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Kerala's fresh take

RISK HAPPY: Shweta Menon in 'Salt n Pepper', a story that starts with a man's passion for dosa

Does the rise of indie films in Kerala finally signal a return to the golden age of Malayalam cinema when art and commerce coexisted?

You could call Aashiq Abu's 22 Female Kottayam a rape revenge film. But it is more than that. It has broken many stereotypes in Malayalam films. Its women are confident, curious and frankly interested in sex. The men they consort with are not exploitative boors. The story is one that many young people in Kerala's streets can relate to. And it is pulling in crowds at theatres.

There was a time when the national film awards went to Kerala almost every year. This was when Malayalam films were thought provoking and entertaining at the same time, when actors did not hanker to do centrespreads and when the story was the star. All that crumbled some 15 years ago, ironically, precisely when Hindi cinema began rediscovering itself.

Fortunately, Malayalam cinema is beginning to shake itself out of its long uncreative slumber. Over the last four years, the box office has been seeing some really fresh, engaging films made by a new generation of directors, writers and actors. The stories they tell are small, tight, very real and demand little star value.

Directors such as Ranjith, Anoop Menon and Aashiq Abu believe that Kerala's movie goers are ready for bold, contemporary themes. Their films deal with an eclectic array of themes -biopics, thrillers as well as realistic comedies. Thirakkatha, Kerala Cafê, Indian Rupee, Chappankurishu, Beautiful, Salt and Pepper, Manjadikuru, Traffic, Ee Adutha Kalathu are films that indicate the rise of a very viable indie cinema movement in Kerala. Interestingly, these films have chosen to move away from the rural "socials" that were once the staple of Malayalam films. They are situated in the urban landscape and have a different sound and feel to them.

This new wave has also created space for younger actors now that the superstars of the state - Mohanlal and Mammooty - are both visibly jaded. Younger actors like Prithviraj, Vineeth Srinivasan, Anoop Menon, Shweta Menon, Indrajith and Mythili have managed to carve a niche for themselves.

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