Vipin V. Nair

Kochi, Dec. 19

AN assistant director, an effeminate beach boy, a police commissioner and a rustic buffalo trader brought back audience in droves to theatres in 2005 as Malayalam cinema staged a grand show of box office hits throughout the year.

Compared with previous years, 2005 turned out to be the best for Malayalam film industry in recent times. Low-budget flick as well as super star films did well at the box office in more numbers than the past.

Some of the biggest hits in the year were Udayananu Tharam, in which Mohan Lal played a wannabe film director, Chantu Pottu, which had Dileep as an effeminate son of a fisherman, Rajamanikyam in which Mammootty played the role of a buffalo trader and Bharat Chandran IPS, portraying Suresh Gopi as the eponymous daredevil police officer.

Other films such as Achuvinte Amma, Thommanum Makkalum, Naran, Nerariyan CBI, Ben Johnson, Rappakal and Kochi Rajavu also raked in profits during 2005, making it the year of turnaround for Malayalam film industry.

While reigning super stars Mammootty and Mohan Lal reinforced their stature with some of the biggest hits of the year, Dileep, the latest star of the industry, also proved his mettle with films such as Chantu Pottu and Kochi Rajavu.

Along with them, films such as Achuvinte Amma, which had not star cast, and Ben Johnson with Kalabhavan Mani in the lead were also hugely successful.

The cost of producing a Malayalam cinema ranges from Rs 1 crore to Rs 2 crore. Three to four weeks at main centres would ensure that the investment is recouped. Television and overseas rights bring in additional revenue.

According to Mr K. Nandakumar, President of the Kerala Film Chamber, the apex body of Malayalam film industry, 2005 has seen the maximum hits in recent years.

"In terms of percentage of hits to the total number of films released, this has been a very good year," Mr Nandakumar said. Also, more films clocked break-even revenues at the box office during 2005.

Around 60 films have been released so far this year. A few more are expected during Christmas. Some of the December releases such as Mohan Lal's Thanmatra have received rave reviews and are set to become hits.

"Financially and qualitatively, this has been a great year for the industry," he said. "People are slowly getting fed up with TV. There is no variety there and they are coming back to the movies."

On the other hand, filmmakers dared to try out new themes, such as Chantu Pottu and new ways of narrating stories. Learning from its past mistakes, the industry is also more disciplined and planned, finishing a film even within a month.

From its side, the State Government also provided a helping had to the industry by slashing entertainment tax.

Mr Nandakumar says that the film industry, which was in the throes of financial trouble not so long ago, is in a much better shape now thanks to the present revival.

He says the future of the industry looks rosy, going by the projects that are now taking shape. More importantly, the fact that the audience is back to theatres is giving the industry its biggest hope.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated December 20, 2005)
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