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Cinema is basically a male construct.1 Women-centered film productions get limited to a representation of male-made women. Even women’s endeavors in a predominantly male based industry seem to have bore few fruits. An analysis of the 80 years of Malayalam cinema from 1928-2008 would reveal its patriarchal ideologies.
The history of Malayalam film industry begins in 1928.2 The revival of the industry started in 30s and 40s. In the 50s the presidential award winner film, Neelakkuyyil, 1960s winning best national film Chemmen etc. established a national name for the industry. New wave parallel cinema occurred in the 70s, with the stepping in of new professionally qualified directors who took degrees from Pune film institute. The so-called golden epoch of Malayalam films between 80s and 90s, with the emergence of other genre, semiparallel movies blending the fine aspects of parallel and commercial cinema happened. Meanwhile, the return of the popular happened in the 90s. 20th century was considered to be the century of the cinema. 21st century witnessed a decline of the industry. Digital technology brought in short films in plenty. It changed the concept of cinema. Films have ceased to be a mere means of entertainment. It became a medium for documenting life in its multiple ways. A look at the hi(s)tory of Malayalam cinema would be significant in this juncture.
David M. Considine in his article “Critical Viewing and Critical Thinking Skills” defines film industry as a patriarchal one. www.medialit.org/reading_room/article202.html 2 en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Media_in_Kerala -
The market-friendliness of secularism made it even more acceptable. the hegemony of the male ideology remained unquestioned. Phalke started mentally visualising the images of Indian gods and goddesses in the like of Ravivarma’s paintings. who ruled over this modern world. In India. Yves Thoraval in The Cinemas of India states that India produces films more than any other country in the world. didn’t take into consideration “the other” subaltern masculinities.3 the whole story of the cinema begins with Raja Harishchandra. that was to come up in the post renaissance scenario of Kerala. It is only that. and modeled under an imported missionary French film by Alice Guy by name Life of Christ. . Thus all cinematic endeavourers were to be controlled by the mind of the modern male market. Vigathakumaran. Moreover these upper caste men with their supremacy and supposed splendor. Marthandavarma and Balan are our early films. even in films centered on gods. Since our community based reformers were all men. he being the centre of all modernizing projects. Malayali renaissance. turned out to be male centered ones. enforced here the European/ male centered ideology. One could see that almost all the Malayalam films which got noticed at the national level were those which subjectivised the existential problems of men.A perception of the names of Malayalam films from Vigathakumaran  to Gulmohar  is enough to understand its patriarchal leanings. A certain supremacy was accorded to the male citizens. directed by Dhundiraj Govind Phalke. It is of little wonder that the first three films in Malayalam cinema. 3 Anthropologists have great interest in mapping Malayali life and films. the biggest film industry in the world (Thoraval 2007). (a Maharashtra Brahmin) in 1912. and cinema being one among the several enterprises. began the representation of the (hu)man as the centre in Indian cinema. which had closely followed the heels of European thought system.
Nallathanka and Sthree were constructed as per patriarchal notions of womanhood went quite unnoticed. politically loaded dramas where as films apolitical.T. was praised much for having replaced God with man. began its stride.What really obsessed him was the desire to see Indian images on the screen in a purely Swadeshi venture. Ramdas. that man was inevitably a patriarch.A. M. Cinema was to give importance to men’s thoughts and actions. K. It is also through films that in a place of mother goddesses.P. wrote the scenario. P. The 1940s. Menon. P.N. from the time of Udaya studio to the present. That the films which came out with women’s names like Jnanambika.C. Theses films carried the extra burden of nationalism and secularism. His Krishna Janmam (1918) also was again a film that gave prominance to the human over god.? . Daniel.T.S. Vasudevan Nair’s Murappennu is the construction of the woman from the male perspective. He fixed up a studio. M. 60’s were the period of P. the dominance of father gods were established. the cinema of the period did not engage itself in politics apparently. in spite of being a period of independence struggles and propagation of communist manifestoes. like in Phalke.’s perception of the male as 4 K. arranged the set and started shooting for his first venture Raja Harishchandra in 1912. unlike the political theatre4. Bhaskaran.C. and IPTA Movements of the time staged. Though Vighatakumaran made by the Tamil born J. The film was widely acclaimed by one and all and proved to be a great success. Sethumadhavan and Ramu Kariat. It is in the 50’s that the commercial cinemas. Nirmala.
who goes astray even as one comes to Nirmalyam in the 70s. John Abraham and G. Adayalangal is in no way a different one. . A look at the recent [2006-08] film awards. Swam etc. Aravindan and the whole of parallel cinema makers have to be reread in this way. Kanchana Sita. one finds that in all these films. Naalu Pennunggal is a film of four men. highlights this male dominance. The new rise of stars in the 80s created a big world of masculine bodies. taking it to the global market. Ore Kadal represents a similar patriarchal ideology.the Asuravithu and the woman as one. man is the mega star. From the 70’s. This period was the golden period of films referred to as Mohanlal and Mammotty films instead of that of the directors who made them. This reveals that even political films which upheld the modernist ideas were not free from the obstinacies of the patriarchal ideology. Pulijanmam and Ekantham convey to the audience the anxieties of male citizens. show similar tendencies. Adoor Gopalakrishnan takes over these anxieties of masculinity in his films and continues doing so even now. In the 90s. Elipathayam etc. Gulmohar is a male revolutionary who flames even in the scorching sun. Thampu. Even the children’s movie Kaliyorukkam is a male centered construct. Looking back. Vaasthuhara. In that sense. they became the male representatives of films which were looked upon as being reactionary. Piravi. Even in the films that echoed the brutality of Emergency and staunch communism also have the male as their centre. received national accolades. Along with the early films like Chemeen. films like Mathilukal. both regional and national.
Like money. but leads us to perceive cinema as the fulfillment of the masculine enterprise. the male Basheer.T. Even the film .’s masculine consciousness. M. learned by the Malayalam students of Kannur University is a product of M. Pather Panchali. We have realized that the script of Deedi’s Gulmohar has been widely edited off to make it a male elegy.T. The attempt of women to intervene in this space seems to bring out little results. One can see that Revathy who made the film Mitr—My Friend. Basheer the Man.Films like The Kid. which focuses on an orphan Balan or boy. Basheer the Man etc which got a space in the school syllabus are all male based narratives. That C. man is also a main component of the film industry. This shows the extent to which things have been naturalized. The Kid. Oru Vadakkan Veeragatha. Raman Pillai’s novel Marthandavarma has been adapted to a film and that Pazhashi Raja is going to revisit us are not mere coincidence. ultimately converts to one who is obliged naively to protect the sanctity of the male centered family structure.V. Pather Panchali is all a male play. who seems to have been obsessed with the works of Hemingway reestablishes the undefeatable male in his films. at least at the level of the exercise of sentimentalism. brings into focus. is not different from the first Malayalam talkie Balan. That Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea represents a world without women as the manifestation of the undefeatable truth of masculinity would never be noticed by those who included it in the syllabus.
Regional Concerns: Historicising Malayalam Cinema. “National Interests.C. “Stock Taking Questions. The hero in the film doesn’t die.” Kerala Calling (Nov. who have been changed to passive spectators. Theodore. based on Ibsen drama may be seen to be representing the immortality of the hero. which bear the ideology of the high cast(e) ideals that these other Malayalee masculinities. made by the Malayalee men. Seeing is Believing. Bibliography Baskaran. T. served its purpose by reconstructing them.Akasha Gopuram. 2009. “Cinema as a Source Material for History: Possibilities and Problems. Hyderabad: Orient Black Swan. It is only through a deconstruction of these films. in its turn. The films. Muraleedharan. who does. Das Gupta. unlike the hero in the drama. Chidananda. New Delhi: Penguin. 2008. Harris. Thus the 80 years of Malayalam cinema history is in fact Malayalees’ 80 years hi(s)tory.” History through the Lens: Perspectives on South Indian Cinema.” Deep Focus (Jan-May 2005) 85-93. V. can construct their own spaces in films. 2006): 33-35. What we see is that this burden of normative masculinity is or has to be taken up by the “other” Malayalee masculinities. .
Ramankutty. K.J. Ed. Thaaramoolyam. Yves.” Madhyamam Weekly (19 April 2002): 17-21 Thoraval. The Cinemas of India (1896-2000). Cheriyan.V.com/ .malayalamcinema.org/wiki/Malayalam_cinema http://www. P. 2000. “Abhiruchiyute Vyakaranam: Thaaram.P. “Malayalam Cinema – The Pageant and the Parade. Raveendran.wikipedia. II (1999): 349 – 369. P. [reprint 2007] http://en. New Delhi: pub house.” Essays on the Cultural Formation of Kerala. Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala State Gazetteer IV.