If Kerala is known for its scenic beauty and amazing backwaters, then it is also famous for churning out socially relevant movies. The language of the state of Kerala is Malayalam and movies made in the state are often in Malayalam language only. The most striking aspect about Malayalam cinema is that they are more realistic in nature and unlike popular Hindi cinemas; they are more prone to delivering social messages. One reason behind this phenomenon could be political landscape of the region that has affected the arts and culture of Kerala. The people of Kerala love to watch Malayalam movies and that explains its popularity in the region as well as in some countries where Malay expats are spread.
Going back to the history books, the first Malayalam cinema was ‘Vigathakumaran’ made in 1928. It was a silent movie that was well received by the people of the state. The first spoken cinema was ‘Balan’. Malayalam movies got a fresh lease of life with opening of its first studio Udaya. With the passage of time, Malayalam films have made a strong identity for themselves. During the initial period, the movies made in the region were hugely influenced by Tamil and Telugu cinemas but then the tide turned. Directors like Adoor Gopalakrishnan, G. Aravindan and Shaji Karun etc have contributed significantly in the global recognition of Malayalam cinema.
Malayalam cinema works in two layers of melodramatic themes and art cinema that has continued to grow. Movies made in the region are wonderful manifestation of deeply interwoven other pillars of culture such as literature, art and politics. 1950s witnessed first major Malayalam hit known as ‘Jeevithanauka’. The super success of this movie was followed by other classics like Neelakkuyil, Newspaper Boy and Chemmeen etc. 1970’s witnessed a socio-political change in Kerala. This period also saw huge interests of youths in movie making and Malayalam film songs. The movies became a powerful medium of self-expression.
Malayalam cinema kept growing strength by strength during 80’s, 90’s and in new millennium. The gap between commercial and art cinema slowly subsided and new technologies were incorporated in the film medium. Some of the most popular Malayalam actors are Mohanlal, Suresh Gopi and Mammootty. Malayalam cinemas are frequently shown at international film festivals.