Deconstructing the golden streak of Malayalam cinema

What explains the prosperous phase of Malayalam cinema this year? Here is a deep dive into this phenomenon with box-office numbers from industry-trusted trackers, insights from industry insiders, and more
Deconstructing the golden streak of Malayalam cinema
Deconstructing the golden streak of Malayalam cinema

It is no secret that Malayalam cinema is experiencing an unparalleled boom, shattering box office records. With consecutive blockbusters like Premalu, Manjummel Boys, Aavesham, and Aadujeevitham—each earning over Rs 100 crores—Malayalam cinema has raked in over Rs 1000 crores globally, according to industry trackers. Other successful ventures like Bramayugam, Varshangalkku Shesham, and Abraham Ozler have also significantly contributed to this golden phase. The latest to join this success streak is the Prithviraj Sukumaran-Basil Joseph starrer Guruvayoorambala Nadayil, which, according to the producers, has already amassed over Rs 50 crores worldwide within five days of its release. K Vijayakumar, the President of The Film Exhibitors United Organisation of Kerala (FEUOK), categorically confirmed the authenticity of these reported collections, citing that they are tracked with due diligence.

"Manjummel korachu scene maattum... Malayalam industryde!" (Manjummel Boys will change the outlook of the Malayalam industry!), predicted music director Sushin Shyam last year, and the industry has proven him right. The success of Malayalam cinema extends beyond the state. For instance, Manjummel Boys earned an astonishing Rs 50 crores from the Tamil Nadu box office alone, despite the lack of a dubbed version.

This phase of Malayalam cinema comes at a time when other Indian film industries are struggling to attract audiences to theatres. Industry insiders attribute its success to many factors. For instance, Vijayakumar puts it mainly down to the withdrawal of OTT platforms from purchasing Malayalam films before their theatrical releases, owing to the huge losses they had incurred. "Due to this change in policy to avoid dumping mediocre films on OTT, the makers are compelled to make quality films that would attract people to theatres," said Vijayakumar.

Liberty Basheer, president of the Kerala Film Exhibitors' Federation, echoes Vijayakumar's sentiments regarding Malayalam cinema. He cites the massive loss Amazon Prime Video incurred with some big-budgeted films like Marakkar: Lion of the Arabian Sea (2021) as a turning point.

Basheer confirms that Malayalam films have collectively grossed more than Rs 300 crores from the domestic box office thus far in 2024, marking a significant increase in collections compared to previous years. "We have had five to six huge hits in such a short time, which is a new record for the industry," he states.

Basheer highlights more reasons behind the surge in theatrical footfalls. "Back-to-back festivals like Easter, Eid, and Vishu provided a major boost, which is happening for the first time in the history of Malayalam cinema. Further, the scorching heat in the state has driven people to theatres as a means of escape, thanks to a greater number of late-night shows. Most importantly, there is a rich variety of content catering to all kinds of audiences across different genres." With respect to how the market is expanding overseas, he feels that Malayalam cinema's reach is now catching up with that of Hindi and Tamil films.

However, Basheer cautions that producers sometimes inflate earnings to attract more viewers to theatres. He also notes that there have also been big flops during this prosperous period for the industry. "Films like Malayalee From India and Nadikar suffered huge losses despite high expectations," he adds. While the industry thrives, Vijayakumar and Basheer express concerns about the short theatrical window before OTT releases. Basheer believes that even if films like Aavesham could have enjoyed longer theatrical runs, little can be done to change this trend. On the other hand, Vijayakumar asserts that FEUOK will continue to oppose the few actors and producers who do not push for a longer theatrical window.

Despite these challenges, this golden streak of Malayalam cinema shows no signs of stopping with the arrival of Mammootty's Turbo and the cop thriller Thalavan. With its focus on quality content and growing global audience, the industry is poised to become a major force in Indian cinema.

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