They came in from the sidelines to steal the show in several Malayalam films. While some of them have been in the film industry for long, some were new entrants.
The film engaged in parts. But one character that the audience loved was Vineeth Vasudevan’s Ajith Menon, a spoof on Arjun Reddy from Arjun Reddy. Vineeth had the audience in splits as he imitated the mannerisms and body language of Arjun Reddy, a character that became hugely popular but was also panned by many for propagating toxic masculinity. A Chakyarkoothu artiste, short filmmaker and co-writer of Allu Ramendran (2019), Vineeth also surprised viewers by playing the soft-spoken protagonist in this year’s much-talked-about short film, Anurag Engineering Works. His debut feature film as a director, Poovan, is getting ready for release.
Pada, Dear Friend
Pune-based Arjun Radhakrishnan made his entry into Malayalam cinema with two contrasting characters. In Pada, based on a real incident in Kerala, he played District Collector Ajay Sripad Dange, a Maharashtrian, who is held hostage by activists of Ayyankali Pada. Arjun held his fort as the efficient and calm officer, while sharing the screen space with established actors.
In Dear Friend, a coming-of-age story on friendship, he breezed through his character, Shyam, with his screen presence and nuanced acting. It has been a remarkable year for the actor who played former President and scientist APJ Abdul Kalam in Rocket Boys and will be seen in its second season as well. He also played Amitabh Bachchan’s son in Jhund.
It took 80-odd films for Appunni Sasi to be talked about. In the much-discussed Puzhu, a candid take on casteism, he gave a career-defining performance as Kuttappan, a theatre actor who gets married to the character played by Parvathy against the wishes of her brother, Kuttan, essayed by Mammootty. A theatre actor in real life as well, Sasi was appreciated for the way he portrayed the character.
In Nithin Lukose’s directorial debut, Paka, a tale of love and revenge set in the Wayanad, Basil Paulose is Johnny, who can’t marry his love, Anna, because of a long-running feud between their families. Basil brilliantly captures the emotional graph of Johnny, his dilemma over not being able to stop the bloodshed and violence, and how he can’t escape from being a participant in the never-ending feud. Basil, who made his debut with Cinema Company in 2012, was seen in Randuper (2017), screened at the International Film Festival of Kerala.
In his ‘fantastic ecological superhero action thriller mockumentary’, Krishand RK narrates the surreal tale of the human-nature eco-system, set in picturesque but ecologically fragile Puthuvype. An enigmatic protagonist, Joy was played by Rahul Rajagopal with finesse. He left a lasting impression as an unconventional hero, with his body language, mannerisms and dialogues. Rahul had made his debut with Krishand’s film Vrithakrithiyilulla Chathuram and is familiar to the audience through the videos of Malayalam content creator, Karikku.
Nna Thaan Case Kodu
The stinging political satire directed by Ratheesh Balakrishnan, in which a petty thief files a case against a Minister, had arguably the best ensemble cast of 2022, featuring experienced actors and new faces. The most entertaining of the lot was a debutant, 57-year-old PP Kunhikrishnan as the upright magistrate. A former teacher and now a Panchayat member, he was a delight with his dialect, screen presence and dialogue delivery.
Sree Dhanya Catering Service
Somewhere in Kottayam, a group of men get together to prepare biriyani for a birthday, which becomes an excuse for a booze party. The ‘Saudi-returned’ aliyan (brother-in-law) from Kozhikode, played by Kumar Sunil, is a party crasher who irks everyone with his unsought advice on how to make the biriyani. The film also has a splendid ensemble cast, mostly comprising new comers.
Azees Nedumangad and Kudassanad Kanakam
Jaya Jaya Jaya Jaya Hey
Azeez is a natural as Ani annan, Basil’s cousin, that MCP and nosy relative that we all know of. Kanakam’s act as Vilasini, Basil’s mother, is endearing and hilarious, especially when she delivers the punch lines with an air of naivete.
The surprise of Saudi Vellakka is debutant 87-year-old Devi Varma as Ayisha Ravuther, the protagonist caught on the wrong side of the law because of something that she did on an impulse. Without too many histrionics, she conveys — supported by the voice of Pauly Valsan— her grief and loneliness through subtle expressions and her body language.