Best Malayalam Movies of 2017 – Ranked
by Tejas Nair
I am obsessed with Malayalam cinema. Much like how Alphonse Puthren enthralled me through Nivin Pauly with Premam in 2015, I was taken aback by the sheer simplicity of Dileesh Pothan’s fantastic directorial debut, Maheshinte Prathikaaram, in 2016. I have been creating Malayalam film lists since 2012, two years after I formally began diving into the never-ending pool of films, mostly Malayalam and Hindi. It has been well over six years now and I am still swimming in the pool with the water still fresh with new-wave and experimental films.
Keeping up with the habit, here’s the monthly-updated list of the 10 best Malayalam movies of 2017:
|4||Rakshadhikari Baiju (Oppu)|
|5||Kaadu Pookkunna Neram|
|7||C/O Saira Banu|
Upcoming Malayalam Films of 2017 – An Overview
As we enter 2017, the year which has already been under stress due to the nasty theatre strike in Kerala, there are plenty of films which we are excited about. Fahadh Faasil is joining hands with Pothan, the 2016 hitmaker whose aforementioned film was on the top for the whole eleven months it stayed on the charts last year. Although he made only two Malayalam films in 2016 – one hit, one flop – Faasil will be acting in a handful this year – Raffi’s family drama, Role Models; Pothan’s comedy, Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum; and Mahesh Narayanan’s refugee drama, Take Off.
Prithviraj Sukumaran is supposedly going to direct Mohanlal who will be seen in March in his cliched avatar of a soldier in Major Ravi’s next feature. While Dulquer Salmaan is ignoring the eyebrows that were raised when people started questioning if his recent film directed by out-of-ideas Sathyan Anthikkad had sampled Vineeth Sreenivasan’s Jacobinte Swargarajyam, Asif Ali gears up for a film based on the frenzied mayhem of Thrissurpuram. Salmaan’s father, Mammootty, will been seen in a couple of films, starting with Haneef Adeni’s much-anticipated gangster drama. He did a lot of films last year, compared to his immediate counterpart, Mohanlal, but the latter came out victorious, although the one he made with Priyadarshan was the biggest cinematic disappointment of last year. Sukumaran is also gearing up for his long-finished Jayakrishnan directorial, Ezra, Tiyaan, Vimaanam, and My Story.
Nivin Pauly will be a communist in Siddhartha Siva’s Sakhavu, with his other films being Shyamprasad’s Hey Jude and Premam co-star’s directorial debut, Njandukalude Naattil Oridavela. Jayasurya has shed his cheeky avatar and has entered the character role bandwagon, with Ranjith Sankar’s Su… Su… Sudhi Vaathmeekam in 2015 and Pretham in 2016. Jean Paul Lal will hopefully stop making films after releasing the sequel to his 2013 filthy comedy, Honey Bee. And Jayaram will be again embarrassing himself with Kannan Thamarakullam’s Achayans.
Midhun Manuel Thomas will be directing Sunny Wayne in Alamaara, while Sreenivasan comes back as a hero in Sajin Baabu’s Ayal Sasi. Tovino Thomas is going to be on a roll
after his 2016 film Guppy became a sleeper hit post DVD release. His Oru Mexican Aparatha, Chengazhi Nambiar, Godha, and Tick Tock are all on every Malayalam film fanatic’s watchlist. So much that my cousin recently uploaded the first look poster of Tom Emmatty’s film as his Facebook cover photo. Funnyman Soubin Shahir is the helmsman this year with his debut Parava, while Sanal Sasidharan hopes to get another National Award with Sexy Durga, but the title tells me he won’t. The eleven months ahead will show us what the industry has in store.
Industry sweetheart Parvathy will be leading Narayanan’s Take Off, and by the looks of the trailer she looks immensely in character of that of a nurse. She will also be the lead in Roshni Dinaker’s My Story, and it makes me proud to say that Parvathy is the only actress right now who is holding up in Mollywood and who refuses to do instrumental roles. Although we know that Bollywood two-film actor Priya Anand will be a puppet in Jayakrishnan’s horror feature, it is Prayaga Martin who will be in contention to be the most prolific actress in 2017. She acted in at least four films that I can remember of in 2016, and this year she will start her bout with Siddique’s Fukri.
Namitha Pramod will be back with Role Models, Bhavana with Honey Bee 2 and Adventures of Omanakuttan, Sneha with The Great Father, and Meera Jasmine with Poomaram, with the latter being a launchpad for Jayaram’s son, Kalidas. Aparna Balamurali is on a roll with two hit films of 2016 already in her kitty. Also a singer, she will be seen in Ratheish Kumar’s Thrissivaperoor Kliptham opposite Asif Ali. Rajisha Vijayan, who was criticized for her over-emotional role in Khalid Rahman’s Anuraga Karikkin Vellam (2016) will be seen with Dileep in K Biju’s Georgettan’s Pooram.
It’s sure that we will be seeing a lot of new faces this year, too, making us forget the ones that we saw last year in many films such as Abrid Shine’s Action hero Biju (Anu Emmanuel), Sreenivasan’s Jacobinte Swargarajyam (Reba John), Vipin Das’s Muthugauv (Arthana Vijayakumar), and Abi Varghese’s Monsoon Mangoes (Iswarya Menon). Let’s not forget about the forceful Manju Warrier who will resume playing protestant, stereotype-breaking roles, starting with Antony Sebastian’s C/O Saira Banu with forgotten actress, Amala Akkineni.
Coming to directors, Major Ravi will again try to showcase his armchair activism with 1971: Beyond Borders starring the go-to-guy for such films, Mohanlal. Sathyan Anthikad has already testified that he’s run out of ideas, and will hopefully be not making any movies in future. Dr. Biju started off the year with his award-worthy crime drama and will be seen helming another film called Sound of Silence. (For people who do not know, he was accused recently of creating and editing his own page on Wikipedia, which is highly frowned upon on the English encyclopedia.)
While Renjith will be back with Puthan Panam, Shyamaprasad hopes to bring the charm of The Beatles into Mollywood with Hey Jude. Blessy is going to adapt Benyamin’s Aadu Jeevitham, but I think we will have to wait till 2018. Ottaal fame Jayaraj has already won accolades for his epic drama, Veeram, starring Kunal Kapoor. A song from the film was sent to Oscars, and obviously did not make it in the shortlist. John Varghese has announced that there would be a sequel to 2015’s comedy horror film, Adi Kapyare Kootamani, but I am yet to read any reports surrounding its photography commencement.
Jeethu Joseph is going to launch Mohanlal’s son, Pranav, but I do not have much hopes in him because of his recent turkeys – 2015’s Life of Josutty and 2016’s Oozham. If Pranav has only watched Drishyam, I would suggest him to have a look at these two as well. Lijo Jose Pellissery’s 2015 high-octance action film, Doube Barrel, failed to load and lock, but that doesn’t mean he won’t deliver this time. According to Angamaly Diaries‘ trailer, the film, written by actor Chemban Vinod Jose, talks about the story of streetwise men who are involved in petty crimes, and it looks very interesting. If you are looking for creativity in Malayalam cinema, Pellissery is one of few guys you consider.
Lal Jose intends to make some money by casting Dulquer Salmaan in Oru Bhayangara Kamukan, although I think 2018 is the release year. Similarly, Amal Neerad is betting big on the actor with his highly-anticipated Comrade in America. Basil Joseph of Kunjiramayanam (2015) fame is back with Godha and has cast newcomer Wamiqa Gabbi in it. That’s about it as of now.
There are surely some great films that are coming out this year, but the scope of this article does not warrant more analysis and speculation about them. So, let’s focus on the films that have released so far. Following is a detailed analysis of the Malayalam films that are out in the open for us to enjoy.
2017 – Ratings, Reviews, Rankings
Without further ado, here we go with our ratings, rankings, and reviews of all Malayalam films released in 2017, updated at the end of every month. Rankings are based on the aggregate ratings of Mollywood’s greatest film critics like Veeyen (NowRunning), Sify, and Lensmen Reviews. I have also added my personal rating so that there is no bias. I have often observed people accusing critics of being fans of certain actors. Well, that’s not the case with me.
Best Malayalam Movies of 2017
In the tables below, the attributes are the film’s rank, it’s title, it’s ratings each out of 10 (of Sify, Now Running (NR), my personal (ME), and Lensmen Reviews (LR), and the average. The rank only depends on the this weighted average and nothing else. Every month-end, a new table will be created with a description so that we can analyse the change as more ratings come in. Comments are most welcome, but please be civil.
Films Released in January 2017
Only four films released in the month of January 2017. While Dr Biju defied the theatre strike and released his festival favorite, also known as When the Woods Bloom, in the first week of January, another indie drama, God Say, locked horns with it. While the former, starring Rima Kallingal and Indrajith Sukumaran in the lead roles, was lauded for its raw take on naxalites in Kerala, the latter was panned for lack of depth even though it dealt with the politically charged topic of Mahatma Gandhi and his assassin. Even Vinay Forrt and Joy Mathew couldn’t save the film from tanking at the box office. However, it is ranked above Sathyan Anthikkad’s Jomonte Suvisheshangal as both audience and critics grilled the makers if it had aped Vineeth Sreenivasan’s 2016 crowd favorite.
The biggest winner was probably Jibu Jacob’s Munthirivallikal Thalirkumbol, in which Mohanlal and Meena come back together as husband and wife to convey a story about the Indian middle-class and the idea of matrimony. Critics have loved it, with fans lauding the complete actor for his never-exhausting charm. We were supposed to see Ezra, Kamboji, The Great Father, Fukri, and Aby this month, but let’s all thank Liberty Basheer (and Dileep, too) and wait for the next month.
Films released Till February 2017
Giving a mild stroke to Jibu Jacob and toppling his family entertainer from the #2 position is the surprise hit, Ezra, starring Prithviraj Sukumaran, Priya Anand, Tovino Thomas, Sujith Sankar, and Vijaraghavan in the lead roles. A well-made horror film that samples an old Jewish myth, Ezra was also a hit at the box office, giving Sukumaran a much-needed success after a meek 2016. Another surprise was Anand’s substantial role in the film, which in Malayalam standards is a laudable achievement. It was nice to see Sankar in a new avatar after he impressed us with his acting and fighting chops in Maheshinte Prathikaaram. Both critics and audience have dubbed Ezra a clever thriller that is high on entertainment level.
Although Jayaraj’s Macbeth adaptation, Veeram, received mixed reviews for being hollow and lacking character depth, it is ranked at #3 on our list of best Malayalam films of 2017 so far. It stars Bollywood actor Kunal Kapoor as Chandu Chekavar. While Siddique’s Fukri starring Jayasurya, Siddique, Prayaga Martin, and Lal was dismissed as a lazy attempt at creating humor, Srikant Murali’s Aby received much love from the audiences. Critics’ reviews were mixed, with some appreciating Vineeth Sreenviasan’s performance and others panning the humdrum execution. It narrates the story of a child prodigy who uses crude science to create wonders in his small Kerala village.
The clear winner here is Ezra, with Kaadu Pookunna Neram still holding up safely at #1. We have a lot of interesting movies lined up for release in March, and are specifically interested in Tom Emmatty’s Oru Mexican Aparatha, Lijo Jose Pallissery’s Angamaly Diaries, Midhun Manuel Thomas’s Alamaara, and Haneef Adeni’s The Great Father.
Films Released Till March 2017
More than 15 Malayalam films released in the month of March 2017, and we already have some of the best films of the year so far. Lijo Jose Pellissery’s Angamaly Diaries opened to rave reviews. Lauded by both critics and audiences using adjectives the director last saw them using in 2013, it was on top of our list for that week. Gritty, electric, and gory – the film written by actor Chemban Vinod Jose is about a group of young streetwise men and their life in the infamous town. It will probably be best known years from now for its casting of newbies in lead roles and the 11-minute uncut single-take climax.
Tom Emmatty’s politically charged drama, Oru Mexican Aparatha, tried to compete with it but sustained injuries. Starring Tovino Thomas, Roopesh Peethambaran, and Neeraj Madhav in the lead roles, it talks about a rivalry between two college-level political parties. Sify reviewed it positively, but the audience thought it was an average affair. Midhun Manuel Thomas tried to tickle some bones with his family comedy, Alamara, but was let down by a weak script. Sunny Wayne continued to showcase his charm, but newcomer Aditi Ravi may need to take some acting classes, looks like. Although it had an interesting concept wherein the bride’s family gifts the newly married couple an almirah (cupboard) as dowry, it failed to impress the audience.
Manju Warrier’s first film of the year was Antony Sony Sebastian’s C/O Saira Banu where fans were also treated with the comeback of 90s’ South Indian actress Amala Akkineni. Supported by Shane Nigam, it explores a relevant social cause and is basically a pleasing courtroom drama. Critics appreciated Sony’s efforts, but the audience thought it was rehashed content. Lal Jr released his much-waited sequel to the 2013 film, Honey Bee. Titled Honey Bee 2: Celebrations, it was heavily panned by everyone who watched it. Some say that a real life issue concerning one of the lead cast during the time of the release played with the film’s success, but trust me, the film is so bad I am yet to read a positive review of it. Both Asif Ali and Bhavana’s first film of the year, this one was an instant flop, and also tanked at the box office. Let’s hope Lal Jr makes way for more talented young filmmakers.
While Angamaly Diaries was enjoying the top position for more than two weeks, there comes Mahesh Narayan’s Take Off, starring Parvathy, Kunchacko Boban, and Fahadh Faasil, toppling it off the best film position. Currently ranked #1 on our list of the best Malayalam movies of 2017, Take Off narrates the gripping story of 19 nurses from Kerala who are stranded in the war-torn Tikrit area of Iraq. Based on the real-life incident that took place in 2014, it is a well-executed drama that gives you an inside view into the hell that is ISIS-driven war. Parvathy shines and instantly qualifies to be considered for the honour of 2017 Kerala State Award’s Best Actress. It was pleasant to watch Faasil after a long time, now that he has a National Award winning film in his kitty. I personally rated the film a high 7 out of 10, the same rating I gave to Jay K’s Ezra.
Haneef Adeni’s The Great Father, starring superstar Mammootty, released with much fanfare, and deals with a social issue concerning harassment against women. Reviews were mixed, but fans loved it (no wonder). Critics were not happy with Adeni’s style, but gave brownie points to the actor for giving a good performance. Also starring Sneha and Arya, it broke a few box office records, but this article does not really care about those numbers. I was particularly impressed by the film’s social media team for carrying out a great pre-release marketing campaign. K. Biju’s Dileep-starrer Georgettan’s Pooram, Vinod Mankara’s Vineeth-starrer Kamboji, and Vysakan K P’s Ayal Jeevichirippundu were other major releases of March 2017. None of these impressed anyone save for the respective cast and crew.
All in all, the clear winners this month were Take Off and Angamaly Diaries. Negative reviews eluded both of them, and pushing them down is going to be tough for future releases. Thanks to the Vishu season, we have a lot of great films coming up: we are particularly interested in Ranjith’s Puthan Panam, Shanil Muhammed’s multi-starrer Avarude Raavukal, Rohith V S’s Adventures of Omanakuttan, and Sidhartha Siva’s Sakhavu. Bahubali – The Conclusion will also be releasing in dubbed Malayalam version, but we will not be considering it for our rankings. Here’s to a better month for Malayalam cinema.
Films Released Till April 2017
Despite the Vishu month, only seven films released in April 2017. I don’t know what the reason is but we couldn’t catch many of the films we were supposed to catch. For example, neither Adventures of Omanakuttan nor Avarude Raavukal released in April; both were postponed indefinitely without a release date in place. We were, however, treated (or mistreated) with some turkeys like Ranjith’s Puthan Panam and Diphan’s Sathya. The former was high on style and glamour, thanks to its lead actor Mammootty, but eventually gave us all the reasons to believe that the acclaimed director has lost his touch. His last few films (Leela (2016), Loham (2015), Njan (2013)) were all half-baked affairs that only helped in denting their lead actors’ filmography. Puthan Panam, which talks about the 2016 demonetisation of the 1000- and 500-rupee notes, is ranked two places below Aby, arguably one of the worst films of 2017. Although we respect Diphan for his brilliant debut venture, Puthiya Mugham, in 2009 with Prithviraj, we are not quite sure of his latest film. Starring Jayaram, Parvathy Nambiar, and Roma, Sathya was a snoozefest which talks about nothing in particular. We tried to understand what the film is about from its crew, but it looks like even they have no idea. Jayaram has conveniently moved on from the debacle and is gearing up for his next release, Kannan Thamarakkulam’s Achayans. Sathya is ranked at the bottom of our list, confirming yet again that Roma’s acting career is over, also thanks to the disastrous 2015 film, Namasthe Bali Island.
The first release of the month was Major Ravi’s 1971: Beyond Borders. Anyone who expected great things from this film can stop reading this article right now. (We don’t want that sort of negativity here at Thoughtcream.) As we predicted, the Mohanlal-starrer war epic was a below average affair with critics remarking that the director has spun content from his previous feature films (except his 1999 debut Oru Avadhikaalam which released in 2010) and made the blunder that is this film. We still don’t know why they had to make it a multilingual film; so much to rake in some moolah with stale content. We were sure that director Ravi’s worst film was the 2007 Mammootty-starrer Mission 90 Days, but after reading the reviews of this film, we think we may have to update our list. P K Baburaj’s Gemini, starring Renji Panicker and Esther Anil, made a silent entry into the theatres and will probably make a more silent exit this week. Why the film was not promoted even at a time of social media is beyond us.
Sidhartha Siva’s Sakhavu was Nivin Pauly’s first film of 2017, and the stakes were high. However, the reactions and reviews were rather polarised. While the determined fans lauded Pauly’s performance as the fierce and jovial comrade, the critics were critical of the director’s filmmaking approach with NowRunning writing “…the problem lies in the protracted drama that is predictable owing to the trite story of exploitation and revolution.” Sify and Lensmen both gave it a fat 6 out of 10, making it rank amongst the top 10 films of 2017 so far. It also stars Althaf, Aishwarya Rajesh, and Gayathri Suresh. Ranjan Pramod’s Rakshadhikari Baiju (Oppu) released towards the end of the month, and became what we can call a sleeper hit. No one expected mountains from the film, as is common with those starring Biju Menon, but both viewers and audience were thrilled to get oodles of entertainment and wisdom from it. Starring Menon, Hannah Reji Koshy, and Aju Varghese, Sify called it a “feel good entertainer,” and is presently ranked at #3 on our list. That is the problem with people; they don’t know that Menon is a genius and is capable of doing wonderful things. He will be next seen with Indrajith in Anzar Khan’s Lakshyam.
The Malayalam dubbed version of the second part of Bahubali was also released, but as noted before, we won’t be considering it for our list of the best Malayalam films of 2017.
The month of May seems to be packed with some great films. We are excited about Amal Neerad’s CIA: Comrade in America, Lakshyam, Rohith V S’s Adventures of Omanakuttan, Ranjith Sankar’s Ramante Edenthottam, Sajin Baabu’s Ayaal Sasi, and Basil Joseph’s Godha.
Films Released Till May 2017
In order to dodge the effect of Bahubali 2, a lot of films were postponed from May to subsequent months. While Ayaal Sassi and Avarude Raavukal were postponed to June, we saw seven big releases this month. With Sakhavu and Rakshadhikari Baiju going strong, the first film of May 2017 was Amal Neerad’s Comrade in America (CIA). Adding to the communist buzz in Mollywood, this Dulquer Salmaan-starrer hoped to thrash some records, but ended up being an average affair. Critics were not so receptive of Neerad’s style, and were instead scathing about both the paradigm shift in the storyline and the newbie actresses’ performance. Salmaan, of course, made many hearts skip a beat with his performance as a communist character who goes on an international trip looking for his girlfriend. I am particularly smitten by Gopi Sunder’s rendition Kannil Kannil, sung beautifully by Haricharan and Sayanora.
Anzar Khan’s Lakshyam had an inventive concept about two convicts who run away from a prison to find a way to restart their lives, but was let down by a dreary execution. Expectations were high because of the Biju Menon-Indrajith pair and Jeethu Joseph’s production, but the film appealed to only a niche group. Sshivada appears in a supporting role, playing the love interest of Indrajith’s character. (See Kattu Vannuvo song from the film for a pleasant experience.)
Ranjith Sankar’s Ramante Edanthottam was met with mixed reviews, with most critics and users praising the nature-kissed production setup. Starring Kunchacko Boban and Anu Sithara in lead roles, it tries to explore the importance of residing close to nature in an age where city life is taking a toll on human life. Interesting material, as always by Sankar, but critics were not too receptive of the “feel-good entertainer”.
Kannan Thamarukkalam’s Achayans, with an ensemble cast, released the following week, along with Rohit V S’s Adventures of Omanakuttan and Basil Joseph’s Godha. Much brouhaha erupted when Rohit V S took to social media to comment about his debut film’s box office status, driving a section of the film fraternity to shower support to him and his experimental film. In the battle between the three big films, the clear winner was Godha, a comedy film about wrestling and human values. Starring Tovino Thomas, Wamiqa Gabbi, and Renji Panicker, Godha held strong box office numbers even at the end of its second week. Many users even compared the sports film with Bollywood biggies and yesteryear blockbusters like Nitesh Tiwari’s Dangal and Ali Zaffar’s Sultan. It was so highly rated by the critics that it currently sits at #3 on our list of the best Malayalam movies of 2017, way below Take Off (2017) and Angamaly Diaries, in terms of total score.
While Achayans was bound to tank, given its trailer’s quality and the abilities of the man at the helm, Adventures of Omanakuttan was termed “a good effort.” V K Prakash’s lowbrow thriller Careful released towards the end of May, and no one noticed.
June is the month of Ramzan and the line-up of films is as mouthwatering as the biriyani that is served to end the fast. While we don’t know if Ayaal Sassi will release anytime soon (the trailer said May 19), looks like Jiyen Krishnakumar’s period drama Tiyaan, Avarude Raavukal, and Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum are the only confirmed titles. We could also see underdogs like Pramod Gopal’s Gold Coins, Omar’s Chunkzz, Abhiram Unnithan’s Himalayathile Kashmalan, and Third World Boys.