The Malayalam Cinema, is the Indian film industry based in both Trivandrum and Kochi, Kerala, India, dedicated to the production of motion pictures in the Malayalam language.
Malayalam cinema is known for its realistic portrayal of relevant subjects in films with less commercial elements. Malayalam cinema has pioneered various technical, thematic and production techniques among films in India. The industry is the fourth largest film industry in India. It is also one of the largest producers of parallel cinema in India.
At first (beginning in the 1920s), the Malayalam film industry was based in Trivandrum. Although the film industry started to develop and flourish only by the late-1940s. Later, the industry shifted to Chennai (formerly Madras), which then was the capital of the South Indian film industry. In the 2000s, the Malayalam film industry returned and established itself both in Kochi and Trivandrum with a major chunk of locations, studios and production facilities.
The first 3-D film produced in India, My Dear Kuttichathan (1984), was made in Malayalam. The first CinemaScope film produced in South India was the Malayalam film Thacholi Ambu (1978). The world's first film with just one actor in the star cast was the Malayalam film The Guard (2001).
Rajiv Anchal's Guru (1997) and Salim Ahamed's Adaminte Makan Abu (2011) are the only Malayalam films to be sent by India as its official entry for the Best Foreign Language Film category at the Academy Awards. Films such as Piravi, Swaham, Marana Simhasanam, Chemmeen, Mathilukal and Vanaprastham were also screened and won awards at several international film festivals.
Cinemas before the first film
The first cinema hall in Kerala, with a manually operated film projector, was opened in Thrissur by K. W. Joseph in 1907. In 1913, the first electrically operated film projector was established (in Thrissur again) by Jose Kattukkaran and was called the "Jose Electrical Bioscope". Soon such cinema halls were established in other major cities of Kerala. In the early days, Tamil, Hindi and English films were exhibited in these theatres.
The first film (silent movie, 1928)
The first film to be made in Malayalam was Vigathakumaran, which was released in 1930. It was produced and directed by J. C. Daniel, and for this work he is credited as the father of Malayalam cinema. The shooting of the first Malayalam film, the silent movie Vigathakumaran, was started in 1928; the film was released in Trivandrum Capitol Theatre on November 7, 1930. It was produced and directed by J. C. Daniel, a businessman with no prior film experience. Daniel founded the first film studio, 'The Travancore National Pictures Limited' in Kerala.
The second film, Marthanda Varma, based on a novel by C. V. Raman Pillai, was produced by R. Sundar Raj in 1933. However, it became stranded in a legal battle over copyright issues[clarification needed] and the court ordered the confiscation of the prints. As a result, the second movie's exhibition lasted only four days.
The first talkie (1938)
The first talkie in Malayalam was Balan, released in 1938. It was directed by S. Nottani with a screenplay and songs written by Muthukulam Raghavan Pillai. It was produced at Chennai (then Madras) in the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu. Malayalam films continued to be made mainly by Tamil producers until 1947, when the first major film studio, Udaya, was established in Kerala, in Alleppey (Alappuzha) by Kunchacko, who earned fame as a film producer and director.
Malayalam cinema has always taken its themes from relevant social issues and has been interwoven with material from literature, drama, and politics since its inception. One such film, Jeevitha Nouka (1951), was a musical drama which spoke about the problems in a joint family. This movie became very popular and was probably the first "super hit" of Malayalam cinema. However, this movie's success was bittersweet.
Although its success accelerated Malayalam movie-making, films that were produced after Jeevitha Nouka closely mimicked its structure, hoping to find some sort of "success formula", thus hampering creativity for a long time. Nevertheless, this time was hailed as "the period of giants" in Malayalam film industry, due to the work of film stars Thikkurissy Sukumaran Nair, Sathyan, Kottarakkara Sreedharan Nair and Prem Nazir.
In 1954, the film Neelakuyil captured national interest by winning the President's silver medal. Scripted by the well-known Malayalam novelist Uroob, and directed by P. Bhaskaran and Ramu Kariat, it is often considered the first authentic Malayali film. Another notable production was Newspaper Boy (1955), which contained elements of Italian neorealism. This film is notable as the product of a group of amateur college filmmakers. It told the story of a printing press employee and his family being stricken with extreme poverty.
The music took a turn away from the trend of copying Tamil and Hindi song. The poets Tirunainaarkurichy Madhavan Nair - Thirunaiyarkurichy, P Bhaskaran, ONV kurup, VR varma, rose up in this period as film lyricists. Brother Lakshmanan, Dakshinamurty, K Raghavan, Paravoor devarajan, MS Baburaj, Pukhenthey Velappan Nair etc. started a distinct style malayalam music. Kamukara Purushotamman, Mehboob, Kozhikode Abdul Kader, AM Raja, Sreenivas, KP Udayabhanu, Shanta P Nair, Leela, Janaki, Shusheela, Vasantha, Renuka, Jikki etc. were the Singer from the 50s. The drama artist and school teacher Muthukulam Ragavhan Pilla lend many of his skills to cinema in this period.
Ramu Kariat, one of the directors of Neelakkuyil (the other was P. Bhaskaran), went on to become a successful director in the 1960s and 1970s. P. Bhaskaran directed many acclaimed and hit films in the 1960s and 70s. The cameraman of Neelakkuyil, A. Vincent, also became a noted director of the 1960s and 1970s. Notable films of this decade include Odayil Ninnu, Bhargavi Nilayam (1964), Chemmeen (1965), Murappennu (1965) and Iruttinte Athmavu (1966).
The era of colour films came to Malayalam cinema with its first colour film, Kandam Bacha Coat (1961). Chemmeen (1965), directed by Ramu Kariat and based on a story by Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai, went on to become immensely popular, and became the first Malayalam film to win the National Film Award for Best Feature Film.
Most of the films of the 60s were animated by the nationalist and socialist projects, and centred on issues relating to caste and class exploitation, the fight against obscurantist beliefs, the degeneration of the feudal class, and the breakup of the joint-family system. In 1960s M Krishnan Nair, Kunchacko and Subramanyam were the leading malayalee producers.
During the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, Kunchacko made significant contributions to Malayalam cinema, both as a producer and as director of some notable Malayalam movies. He started Udaya Studios in Alleppey (Alappuzha) in 1947, reducing the travel to Madras (Chennai) for film crew and actors. This boosted Malayalam film production in Kerala. Many directors sprang up in this period, PN Menon made 'rosy'and later 'Chemparanthi', then Aravindan and Adoor too started work in 1960s to became famous later. Arguably M Krishnan Nair was a the most prominent director producer of this period.
The 70s saw the emergence of a new wave of cinema in Malayalam. The growth of the film society movement in Kerala introduced the works of the French and Italian New Wave directors to the discerning Malayali film enthusiasts. Adoor Gopalakrishnan's first film, Swayamvaram (1972), brought Malayalam cinema to the international film arena.
In 1973 M. T. Vasudevan Nair who was by then recognized as an important author in Malayalam, directed his first film Nirmalyam, which won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film. G. Aravindan followed Adoor's lead with his Uttarayanam in 1974. K. P. Kumaran's Adhithi (1974) was another film which was acclaimed by the critics.
Cinematographers who won the National Award for their work on Malayalam films in the 1970s were Mankada Ravi Varma for Swayamvaram (1972), P. S. Nivas for Mohiniyattam (1977), and Shaji N. Karun for Thampu (1979). John Abraham, K. R. Mohanan, K. G. George, and G. S. Panikkar were products of the Pune Film Institute who made significant contributions.
During the late 1970s, some young artists started seeing Malayalam cinema as a medium of expression and thought of it as a tool to revitalize society. A noted director, Aravindan was famous in Kerala as a cartoonist before he started making films. His important movies include Kanchana Sita (1977), Thampu (1978), Kummatty (1979), Chidambaram (1985), Oridathu (1986), and Vasthuhara (1990). 1970s also saw the emergence of a notable director P. G. Viswambharan with his debut film Ozhukinethire and mythical film Sathyavan Savithri from the same director, which was well accepted.
Also, commercial cinema in this period saw several workerclass themed films which mostly had M. G. Soman and Sukumaran in the lead followed by the emergence of a new genre of pure action themed films, in a movement led by action star Jayan who is usually considered the first genuine commercial superstar of Malayalam cinema. But this was short-lived, and almost ended with Jayan's untimely death while performing a stunt in a film called Kolilakkam (1980).
Nevertheless, he paved way for different films and future actors who proved their talents in both commercial and art genres, the most famous of them being Mammootty and Mohanlal.. After Jayan came a new super star Shanker who gave innumerable romantic hits, manjil vinjapookal being his debut as hero. Nedumudi Venu, Madhu, Urvashi Sharadha, KP Ummer, Sheela, RaviKumar, Vidhubala, Raghavan, Ambika, Sai Kumar, Bhasi, Bhadur, SP Pillai, Lekshmi, Jagadeesh, Jayabharathi, Jagathy srikumar, Ravi Menon and Innocent were the prominent actors then. Mamutty, Mohanlal and Suresh Gopi started their life to Superstardom in the seventies.
Adoor Gopalakrishnan made Elippathayam in 1981. This movie was widely acclaimed and won the British Film Institute award. His other movies include Mukhamukham (1984), Anantharam (1987) Mathilukal (1989), Vidheyan (1994), Kathapurushan (1995), and Nizhalkuthu (2003), I.V. Sasi the path breaker who has directed more than 131 odd films over a span of 34 years made Kanamarayathu (1984). Padmarajan made his early works in this period including the movie Koodevide? (1983). The year 1988 marked the release of Kerala's first superhit softcore film Adipapam which was directed by P. Chandrakumar.
Golden age of Malayalam cinema
Most critics and audiences consider the period from the late 1980s to early 1990s as the golden age of Malayalam cinema. The Malayalam cinema of this period was characterised by detailed screenplays dealing with everyday life with a lucid narration of plot intermingling with humour and melancholy. This was aided by brilliant cinematography and lighting as in motion pictures like Perumthachan (1990), directed by Ajayan with Santosh Sivan as the cinematographer.
These films are also remembered for their warm background music by composers like Johnson, as in the motion picture Namukku Parkkan Munthiri Thoppukal (1986) by Padmarajan. The golden age saw big actors like Mohanlal, Mammootty, etc.
Many of the movies released during this time narrowed the gap between art cinema and commercial cinema in the Malayalam film industry, as in Mrigaya starring Mammootty (1989, directed by I.V. Sasi and written by Lohithadas), Oru Vadakkan Veeragatha (1989), starring Mammootty,Kireedam (1989, directed by Sibi Malayil, starring Mohanlal and written by Lohithadas), Mathilukal starring Mammootty (1989, directed by Adoor Gopalakrishnan), Carnival, starring mammootty (1989, directed by P. G. Viswambharan), Amaram starring Mammootty (1991, directed by Bharathan), Kakkothikkavile Appooppan Thaadikal (1988, directed by Kamal) and Sargam (1992, directed by Hariharan).
The period had an abundance of movies rich in creative humour from directors like Priyadarshan, Sathyan Anthikkad, Kamal and Siddique-Lal. The internationally acclaimed [according to whom?] Piravi (1989) by Shaji N. Karun was the first Malayalam film to win the Caméra d'Or-Mention at the Cannes Film Festival. Other notable contributions of this period include His Highness Abdullah (1990) directed by Sibi Malayil, Abhayam (1991) directed by Santosh Sivan, and the motion picture Daisy (1988) an expressive depiction of separation and longing set in a boarding school, directed by Prathap K. Pothan.
Some examples are Mathilukal (1990) directed by Adoor Gopalakrishnan,Kattu Kuthira (1990) directed by P. G. Viswambharan, Bharatham (1991) by Sibi Malayil, Ulladakkam (1992) directed by Kamal, Kilukkam (1991) directed by Priyadarshan, Kamaladalam (1992) by Sibi Malayil, Vidheyan (1993) by Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Devaasuram (1993) by I. V. Sasi, Manichithrathazhu (1993) by Fazil, Ponthan Mada (1993) by T. V. Chandran, and Desadanam (1997) by Jayaraaj. Swaham (1994), directed by Shaji N. Karun, was the second Malayalam film entry in the Cannes International Film Festival, where it was a nominee for the Palme d'Or. Murali Nair's Marana Simhasanam later won the Caméra d'Or at the 1999 Cannes Film Festival. Guru (1997) directed by Rajiv Anchal was chosen as India's official entry to the Oscars to be considered for nomination in the Best Foreign Film category for that year, making it the first film in Malayalam to be chosen for Oscar nomination.
Slapstick comedy was the predominant theme in the films of this era. C.I.D. Moosa (2003) by Johny Antony, Meesa Madhavan (2002) by Lal Jose and Kunjikoonan (2002) directed by Sasi Shanker are examples. Sequels to a number of successful films were made. These include blockbuster hit Raavanaprabhu (Devaasuram) and the sequels to the 80s hit movie Oru CBI Diarykurippu, named Sethurama Iyer CBI (2004) and Nerariyan CBI (2005), which were huge hits.
Many movies during the early 2000s were of low quality. But there where some movies which were examples of exemplary film making like Meghamalhar, Madhuranombarakaattu, Nandanam, Perumazhakkalam, Kazhcha etc. Dileep emerged as a major star force during this period after the blockbuster, Meesa Madhavan. Malayalam Cinema had a crisis, when a parallel culture of adult-content movies named "Shakeela films" emerged to be the best grossers for more than a year. Malayalam cinema saw a rare dearth of talent.
At the same time, Tamil movies saw a surge of new talent in scriptwriters, directors and actors. This resulted in increased popularity of Tamil and Hindi movies in Kerala. Several film theatres were closed in rural Kerala and were converted to marriage halls. But by the last of year 2003, it was a happy season for the industry.
After several years of quality deterioration, Malayalam films saw the signs of some renaissance in the last two years with the release of several experimental films, mostly from new directors. Salim Ahamed's Adaminte Makan Abu, the Award assembling drama, has been chosen as India's official entry to the Academy Awards to be considered for nomination in the Best Foreign Film category for the year 2011.
Malayalam cinema Adaminte Makan Abu is the second Malayalam film to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film after Rajiv Anchal's Guru. Other films that contributed the most to this renaissance include Ritu, Kutty Srank, Bhramaram, Paleri Manikyam: Oru Pathirakolapathakathinte Katha, Pranchiyettan and the Saint, Urumi, T. D. Dasan Std. VI B, Traffic, Gaddhama, Pranayam, City of God, Melvilasom, Beautiful,Ee Adutha Kaalathu, 22 Female Kottayam,"Second Show","Chappa Kurishu" Nidra, Diamond Necklace, Veettilekkulla Vazhi, Manjadikkuru,Aakashathinte Niram, Spirit, Ustad Hotel,Thattathin Marayathu etc. It encouraged talented actors like Prithviraj Sukumaran, Fahadh Fazil, Jayasurya, Indrajith, Anoop Menon, Dulquer Salman, Asif Ali with the emergence of promising directors such as Lijo Jose Pellissery, Rajesh Pillai, Anjali Menon, Aashiq Abu, Arun Kumar, Dr. Biju etc.
2010s to Present
Adaminte Makan Abu, the Award assembling drama film directed by Salim Ahamed, has been chosen as India's official entry to the Academy Awards to be considered for nomination in the Best Foreign Film category for the year 2011. It is is the second Malayalam film to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film after Rajiv Anchal's Guru.
New Wave Films
After several years of qualitative deterioration, Malayalam films saw the signs of some renaissance in the last two years with the release of several experimental films, mostly from new directors.
Year 2011 marked as the turning point of Malayalam Film Industry. This year witnessed lots of high quality movies. The movie 'Traffic' which was directed by Rajesh Pillai set the trend in Malayalam. Movies such as 'Salt n' Pepper', 'Chappa Kurisu', 'Indian Rupee' and 'Beautiful' are some of the best films released in that year.
This trend is continuing in 2012, which is a remarkable year for Malayalam Cinema, with more than 15 movies categorized as "Super Hit" status. Movies such as 'Second Show', 'Ee Adutha Kaalathu', '22 Female Kottayam', 'Mayamohini', 'Ordinary', 'Mallusingh', 'Grand Master', 'Diamond Necklace', 'Spirit', 'Ustad Hotel', 'Thattathin Marayathu', 'Run Baby Run', 'Trivandrum Lodge' and 'Ayalum Njanum Thammil' are some of them. Pioneered film-making techniques
Malayalam films cater to people living in the South Indian state of Kerala and emigrants from it. The total population of Malayalees, as they are called, is around 4 crore. As of 2000, most Malayalam films without the superstars, were made with a budget of around Rs 1 crore. (0.25 million USD) Despite the apparent budget constrains, Malayalam cinema has pioneered various technical, thematic and production techniques among films in India and South India. Such films include:
Marthanda Varma (1933): The first Indian historical drama film. The film was based on the life of Marthanda Varma, the Maharajah of the Indian princely state of Travancore in the mid 18th century. Marthanda Varma was film adaptation of a novel in the same name by C. V. Raman Pillai, making it one of the first Indian film adaptations from literature other than the puranas.
Newspaper Boy (1955): India's first neorealistic film. The film drew its inspiration from Italian neorealism and was released a few months before Satyajit Ray's debut film Pather Panchali, another neo-realistic film.
- Thacholi Ambu (1978): South India's first CinemaScope film.
- Padayottam (1982): India's first indigenously produced 70 mm film.
- My Dear Kuttichathan (1984): India's first 3-D film.
- Amma Ariyan (1986): The first film made in India with money collected from the public. The film was produced by Odessa Collective, founded by the director of the film John Abraham and friends. The fund was raised by collecting donations and screening Charlie Chaplin's film The Kid.
- O' Faaby (1993): India's first live-action/animation hybrid film.
- Moonnamathoral (2006): First Indian film to be shot and distributed in digital format.
Notable personalities Directors Malayalam cinema boasts many brilliant film directors, starting with J. C. Daniel, the director and producer of the first Malayalam film, Vigathakumaran (1928). Unlike other Indian films at that time, most of which were films based on the puranas, he chose to base his film on a social theme. Though the film failed commercially, he paved way for the Malayalam film industry and is widely considered the father of Malayalam cinema.
Till the 1950s, Malayalam film didn't see many talented film directors. The milestone film Neelakkuyil (1954), directed by Ramu Karyat and P. Bhaskaran, shed a lot of limelight over its directors. Ramu Karyat went on to become a celebrated director in the 1960s and 1970s. P. Bhaskaran also directed a few acclaimed films in the 1960s. The cameraman of Neelakkuyil, A. Vincent, also became a noted director of the 1960s and 1970s. Another noted director of the 1950s was P. Ramadas, the director of the neorealistic film Newspaper Boy (1955).
In the 1970s, the Malayalam film industry saw the rise of film societies. It triggered a new genre of films known as "parallel cinema". The main driving forces of the movement, who gave priority to serious cinema, were Adoor Gopalakrishnan and G. Aravindan. People like John Abraham and P. A. Backer gave a new dimension to Malayalam cinema through their political themes. The later 1970s witnessed the emergence of another stream of Malayalam films, known as "middle-stream cinema", which seamlessly integrated the seriousness of the parallel cinema and the popularity of the mainstream cinema. Most of the films belonging to this stream were directed by PN Menon, I. V. Sasi, P. G. Viswambharan, K. G. George, Bharathan and Padmarajan.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, a period widely regarded as the Golden Age of Malayalam cinema, a new array of directors joined the stalwarts who had already made a mark in the industry. The Golden Age saw the narrowing of the gap between the different streams of the industry. Directors like K. G. George, Priyadarshan, I. V. Sasi, John Abraham, Fazil, Joshy, Bhadran, P. G. Viswambharan, Kamal, Sibi Malayil, Hariharan, Sathyan Anthikkad, K. Madhu and Siddique-Lal contributed heavily in the Golden Age. Then there were extraordinary screenwriters like M. T. Vasudevan Nair, T. Damodaran, A. K. Lohithadas and Sreenivasan who contributed their part as well.
The 2000s witnessed the decline of quality of Malayalam films. Many directors who excelled in the Golden Age struggled as many of their films continuously failed critically and commercially. As a result the gap between parallel cinema (now known as art cinema) and mainstream cinema (now known as commercial cinema) widened.
The 2000s also saw a commercial film formula being created in line with Tamil and Bollywood films. Directors like Shaji Kailas, Rafi Mecartin and Anwar Rasheed directed blockbusters which had few artistic merits to boast of. Despite the overall decline, some directors stood apart and made quality cinema. Shaji N. Karun, Lenin Rajendran, Shyama Prasad and Jayaraj made films that won laurels. Notable directors who debuted in this time include Blessy, Lal Jose, R. Sharath, Renjith, Roshan Andrews, Amal Neerad, Aashiq Abu, Vineeth Sreenivasan and Lijo Jose Pellissery.
Malayalam film directors have made their mark in the national level as well. Out of the 40 National Film Awards for Best Director given away till 2007, Malayalam directors have pocketed 12, trailed only by Bengali (14 awards). The directors who have won the prestigious award are Adoor Gopalakrishnan (1973, 1985, 1988, 1990, 2007), G. Aravindan (1978, 1979, 1987), Shaji N. Karun (1989), T.V. Chandran (1994), Jayaraj (1998) and Rajivnath (1999). There are several recipients of the Special Jury Award as well: Mankada Ravi Varma (1984), John Abraham (1987), Shaji N. Karun (1995) and Pradeep Nair (2005).
A lead actor is called as a superstar when that person has become a driving force at the box office. Just like other Indian film industries, there are no clear-cut guidelines for decorating an actor as superstar, and this designation is almost always bestowed by the media after an actor proves to be a champion at the box office. Thikkurissy Sukumaran Nair was the first person in the Malayalam film history to be called a superstar, following the tremendous success of his second film Jeevithanauka (1951), which is touted as the first superhit of Malayalam cinema.
Later Prem Nazir, Sathyan, Madhu, Jayan, M. G. Soman, Sukumaran,and Shankar came to be called superstars. Prem Nazir and Sathyan formed a bipolar industry in which a considerable number of films made in Malayalam in the later 1960s and almost the whole of 1970s starred one of them, until the rise of Jayan. Curiously, the trend was continued in the next era as well, with Mohanlal & Mammootty being established as superstars in the 1980s. Suresh Gopi emerged as a superstar by mid 1990s, following a series of successful movies having police/political themes, most notably Commissioner, directed by Shaji Kailas.
As with most of the other Indian film industries, the Malayalam film industry is driven by male actors. None of the female actors who have been part of the industry have come to be known as superstars, though there have been immensely popular stars like Miss Kumari, Sharada, Sheela, Jayabharathi, Vidhubala, Srividya, Shobhana, Revathi, Urvashi, Manju Warrier, Samyuktha Varma, Meera Jasmine, Navya Nair, Kavya Madhavan and Samvrutha Sunil.
Many actors have brought laurels to Malayalam films with their performances. As of 2011, Malayalam film actors have won 13 out of the 47 National Film Awards for Best Actor ever given away, including two occasions of double awardees. 13 is the second highest number of award wins by a film industry trailed only by Hindi (19 awards). The Malayalam film actors who have won the award are P. J. Antony (1974), Gopi (1978), Balan K. Nair (1981), Premji (1988), Mammootty (1989, 1993, 1999), Mohanlal (1991, 2000), Suresh Gopi (1998), Balachandra Menon (1998), Murali (2002) and Salim Kumar (2011). Additionally, Malayalam film actors have won several Special Jury Awards as well: Mohanlal (1990), Kalabhavan Mani (2000), Nedumudi Venu (2004), Thilakan (2007).
Malayalam female actors are not far behind. As of 2007, they have won the National Film Award for Best Actress 5 times. The winners are Sharada (1969, 1973, 1979), Monisha (1987), Shobana (1994, 2002) and Meera Jasmine (2004). The actresses to win the Special Jury Award are Jomol (1998), Manju Warrier (1999) and Jyothirmayi (2003). Sharada did win another award in 1979 for the Telugu film Nimajjan; so did Shobana in 2002 for the Indian made English language film Mitr, My Friend. Notable current lead actors include Mohanlal, Mammootty, Dulquer Salman, Prithviraj, Dileep, Jayasurya, Indrajith and Kunchacko Boban
In the early times of Malayalam cinema, supporting roles, though mostly donned by established theatre artists, did not have any noted supporting actors. In the 1960s and 1970s several supporting actors like Kottarakkara Sreedharan Nair, Adoor Bhasi, Bahadoor, Balan K. Nair, Adoor Bhavani and Aranmula Ponnamma came into the scene. Most of them went on to have lifelong careers. In the 1980s and 1990s many more joined them, notably Thilakan, Nedumudi Venu, Jagathy Sreekumar, Oduvil Unnikrishnan, Biju Menon, Vijayaraghavan, Innocent, Siddique, Jagadish, Kuthiravattam Pappu, Manoj K. Jayan, Murali, Narendra Prasad, Rajan P. Dev, Sukumari, K.P.A.C. Lalitha and Bindu Panicker. Some of them had short careers with title roles as well.
Despite the presence of a number of talented actors, Malayalam films have only won 2 out of the 24 National Film Awards for Best Supporting Actor so far given away, as of 2007. Thilakan (1988) and Nedumudi Venu (1991) are the only actors to win the award. The same is not the case with female actors. They have won 6 out the 24 National Film Awards for Best Supporting Actress given away, trailed only by Hindi (10 awards). The winners are K.P.A.C. Lalitha (1991, 2001), Santha Devi (1992), Aranmula Ponnamma (1996), Sheela (2005) and Urvashi (2006).
Recently malayalam film industry is getting concentrated in Kochi contrary to the trend in 80's and 90's when Thiruvananthapuram was the base of Malayalam Film Industry. Most of the film shooting is nowadays done in kochi and its suburbs. 
Film music, which refers to playback singing in the context of Indian music, forms the most important canon of popular music in India. The film music of Kerala in particular is the most popular form of music in the state. Before Malayalam cinema and Malayalam film music developed, the Keralites eagerly followed Tamil and Hindi film songs, and that habit has stayed with them till now. The history of Malayalam film songs begins with the 1948 film Nirmala. The film's music director was P. S. Divakar, and the songs were sung by P. Leela, T. K. Govinda Rao, Vasudeva Kurup, C. K. Raghavan, Sarojini Menon and Vimala B. Varma, who is credited as the first playback singer of Malayalam cinema.
The main trend in the early years was to use the tune of hit Hindi or Tamil songs in Malayalam songs. This trend changed in the early 1950s with the arrival of a number of poets and musicians to the Malayalam music scene. People who stormed into the Malayalam film music industry in the 1950s include musicians like V. Dakshinamurthy (1950), K. Raghavan (1954), Brother Laxmanan, G. Devarajan (1955) and M.S. Babu Raj (1957) and lyricists like P. Bhaskaran (1950), Tirunainarkurichy Madhavan Nair, O. N. V. Kurup (1955) and Vayalar Rama Varma (1956). They are attributed with shaping Malayalam film music stream and giving it its own identity. Major playback singers of that time were Kamukara Purushothaman, K. P. Udayabhanu, A. M. Raja, P. Leela, Santha P. Nair, P. Susheela, P. Madhuri and S. Janaki.
Many of this singers like A. M. Raja, P. Susheela, Madhuri and Janaki were not Malayalis and their pronunciation was not perfect. Despite that, these singers got high popularity throughout Kerala. In the later years many non-Malayalis like Manna Dey, Talat Mahmood, Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle and S. P. Balasubrahmanyam sang for Malayalam films. This trend was also found among music directors to an extent, with outside musicians like Naushad, Usha Khanna, M.B. Sreenivasan, Bombay Ravi, Shyam, Bappi Lahiri, Laxmikant-Pyarelal, Salil Chowdhury, Ilaiyaraaja, Vishal Bharadwaj and A. R. Rahman scoring music for Malayalam films. This can be attributed to the fact that film music in South India had a parallel growth pattern with so many instances of cross-industry contributions.
K. J. Yesudas, who debuted in 1961, virtually revolutionised the Malayalam film music industry and became the most popular Malayalam singer ever. Vayalar, G. Devarajan and Yesudas trio also made unforgettable songs like the earlier trio of Kamukara, Tirunainaarkurichy & Brother Laxmanan. Yesudas became equally popular with classical music audience and people who patronised film music.
He along with P. Jayachandran gave a major facelift to Malayalam playback singing in the 1960s and 1970s. Malayalam film music also received heavy contributions from composers and musicians like Johnson, M.B. Sreenivasan, Pukezhenty Vellappan Nair, MS Vishwanathan, Kannur rajan, Shyam, M. G. Radhakrishnan, Raveendran, S. P. Venkatesh, Mohan Sithara, Ouseppachan and Vidyasagar, lyricists like Sreekumaran Thampi, Yusuf Ali Kechery, Bichu T, Rameshan Nair, Papanamcode Laxmanan, Chyrinkil M Nair, Baharanikavu Shivakumar and Kaithapram Damodaran Namboodiri, and singers like M. G. Sreekumar, G. Venugopal, K. S. Chitra and Sujatha Mohan.
A notable aspect in the later years was the extensive of classical carnatic music in many film songs of the later 1980s and early 1990s. Interestingly, that particular period is also considered as the peak time for Malayalam cinema itself and is quite widely known as the Golden Age of Malayalam cinema, a period in which the difference between art films and popular films was least felt. Similarly, classical carnatic music was heavily used in several popular film songs, most notably those in films like Chithram (1988), His Highness Abdullah (1990), Bharatham (1991), Sargam (1992) and Sopanam (1993).
At present, the major players in the scene are young musicians like Rahul Raj, Alphonse, Gopi Sundar, Jassie Gift, Deepak Dev, and Biji Pal, lyricists Rafeeq Ahmed, Vayalar Sarath and Anil Panachooran, and singers Madhu Balakrishnan, Afsal, Shewtha, Manjari and Jyotsna, along with stalwarts in the field.
Young composers like Rahul Raj and Gopi Sundar are not only known for their catchy tunes, but also known for bringing in a lot of electronics, digital sound and a variety of genres in Malayalam film songs.
The National Award-winning music directors of Malayalam cinema are Johnson (1994, 1995), Bombay Ravi (1995), Ouseppachan (2008), Ilaiyaraaja (2010) and Issak Thomas Kottakapally (2011). Till 2009, the 1995 National Award that Johnson received for the film score of Sukrutham (1994) was the only instance in the history of the award in which the awardee composed the film soundtrack rather than its songs. He shared that award with Bombay Ravi, who received the award for composing songs for the same film.
In 2010 and 2011, awards were given to film score and both were bagged by Malayalam films: Pazhassi Raja (2010; Score: Ilaiyaraaja) and Adaminte Makan Abu (2011; Score: Issak Thomas Kottakapally). Ravindran also received a Special Jury Award in 1992 for composing songs for the film Bharatham. The lyricists who have won the National Award are Vayalar Ramavarma (1973), O. N. V. Kurup (1989) and Yusuf Ali Kechery (2001).
The male singers who have received the National Award are K. J. Yesudas (1973, 1974, 1988, 1992, 1994), P. Jayachandran (1986) and M. G. Sreekumar (1991, 2000). Yesudas has won two more National Awards for singing in Hindi (1977) and Telugu (1983) films, which makes him the person who has won the most National Film Awards for Best Male Playback Singer with seven awards, closely followed by S. P. Balasubrahmanyam with six awards. The female singers who have won the award are S. Janaki (1981) and K. S. Chitra (1987, 1989). Chitra had also won the award for Tamil (1986, 1997, 2005) and Hindi (1998) film songs, which makes her the person with the most National Film Awards for Best Female Playback Singer with six awards, closely followed by P. Susheela with five awards.[
Remakes into other languages
Many Malayalam films have been remade in other languages, including Dindigul Sarathy, Sundara Travels,Seedan, Friends, Ninaithale Inikkum, Perazhagan, Kuselan, Chandramukhi (in Tamil), Classmates, Chandralekha, Nagavalli (in Telugu), Aaptamitra, Manmatha, Bellary Naga (in Kannada), and Garam Masala, Gardish, Kyon Ki, Billu, Bhool Bhulaiyaa, Hera Pheri, Chup Chup Ke, Khatta Meetha, De Dana Dan,Mere Baap Pehle Aap,Dhol (2007 film), Malamaal Weekly, Bhagam Bhag, Bodyguard, Kyon Ki, Hulchul, Yeh Teraa Ghar Yeh Meraa Ghar (in Hindi) and Kaavalan (in Tamil).