The master craftsmen

Who are the best screenplay-director combinations in Malayalam cinema?

For those who have been following cinema closely, as a matter of fact, most Malayalees, the answer would be rather simple. For them, it could be Sreenivasan – Sathyan Antikkad, Siddique – Lal, Ranjith – Shaji Kailas, Renji Panicker – Joshy etc.

True, these are the most commercially successful, box office blockbusters that ruled the theaters for days and months. They have given all the comedy-action-romantic cult classics in Malayalam cinema – Sandesham, Ramji Rao Speaking, Godfather, Commissioner, The King, Patram etc.

There is one another director-scriptwriter duo that does not feature in the list of most movie lovers who watch Malayalam films. Even me, I have never been to watch their movies in theatre except one, their films have the least bit of comedy or action, sometimes ordinary songs, but definitely are the best remembered and the ones that capture the contemptuous malayalee society in the best possible manner on the canvas.

The only movie I remember seeing of the Hariharan – MT Vasudevan Nair duo in the theatres was Pazhassi Raja. In fact, I never liked their movies, in fact, any of them when I saw them for the first time. Most of their movies were released both when I was a child or a teenager, and it never suited my tastes, or a matter of fact, any other person of my same age group.

It never would have.

After all which teenager would have loved to see social dramas on screen which looked tad too period or melodramatic,  when there was fun, comedy, action, songs and every bit of masala’ in every other movie. Yes, Sir MTV Nair is one of the greatest writers Malayalam language has ever seen, but his movies seemed to people like me as nothing much more than an extension of his pretentious novels.

Things change when we congregate knowledge.

I used to never comprehend why Hariharan’s and MT’s movies used to triumph at the awards at state and national level. As age, mellowness and astuteness grows and mature like good old wine and the age old whiskey, we truly understand what the movies and the message were. I see them now a second time, third time, some even countless times, and they are indeed gems of a different kind.

Their movies are trinkets that are socially pertinent, a true manifestation of the malayalee psyche and consciousness, a mirror reflection of the Kerala society and the social order. Anybody, any layman who wants to understand what the Malayalee social order and culture is all about, just need to watch the movies that were born under their combination. Just that will do.

They have captured the Malayalee’s history, culture, ethnicity, casteism, social evils, everything in the most picture perfect manner, which may look dull and tedious as I had felt as a teenager, but are authentic charms when we see it with the right intent.

See Panchagni, Nakhakshathangal, Oru Vadakkan Veeragatha, Parinayam, Ennu Swantham Janakikutty, Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja and Ezhamathe Varavu. There are just some movies I can recall, and I am sure there are lots more, but all these are unique, each in its own right.

They have painted wonderful pictures of history, folklore, traditions, customs, myths and legends of our land in the most spectacular manner.

They have created the most poetic songs that have ever been heard in Malayalam through their movies. The songs like “paarvanenthu mukhi parvathi”, of course written by Yusuf Ali Kecheri, is the best veneration of Parvathi and Lord Shiva one can ever hear of.

There has been no one else who have captured the essence, beauty and the magnificence of the river Bharatapuzha better than their movies. Who could forget the splendor and grandeur of the Nila in the songs from Nakhakshathangal.

In no other movies could you see an epitomization of the madness of the caste system, the farcical and preposterous way of life and human ignorance that prevailed in the society.

And only they could make a colossal villain of the northern ballads, Chandu into an unsung hero. He who was the rogue and scoundrel over the ages got transformed into an unsung hero overnight. Nobody could have done that better than the master storytelling of MT and the artistry of Hariharan.

For me, they are the best. We may laugh at the satire in Sandesham, clap at the dialogues in the Commissioner, but nothing is as original as any of MT’s characters and Hariharan‘s illustrations.

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