Jaya Jaya Jaya Jaya Hey!, starts the song of one of the most endearing movies i watched in 2022. Set to a catchy tune, it is an anthem around a name that I respond to (part of the name thats me). And the song tells a tale, of how young girls grow up in an unequal world, and willy-nilly accept, adjust, make do, compromise… till they won’t put up with it, any more. Jaya emerges victorious, living up to her name :)
Jaya, played by Darshana Rajendran, learns the art of self-defence to confront her typical, abusive, entitled husband, played convincingly by actor/director Basil Joseph. Basil’s cameo was one of the highlights in the pertly made Nna, Than Case Kodu, with Kunchako Boban, once-a-theif, doggedly taking on the powers that be to clear his name. The movie made it’s place in the slice-of-life movies that Malyalam movies have mastered, including Malayankunju featuring the reliable Fahadh Fasil, as an eccentric irritable electronics engineer whose life is upended by a cantakerous little child and a sudden landslide. Caste and ecology weave into the narrative to make a convincing story. Basil takes us on a superhero ride in Minnal Murali, where the same event (lightning strike) vests similar superhero power in two persons, and while one uses it to destruct, the other uses his powers to set things right. The stand-out character in the movie is Bruce Lee Biji played by Femina George, the only travel agent cum karate master in the village.
Darshana has a song to her own name in Hridayam, my opening film of the year, directed by Vineeth Srinivasan. A good watch with great music by Hashem Abdul Wahab. Pranav Mohanlal was a revelation, following up on his promising role portraying the young Marakkar in Priyadarshan’s verrrry long historic tale of the heroic warrior. (I wish they’d retained Pranav through the movie, instead of having him replaced by Mohanlal for the older Marakkar. I’ll be waiting to see more of Pranav in the days to come.)
The big a-ha for me was the mainstreaming of Kudumbashree in Malayalam cinema (seen in Freedom Fight, Oru Thekkan Thallu Case, Jaya Jaya Jaya Jaya He). Kudumbashree is a poverty-eradication programme driven by a women’s movement, slowly turning Kerala’s embedded patriarchy on its head.
Like comfort food, Malayalam movies are my go to cinema, and some of the current breed of film-makers and actors are going the extra mile to create new narratives, entertaining and reflective all at once.