharth and Anjali, a newly married couple who get entangled in a life-threatening problem, thanks to Siddharth’s anger problem. The lead actors’ performances were widely appreciated, and Sai Pallavi, who had created a sensation with her debut film in Premam in 2015, proved that she wasn’t a one film wonder. Gopi Sunder’s background score and MR Rajakrishnan’s sound mixing for the film were well appreciated too.
Action Hero Biju
Action Hero Biju directed by Abrid Shine was Nivin Pauly’s maiden production venture. A realistic cop drama, it revolves around a nondescript police station in Kochi where myriad case files arrive on the table of sub-inspector Biju Paulose (Nivin Pauly). An excellent supporting cast consisting of mostly lesser known junior artistes and first time actors made watching Action Hero Biju a refreshing experience. Thampanoor Suresh, a head-load worker from Thiruvananthapuram, appeared in a brief sequence and stunned the audience with his comic timing. A song that he wrote, composed, and sang in the film became a huge hit. Action Hero Biju also marked the return of Jerry Amaldev, the veteran music director who ruled the industry in the ’80s. The song “Pookkal Panineer”, a romantic melody sung by Yesudas and Vaani Jayaram and featuring Nivin Pauly and Anu Emmanuel topped the charts for a long time. Action Hero Biju ran for over 100 days and grossed over Rs 17 crores from the state.
Director Priyadarshan joined hands with his favourite star Mohanlal for Oppam, a thriller-drama and one of this year’s highest grossing Malayalam films. The film’s thumping success was a relief to Priyadarshan, whose career was in a low phase after a series of flops. Mohanlal played a visually impaired man while Meenakshi played his foster daughter. The song sung by the father-daughter duo “Minungum Minnaminunge“ was popular on the internet and television screens well before the film’s release, and added to the hype around the film. It grossed over Rs 12 crores in its first week and became the fastest Malayalam film to gross over Rs 50 crore worldwide when it reached that landmark in just 40 days.
Ann Maria Kalipppilaanu
Young director-scriptwriter Midhun Manuel Thomas’ second directorial, after the quirky Aadu Oru Bheekara Jeeviyaanu, is an adorable tale about a kind little schoolgirl. Ann Maria befriends a local goon named Gireesh. Gireesh helps her fight off a sexual offender, who happens to be a teacher at her school. The film explores the way this unexpected friendship changes them positively and helps them deal with crises in their lives. Sara Arjun, who shot to fame with Vikram’s Daiva Thirumagal, played Ann Maria, while Sunny Wayne played Gireesh. Dulquer Salmaan, Sunny’s close friend, appeared in a brief role in the film. The film poignantly portrayed Ann Maria’s loneliness and frailties, without going overboard on the melodrama.
Anuraga Karikkin Vellam
Debut director Khalid Rahman’s Anuraga Karikkinvellam was a simple tale about a middle-class family in Kochi, and charmingly captured their innate ordinariness. Made on a modest budget of Rs 3.5 crore, it collected over Rs 12 crore. Anuraga Karikkin Vellam starred Biju Menon, Asha Sharath, and Asif Ali. The film’s portrayal of relationships was realistic, and the actors’ performance were widely praised. Debutante actress Rejisha Vijayan won acclaim for her role as Eleena, an extroverted young architect who matures through heartbreak.
First-time director Ganesh Raj’s Aanandam featured a horde of young newcomers behind and in front of the camera. The film follows a class of third year engineering students from Kerala who are on a six-day industrial visit to Karnataka and Goa. Aanandam doesn’t claim to be a coming-of-age film, just a naturalistic portrayal of the joy and adventure the kids have on the trip. The film had top notch cinematography by Anand C Chandran and a brilliant soundtrack composed by Sachin Warrier. Best of all was the young actors’ excellent camaraderie on screen, which only added to the film’s charm.
Also Read: Best Malayalam Soundtracks of 2016