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Rorschach, Thallumaala, Aavasavyuham: 2022's Best Malayalam Films

Compelling protagonists, anti-hero tales, authentic to their milieu, sumptuous storytelling, social commentary — these seven Malayalam films were the standouts of 2022 for a multiplicity of reasons.

Rorschach, Thallumaala, Aavasavyuham: 2022's Best Malayalam Films
These seven Malayalm films proved the most impactful in 2022.
  • Neelima Menon

Last Updated: 06.07 AM, Dec 30, 2022

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We're recapping a year in entertainment with a series of '2022: The Year In...' essays. Join us on the journey!

And ICYMI, catch up with our Hollywood, Bollywood, Hindi streaming, English TV, Tollywood and Mollywood rewinds.

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In a commendable year for Malayalam cinema, these seven films stood out for their novel approach and rewatch value:

Aavasavyuham

Krishnanand’s Aavasavyuham: The Arbit Documentation of An Amphibian Hunt is centered on an inconspicuous and quiet young man called Joy who is so pure and compassionate that he almost seems celestial at some points in the narrative. The film, which oscillates between spoof, ecological fantasy, and mockumentary, is set in the backwaters of Kerala. Joy’s incandescent bond with ecology is imbued with hilarious footage where characters pitched as the subjects of a performative documentary regale us about their experiences with him. The writing accurately captures the milieu and the satirical humour. The staging is whacky and thoughtful, packed with wry digs at the media and social media, even as it touches on the paradox of human nature. Definitely an experiment and experience worth your time.

Bheeshma Parvam

Amal Neerad’s second collaboration with Mammootty (after the stylish action thriller Big B; 2007) was one of the most hyped films of the year. And it didn't disappoint. A superb retelling of the Mahabharata and Godfather, Mammootty plays the towering patriarch Michael of the Anjootty clan. The anchor of a dysfunctional family seething with vengeance and misgivings, Michael is flawed, almost ruthless... playing both messiah and unapologetic annihilator. Neerad sets out to project the actor and star in Mammootty with ease. With its Amal Neerad patented slow-mo sequences, scintillating action pieces that flow organically into a rousing narrative, and a host of intriguing characters in various shades of grey, Bheeshma Parvam merits several revisits.

Rorschach

A stranger smashes his car in the interiors of a village, and walks towards the nearest police station to register a complaint about his missing wife. That sets the tone for a slow-burning revenge saga, revolving around Luke Antony, an NRI who has laid out a plan to obliterate an entire family in the village. He sets out to achieve this with an eerily calm deviousness, and in the process unmasks various other characters in the story. Nisam Basheer’s second film is open to interpretation, much like the psychological ink blot test it is named for. And it does take a while to peel away the intricate layers of the narrative. Mammootty’s performance is nothing short of a revelation as he brings forth newer dimensions to his craft and aces the dark complexities of Luke. Additionally, there are some excellent performances from Bindu Panicker, Grace Antony, Sharfuddin and Jagadish, aided by Midhun Mukundan’s lyrical mood pieces that form the score for the brooding narrative. A film that unravels itself over repeated viewings. 

Mukundan Unni Associates

When Vineeth Sreenivasan expressed skepticism about the treatment of his character (the amoral and avaricious Advocate Mukundan Unni) to director Abhinav Sunder Nayak, the latter had a clear answer. The filmmaker pointed out that in the real world, it is not good that always triumphs over evil; there are a lot of evil people who live quite happily, without any moral dilemmas. Nayak's observation underscores this story, which follows the life and times of a young, aspiring lawyer who hides a savage callousness behind a deceptively serene exterior. Despite the undercurrents of humour, the abject brutality of the protagonist never misses its mark, keeping us invested and uneasy. The female protagonist is also a departure from the usual smitten and/or sacrificial onscreen love interests, and is the perfect foil to Unni’s dodgy morality. 

Nna Than Case Kodu

A reformed thief who is desperate to prove his innocence in court is at the core of this story, set in a small town in Northern Kerala. What makes this courtroom drama fascinating apart from the accurate representation has to be the multitude of quirky, relatable characters that keep you in splits. Be it the entertaining magistrate, the lawyers, politician, the smitten auto driver and his lover, or the female protagonist, they come together to enliven the proceedings with their disarming wit and naïveté. Kunchacko Boban is immensely believable as Rajeevan, who has a lot at stake.

Thallumaala

If there is a director who can pull a rabbit out of his hat every single time, then it has to be Khalid Rahman. His fourth film, Thallumaala, after Anuraga Karikkin Vellam, Unda and Love is a googly. The story of two social media influencers (Tovino Thomas and Kalyani Priyadarshan) is situated in a North Malabar encrusted with testosterone-fuelled fights, and lyrical song-and-dance numbers. Rahman creates a whacky, raucous and irreverent world where fights are a way of life. Food, relentless brawls, music, splashy colour tones and easy romance keep rotating in circles in Thallumaala. The staging is brilliant, with superbly unrehearsed punch-ups, cheeky lyrics and characters that ramble, making us feel like we are part of a colourful, eclectic pandemonium. You can either jump in and soak up the bedlam or you can roll your eyes at the mindless chaos that unfolds without any rhyme or reason. Either way, Thallumaala is hard to ignore.

Jaya Jaya Jaya Jaya Hey

A young bride (Darshana Rajendran) has to battle a toxic, abusive husband (Basil Joseph) in a home where his mother and sister are equally at odds with his sense of entitlement. After days of tolerating his blows, she finally gathers the courage to retaliate, armed with some online Taekwondo classes. It is of course contentious when you are opting to address a grave issue like domestic violence through humour, and there are several instances when you wonder if they are playing down its seriousness. But considering how much the film resonated with audiences, perhaps the treatment really hit home. If Jeo Baby attempted to keep it raw and real in The Great Indian Kitchen, Jaya Hey... director Vipin Das uses humour to put his points across. And what we have is an undeniable conversation starter.

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