SSSSSSSINTRODUCTION
 
 

Cinema is the popular art form which has been a good entertainer and a strong means of mass communication in Kerala from the previous century itself. It has the elements of different art forms including architecture and sculpture in it.

Moreover Malayalam films have their own existence in Kerala and is the most popular form of art enjoyed by the mass. Hence Cinema has its own influence on their culture.  
The viewers in Kerala enjoy the films comprehending the reality in it. The possess high insight in distinguishing reality from fiction in the themes of experimentalism. Malayalam Cinema has contributed much to the creative and critical analysis sectors of Malayalam literature.

Kerala has a very rich art and cultural background. Its films are unique in several aspects. Unlike the other linguistic films which have started off taking themes from the Puranas, Malayalam films have taken relevant social issues as its theme from the beginning.

The all time geniuses like Aravindan, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, John Abraham, Ramu Karriat, P A Bakkar, K.G.George, M.T.Vasudevan Nair, Padmarajan, Bharathan, T.V. Chandran, P.N. Menon, Shaji.N. Karun, K. P. Kumaran, K.R.Mohanan, Jayaraj... are the contributors of Malayalam to the world Cinema. Despite these facts now one can make a novel study of current cinema only in connection with the social life here.

The first silent movie in Malayalam "Vigatha Kumaran" was screened in 1930, when movies abroad has already begun to 'talk' and by 1931 sound films were also made in India.

That year, the second Malayalam film, "Marthanda Varma", based on a well-known historical novel by C.V.Raman Pillai, was made. Although sound films were produced in Hindi and Tamil regularly, Malayalam cinema had to wait till 1938 to present its first sound film, "Balan". In the first few years, Malayalam films were virtually dominated by Tamil producers. Whenever they suffered loss in Tamil films, they ventured into Malayalam Cinema, as the investment requirements were comparatively lower. In 1947, the first major film studio, Udaya was established in Kerala and by the early 50s, more Keralites entered this field.

 When Hindi and Tamil cinema started off with mythological themes, Malayalam films showed an interest in dealing with social issues right from the very first film itself (Balan).

One of the biggest box office hits of the 50s was "Jeevitha Nauka" (Boat of Life, 1951). The film contained all the ingredients that were to form the basis for future commercial productions. The film owed its structure more to the village festivals of Kerala than anything else. Cinema was seen as a mixture of various traditional art forms like music, dance, dance-drama, mimicry and so on. Connecting these various disparate elements was a storyline which often showed the triumph of the good over the evil.

It was in 1954 that Malayalam cinema got national attention by winning the President's silver medal for Neelakuyil. Scripted by a well-known novelist, Uroob, produced by T.K.Pareekutty, directed by P.Bhaskaran - who also played the key role, casted by the then leading artsts like Sathyan and Miss Kumari, this film deals with the subject of untouchability. Melodramatic in style and filled with songs and dances, the film was a big hit with the public. It was the teamwork of a number of film enthusiasts who took time off their professions to live near the banks of the Periyar river in Central Kerala discussing the script and other details of the film. There was difficulty in location shooting at that time. Also, studio facility was limited in Kerala. In spite of these limitations, they were bent on recreating authentic Kerala setting for the story. Props, household articles, costumes and other cultural artifacts were made and sent to Madras for the studio work. Most of the actors hailed from Kerala (at that time a novelty) and they performed in front of authentically constructed sets with all the manners and mannerisms of Malayali characters. Even the lyrics were derived from local folk traditions. This was at a time when Malayalam cinema had not established its cultural identity and was hardly distinguishable from the Tamil films of the time except for the spoken language.

Another significant effort was Newspaper Boy (1955) made by a group of college students lead by enthusiastic N.Ramdas. It made use of new actors and tried to portray realistically the travails of an orphaned boy. This film stands out from the rest, because for the first time it dispensed with all the elements of the so called box office formula.

When one looks at these early developments, one finds that Malayalam cinema had time to evolve on its own from its silent days. Much of the visual expression in international cinema was possible because silent film had enough time to germinate and mature by itself. But in the case of Malayalam film, sound arrived rather suddenly, and there was no need for Malayalam film makers to think of communicating through visual means. Everything could be spelt out through dialogues. Another aspect that needs to be mentioned here is the lack of exposure to international cinema. No matter, how sincere and competent the script writer and director were, the ultimate product ended up as photographed dramas staged within studio sets. In the early sound films, there used to be less number of cuts and less number of camera movements. Storyline did not seem to be important. Different episodes were self-contained and they made social comments, sometimes directly, sometimes obliquely, while attempting to entertain.

There were parallel streams of storyline going on. All these traits could be found in Neelakuyil. It appears that there was not much pressure from the audience for a tight narrative. An unhurried, leisurely pace was acceptable for the viewers who enjoyed individual moments of the film more than a satisfying whole, although story was of primary importance. This was understandable especially when cinema was seeking to displace the pastimes of an agrarian society and the best way to do it was by maintaining a close equation to village fairs and festivals.