Malayalam cinema continues to weave its magic with back-to-back great films. With its superior story-telling capability and innovative filmmaking, Malayalam film industry is offering an engaging alternative to other Indian languages including Hindi and serving the audience’s appetite for great content.
While Malayalam films have always been closer to reality, a new set of filmmakers are boldly taking up contemporary themes and ideas challenging the viewers to confront uncomfortable truths. We have handpicked the best Malayalam movies of 2021. The list spans genres to ensure that whatever your taste buds desire, there is something to satisfy those cravings. Take a look.
1) Malik (Amazon Prime)
In his third outing with ace director Mahesh Narayan, Fahadh Faasil dons the role of an ageing patriarch, who is known to be a messiah for the poor and is powerful enough to stand against police and politicians. Set in the coastal area of Ramadappalli, Malik is loosely based on the Beemapally riots of 2009 that left six people dead and a trail of distrust in its wake. Chronicling over a few decades in a non-linear structure, Malik also examines the relationship between religion, politics, gender and individual ambitions. Sanu John Varughese’s delicious visuals (don’t miss the opening sequence) and Sushin Shyam’s background score make Malik more special.
2) Kuruthi (Amazon Prime)
Helmed by filmmaker Manu Warrier, Kuruthi is a sharp commentary on the current political climate, under the garb of a home invasion thriller. The story begins with a few families grieving the loss of their loved ones with no sign of the communal cauldron simmering beneath them . All hell breaks looses when a police officer (Murali Gopy) barges into Ibru’s (Roshan Matthew) home along with a Vishnu (Sagar Surya), accused of killing a Muslim man in a melee. It falls upon Ibru keep the cop and accused safe as people from his community are baying for Vishnu’s blood. Kudos to Prithviraj Sukumaran for backing this film and portraying an unconventional role like Laiq despite being a big superstar.
3) The Great Indian Kitchen (Amazon Prime)
Another great addition to the growing list of meaningful cinema from Kerala, The Great Indian Kitchen depicts the domestic experiences of a young bride (played by Nimisha Sajayan) who marries into the household. Set against the backdrop of a dominant caste, the Jeo Baby directorial exposes the inherent patriarchy, sexism in the society and brings to light all that is wrong with sexual division of labour. Very deservingly, TGIK won the Best Film and Best Original Screenplay titles at the recently announced Kerala State Film Awards.
4) Drishyam 2 (Amazon Prime)
Director Jeetu Jospeh reunited with superstar Mohanlal to churn out an equally good if not a superior sequel to Drishyam. At the end of the 2013 thriller, Jeetu Joseph had convinced the audience that Georgekutty aka Mohanlal has hoodwinked the police and committed a perfect crime. Well, the Rajakkad police would not stop sniffing around him. In the first film, people showed empathy towards Georgekutty’s family horrified over police actions, the sequel, people would engage n gossips as how he got away despite committing a murder. It’s a tightrope to walk but Joseph sailed through.
Also Read: 2021: The best of Tamil cinema so far
5) Nayattu (Netflix)
A very special offering from the Malayalam film industry, Nayattu is a taut thriller, which sheds light on the machinations of the system. The title means ‘The Hunt’ in Malayalam. Here the hunters are police officers but the fugitives are also police officers. Written by Shahi Kabir and directed by Martin Prakkat, Nayattu touches upon the grim realities of the time we are living in- from police police highhandedness, use of excessive force to collusion between lawmakers and police. Joju George as ASI Maniyan and Nimisha Sajayan as constable Sunitha are in top form. The film also explores the ‘human side’ of the cops by focussing on their personal lives making it hard to distinguish real victims of the system.
6) Kaanekkaane (Sony Liv)
The Manu Ashokan directorial revolves around Paul (Suraj Venjaramoodu), a deputy tehsildar, struggling to overcome the grief of his daughter Sherin’s death in a hit-and-run case. When his son-in-law Allen (Tovino Thomas) quickly moves on and goes on to marry Sneha (Aishwarya Lekshmi), Paul wonders how they have all forgotten her daughter. He senses foul play and he is determined to bring out the truth behind the incident. Exquisitely edited by Abhilash Balachandran and with a decent background score by Ranjin Raj, Kaanekkaane explores how difficult it is to look into the eyes of your loved ones when you have wronged them.
7) Joji (Amazon Prime)
After winning widespread-acclaim with Maheshinte Prathikaram and Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum, filmmaker Dileesh Pothan delivers another gem in his third collaboration with actor Fahadh Faasil. The film focuses on the happenings at a plantation family in Kottayam, with a physically and overwise powerful patriarch. It is evident that the family is eyeing the share of the wealth that is waiting for them. The story tells what all greed can make a person do. The film is replete with dark humour and subtle hits at family and society. Joji might have drawn from the overarching theme of Macbeth but did away with the plot.
8) Kurup (Theatrical Release)
Srinath Rajendran’s period drama is inspired from the life of one of India’s most wanted fugitive, Sukumara Kurup, who was a key accused in the murder of film representative Chacko. The film chronicles Kurup’s tumultuous journey and Kerala police’s unending chase to find his whereabouts. Dulquer Salmaan is in top form as a fashion-forward escape artist and is ably supported by a reliable ensemble of Tom Chacko. Sobhitha Dhulipala, Indrajith Sukumaran among others. Considering almost every Malayali knows about the urban legend of Kurup, it’s no easy feat to churn out a gripping adventure drama.
9) Richter Scale 7.6 (NeeStream)
Unlike it’s name, the KJ Jeeva directorial has nothing to do with an earthquake or any other calamity for that matter. The title may be referring to the seismic shifts in the relationship of a father (Ashok Kumar Peringode) and son (Murugan Martin). The father is a folk theatre artist who sings praises to Gods and nature whereas his son works in a nearby quarry, destroying the same nature to make ends meet. It’s an unusual story exploring the unseen repercussions of environmental exploitation and its impact on the human mind.
10) Operation Java (ZEE5)
The Tharun Moorthy directorial is built on two burning issues of our times: cyber crime and joblessness. Two unemployed BTech graduates approach the Kochi cyber cell to solve a puzzling cyber crime with a new perspective. After listening to them, the authorities decide to reopen the case and rope in the duo as part of the investigating team. Both Balu Varghese and Lukman Avaran have done justice to their roles and conveyed the pressure that they are going through as jobless but talented youngsters. with a pulsating background score from Jakes Bejoy, the movie manages to keep the viewer entertained all along.