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Boom year for mollywood

SREEDHAR PILLAI

Malayalam cinema is back in the reckoning with some box office hits and the superstars going all out to ensure the success of their films.



SUPERSTARS ALL: Mammootty in `Rajamanickam'.

Malayalam cinema is on a roll. 2005 has turned out to be a momentous year - 14 of the 59 releases will make profits, a success percentage of approximately 24, the highest in history.

Never before, even during the golden period of Malayalam films during the Eighties, has the industry seen such good times. Five films' (see box) combined gross from theatres, overseas, satellite, DVD and other rights are likely to touch Rs. 50 crores.

Business is looking bright, as theatre collections have increased mainly on account of Malayalam and, to a certain extent, Tamil cinema in Kerala.

This boom is on account of three actors. Mammootty, Mohanlal and Dileep control 95 per cent of the box-office in Malayalam. They are the only actors who command an opening, which is very crucial for the success of a film. The superstars' films open big in 40 to 50 screens and they are marketed aggressively through channels and local cables that create a buzz around the film. Their loyal fan clubs ensure a decent opening and the rest depends purely on the merit of the content.

Today, nearly 85 percent of the total gross of a film comes from the releasing centres and the once strong B and C stations are on the decline. On an average, every 15 kilometres from Kaliyikkavila to Kasaragod, there will be a theatre screening a new release, which means that some of the old B stations have become releasing stations. Now a person in Kayamkulam can watch a new release nearer his home in Karunagapally or Mavelikara, which means the volume of business has increased.

More release stations



Mohanlal in `Naran'.

The trend of more release stations has also helped the superstar system to dominate the trade. Most of the Malayalam films are funded by theatres in Kerala. Today, if a person has committed dates of Mammootty or Mohanlal along with a commercially viable director, he can raise the entire amount of the production cost from advances given by theatres. The duo had 11 releases this year, which is phenomenal.

Mammootty is undoubtedly the `Man of the year.' His `Rajamanickam' has broken all existing box-office records and is poised to make around Rs. 10 crores in the long run. The actor had six releases - `Thommanum

Makkalum,' `Thaskaraveeran,' `Raapakal,' `Nerariyan CBI,' `Rajamanickam' and `Bus Conductor.' All these films made money. The success of Mammootty is that he is a total professional from the day he decides to do a film till the release. He takes utmost care not to be typecast and each release is in a different genre with a new look, and he completes a film in just 65 days (shooting and post production). Moreover, he ensures that the film does not overshoot its budget, which means the producer is safe.

Mohanlal, the most versatile actor in India, had five releases this year - `Udayananu Tharam,' `Chandrolsavam,' `Udayon,' `Naran' and `Thanmatra,' out of which two are super hits, two are flops while `Thanmatra' is getting a lot of critical acclaim. Mohanlal has a phenomenal reach outside Kerala as his `Udayananu Tharam' grossed nearly Rs. 50 lakhs from four metros - Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai and Bangalore, which no other actor has been able to do so far.

But the actor is more laidback and looks at his character in the film rather than see the film as a business proposition. Critics point out that his choice of roles has to improve as films like `Chandrolsavam' flopped owning to lack of content while the budget of `Udayon' went haywire.



Dileep in `Chanthupottu'.

The new superstar Dileep is an extremely hardworking actor who has a huge fan base among women and children who love his kind of slapstick comedy films. He is one actor who knows his limitations. He had three releases - `Kochi Rajavu,' `Pandipada' and `Chanthupottu,' out of which two were above average and profitable to its producers while `Chanthupottu' is a trendsetter and a super hit, which has been seen by more number of women than men.

This year saw the return of Suresh Gopi and he had three releases - `Makal,' `Bharathchandran IPS' and `Tiger.' Suresh made a fantastic comeback with his inimitable style and dialogue delivery as a super cop in

`Bharathchandran IPS,' a super hit, and an average `Tiger.' Among young heroes, it was only Prithviraj who could manage to stay afloat and he had five releases - `Krityam,' `Police,' `Albhuthadweep,' `Daivanamathil,' and `Ananthabhadram.' Among them only `Ananthabhadram' did well at the box office. Kalabhavan Mani had one hit `Ben Johnson' while his `Manickam' and `Lokanathan IAS' are washouts.

It was a bad year for Jayaram, one-time popular hero among the family audience. He had four flops - `Finger Print,' `Alice In Wonderland,' `Pouran' and `Sarkar Dada' while others like Kunchakko Boban, Jayasurya could not create an impact at the box office.

Top heroine

Among the heroines, it is Kavya Madhavan with five films who is the top heroine this year and made an impression with `Annorikkal' and `Ananthabhadram.' Bhavana and Navya Nair too had five films each while Gopika had three releases. At a time when female-centric films are on the wane, it was the Meera Jasmine-Urvashi starrer `Achuvinte Amma' that was popular among women cinegoers.

The young audience in the 18-25 age group form 90 percent of the opening weekend crowd and film makers like Roshan Andrews and Anwar Rasheed knows the pulse of this audience. The influence of Tamil mass films can be seen the way Malayalam cinema is structured with a story happening in a `la la land' set somewhere on the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border. The film is laced with comedy and action. Still, the flag of `uncompromised,' meaningful cinema was kept flying by Blessy's `Thanmatra,' which is undoubtedly this year's best work. Malayalam cinema has become a dream factory this year, where yarns are spun beautifully to entice the movie-going public to part with their hard-earned money and provide unadulterated entertainment for two-and-a-half hours. The success of superstar films is only a reflection of getting the formula right and the bottom line is that the industry has turned profitable and has been able to create new markets.

The message is clear - the film that speaks in the language and image best understood by the masses is the winner.

Top fivem

The top box office winners this year are the following:

`Rajamanickam'
`Udayananu Tharam'
`Chanthupottu'
`Naran'
`Thommanum Makkalum'

The following five are the critics' choice:

`Thanmatra'
`Oridam'
`Udayananu Tharam'
`Daivanamathil'
`Achuvinte Amma'

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