Thiruvananthapuram: What is the so-called new generation cinema in Malayalam all about?
A young breed of film-makers who entered Malayalam filmdom introducing new narrative techniques, shunning superstars and fetching new faces in seemingly untold stories have created a buzz in the industry in the last three years.
However, the general feeling among film buffs is the group of filmmakers who identify themselves with the new brand have failed to create an impact on movie-goers with anything substantial to offer.
With recently released `Anchu Sundarikal,` an anthology of five films by young directors Ashiq Abu, Shyju Khalid, Sameer Thahir, Amal Neerad and Anwar Rasheed getting a cold response, critics say the audience expect more than mere experiments.
"There is a fetish for visuals and form in these films than content," is how director B Unnikrishnan, who makes films with superstars and popular actors, puts it.
Scriptwriter John Paul says films of K G George, Bharathan and Padmarajan are miles ahead compared to the new generation films in terms of their shock value triggered by reality, levels of engagement, thematic novelty and stunning narration.
Noted film-maker Lenin Rajendran, who since the 1980s had been part of the new wave ushered in by directors George, Bharathan, Padmarajan and Mohan, says the new films had set a positive trend in the sense they sought to negate dominance of superstars and brought in new actors and technicians.
Lenin`s early films `Venal` and `Chillu` were a breath of fresh air for the audience.
"But if you study the new films now being branded as new generation, you will see how meaningless and hollow they are content-wise," Lenin said.
While Malayalam cinema won accolades across the world with works of G Aravindan and Adoor Gopalakrishnan, their audience was limited to a chosen few. It was Bharathan, Padmarajan and Lenin who chose to tread the middle path with successful films which attracted the audience besides fetching honours.
Can the new generation cinema be described as having created such a wave is the question confusing the minds of critics.
The first negative answer is that most of the films being churned out in numbers are just adaptations and some of them trash.
"Many of the films only turn out to be the copies of foreign films," Lenin says.
Director Shyamaprasad, who has made a mark with off-track films, says it is not proper to evaluate any film as part of a brand or type.
"There are good films in the so called genre and of course, several bad ones too," he said.
The trend began with the huge success of low-budget film `Traffic` (2011) by Rajesh Pillai, a multiple narrative of different types of people crossing each other`s paths.
Young directors Ashiq Abu, Sameer Thahir, Anwar Rasheed, Sugeeth and Vineeth Sreenivasan later took on the mantle with their films addressing the youth and middle class.
Many of the films clicked only because they addressed broken youth without values, relationships, political awareness or some faith to cling on to.
"The hallmark of present-day youth is anger, protest and refusal to get along with society. They identify themselves with superficial films from Korea, Japan and even China, now being successfully translated to Malayalam," Lenin said.
"Even when these films have contributed to the end of superstar domination, they have nothing positive to offer to society which trend-setters of other periods did," he added.
In a corrupt society, youth are bereft of dreams. They are at a loss to weigh pros and cons of morality, violence, cheating and sexuality.
"Naturally, this gets reflected in films," he said.
Critics say issues involving marginalised sections are disappearing from screen with increasing prominence given to urban life.
"The new film-makers are treating their themes without any experience in life, literature or technology without which cinema can only be a big zero," he said.
The relatively young movement shot into fame with bold films like Ashiq Abu`s `22 Female Kottayam,` a story of love, betrayal and revenge with the heroine `bobbiting` cheated lover and `Chappa Kurish` (Sameer Thahir), a thriller also featuring a lip-lock scene by Fahad Fazil and Remya Nambeesan.
"Women are no longer pushovers. My films only reflect this change," Abu, who also has delightful films `Salt N Pepper` and `Da Thadiya` to his credit, said.
Actor Fahad Fazil, who has been part of most of the new generation movies, says kissing on screen is nothing much to be talked about.
"Why should we have any problem with such a beautiful act?" he asked.
Fahad has emerged as the new generation hero with roles in `Annayum Resulum,` `Amen` and `22 Female Kottayam.`
Some films like `Traffic`, `Salt N` Pepper`, `Chappa Kurish`, `Beautiful` (V K Prakash) and Lijo Jose Pallissery`s `Amen` were hits, while many which followed could not complete even a week in theatres.
`Beautiful,` `Trivandrum Lodge` (V K Prakash) and Ee Adutha Kalathu`(Arun Kumar Aravind) also were well received.
New generation directors charted a different course mostly through imitations. The films reflected change in perspectives by dealing with middle class and female-oriented subjects.
Critics blame them for use of explicit language under the guise of boldness and modernity and cite it as a reason for the films failing to create a new wave.