Multi-starrers, new trend in Malayalam films
Of around 90 Malayalam movies released in 2010, films with a multi-star ensemble did well at the box-office compared to many others.
Last year's hits include, Mammootty-Prithviraj starrer 'Pokkiri Raja', Jayaram-Jayasurya-Indrajith combination's 'Happy Husbands' and Mukesh Siddique Ashokan troika's 'In Ghost House Inn'.
Of the 30 films released in the first quarter of 2011, the most successful ones were multi-starrers, stories of which revolved round more than one superstar.
Joshi's 'Christian Brothers', Santhosh Sivan's historical thriller 'Urumi', Rafi-Mecartin's blockbuster 'China Town' and Shafi's 'Makeup Man', which had Jayaram in a lead role and Jayasurya and Prithviraj in special appearances, are some of the films that drew in the audience.
While, 'Christian Brothers' had a huge star cast ranging from superstars like Mohanlal, Suresh Gopi and Dileep to Tamil hero Sarath Kumar; 'Urumi', touted as the first 'global film' from Kerala, has given the audience a chance to see a host of top actors from different languages together.
Rising super star Prithviraj essayed the protagonist in the historical saga dealing with the arrival of Europeans to the Indian sub-continent, while Tamil actors Prabhu Deva and Arya and Genelia D'Souza, Tabu and Vidya Balan, did significant roles.
'China Town', which has the combination of Mohanlal, Dileep and Jayaram, is running to packed houses now.
Many film personalities feel the new trend will help 'Mollywood' regain its past glory.
"It is of course a new trend in Malayalam and the result is positive so far. The audience always like to see their favourite actors together in films. Most superstars were not interested in combination movies before," Mecartin told us.
"That may be the reason for the absence of such movies in the last decade. But, the situation has changed and all are now willing to appear together if there is a good script and story line," he said, referring to his multi-starrer 'China Town'.
Mecartin dismissed as "baseless" the popular conception that superstars are prone to ego clashes and reluctant to appear with fellow-artistes with the same ranking.
"While shooting 'China Town', Mohanlal, Jayaram and Dileep enjoyed the team work and helped each other make the scenes perfect. Even after the shoot, they had fun together and hosted parties. This pointed to the deep friendship and fraternal feelings among Malayalam artistes," Mecartin said.
Malayalam-Tamil actor Jayaram, who was part of several multi-star hits, said such films are the specialty of Malayalam industry alone.
"Multi-starrers are frequently happening in Malayalam. I am quite sure that does not happen this easily in other languages. The only reason is, the artistes in Malayalam industry have no ego or grudge towards co-artistes. They are not jealous about others' achievements and there is a healthy relation among us," Jayaram said.
Jayaram rejected the criticism that multi-starrers are created just to attract fans and they lack a good storyline.
"I do not think people will accept films which have no stuff. In multi-starrers, we all have equal responsibility and so we will only choose movies that have good story and script," he said.
Though popular stars acting together were common during the 1970s and 1980s, the trend changed since the late 1990s.
Movies, in which Malayalam superstars appeared together, were very rare during the period except a few films like Fazil's 1998 'Harikrishnans' which featured Mammootty and Mohanlal, Sibi Malayil's 'Summer in Bethlehem' (1998) and Shaji Kailas's 'Narasimham'(2000).
The blockbuster 'Twenty Twenty' (2008), a movie in which almost all Malayalam actors including superstars, heroines, character artistes, comedians and villains appeared, was the path-breaking film that brought back the multi-starrer trend in Mollywood.
This trail-blazer, produced by actor Dileep on behalf of the 'Association of Malayalam Movie Artistes', was a unique attempt in Indian cinema which surprised directors and artistes in other languages as well.
Moulding characters with equal importance and the enormous production cost are major hurdles before filmmakers who are planning such movies.
Meanwhile, producers opine that multi-starrers do well at the box-office and it is not difficult to get the invested money back.
"If directors and script writers pay little more concentration on the script, they can easily avoid the risk of imbalance in the characterisation in such movies," Mecartin said.
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