Romance as a genre remains largely underexplored in Malayalam cinema. We’ve had love at first sight narratives like Aniyathipravu, Ohm Shanti Oshana, Ennennum Kannettante and Thattathin Marayathu, tragic romantic dramas like Ennu Ninde Moideen, Annayum Rasoolum and Innale, celestial love like Njan Gandharvan, romcoms like Salt N Pepper, Neelakasham Pacha Kadal Chuvanna Bhoomi, Thanneer Mathan Dinangal, forbidden love like Ore Kadal and a fantasy fringed romance like Nandanam.
At other times, there have been incredible moments of romance encrusted in unlikely films like Bhoothakannadi (what an unusually deep love story between Sarojini and Vidhyadharan, and it remains unwavering even after the man is sent to an asylum), the multiple romances in Venu Nagavally’s Swagatham and Kalipattam, an affair that spills over with lust but ends movingly in Mathilukal, a man torn between guilt and love in Thoovanathumbikal and the coming-of-age narrative of a lad who experiences love at various stages of his life in Premam.
So, this Valentine’s Day weekend, here are seven unusually intense love stories that have stood the test of time in Malayalam cinema. But then again, romantic movies are very subjective, it eventually lies in the sense of the beholder. So here goes our list.
Namukku Parkkan Munthirithoppukal (Hotstar): Solomon (Mohanlal) reverses the jeep, with his mom by the side, spots Sophia (Shari) watering plants, gazes at her, with a faint smile. As he drives out of the compound, you know the man has fallen in love. But Sophia’s return glance is more out of idle curiosity. And understandably the romance between the demure Sophia and the achingly romantic Solomon (his proposal continues to have no parallels in the romantic annals of Malayalam cinema) takes its own sweet time to grow, with the man spinning a charming web of compassion and love around her.
Inarguably one of the greatest celluloid love stories of all times, this is also a pioneering work from Padmarajan that absolved all the time-tested puritanical concepts attached to romance. Namukku Parkkan Munthirithoppukal stays relevant and will always be placed several notches higher than one of his most discussed romantic films of all times—Thoovanathumpikal.
Mayaanadhi (Sun NXT): Mathan and Appu’s romance goes back a long way. In school they would snuggle inside internet café booths, take long bikes rides and hungrily exchange stolen kisses. As they grow older, the romance often falls off the track, and it’s always Mathan who keeps letting her down. But then, each time, despite the long intervals, he crawls back into her life, with apologies. And she reluctantly lets him.
Though their lives drift in unexpected directions, Mathan (Tovino Thomas) and Appu (Aishwarya Lekshmy) remain loyal to each other, and during every reunion they fight, humiliate, motivate and make wild love to each other. The romance is so volatile, passionate and poignant that their tragic love remains a searing pain in your heart. Written by Syam Pushkaran and Dileesh Nair, it remains Aashiq Abu’s best film and one of the greatest romances of all times.
Yathra (YouTube): When Unnikrishnan (Mammootty) is serving jail time for a crime he hasn’t committed, Thulasi (Shobana) keeps visiting him regularly, till an incident prompts him to forbid her from visiting him. But her handwritten love notes keep him alive in the dreary cell. When he finally gets released, Unnikrishnan is only a shadow of the handsome man he was.
As he travels back with the hope of meeting his Thulasi, we are sucked into this traumatic account of his days in jail and when he alights from the bus, along with those inside, we are praying for their reunion. And when it happens, it turns out to be one of the most poignant sights in Malayalam cinema—where the greying Thulasi welcomes him with lighted lamps and tears of joy. In that single moment, all his grievances and humiliations seem to vanish, offering him a veritable array of light at the end of the tunnel. A Balu Mahendra masterpiece.
Oru Cheru Punchiri (YouTube): MT Vasudevan Nair crafts an endearing love story between the elderly couple Krishnakurup (Oduvil Unnikrishnan) and Ammalukutty (Nirmala Sreenivasan) in the backdrop of a quaint little village in Central Kerala. Old age hasn’t put any dent in their romance that has only grown with time.
They fill each other’s sentences, can read each other’s minds, bicker over little things and still remain deeply in love with each other. It’s for the old soul in us that believes in the divinity of love and happily ever endings.
Kanamarayathu (YouTube): A quintessential Mills & Boons romance, loosely based on Jean Webster’s Daddy-Long-Legs, written by Padmarajan and directed by IV Sasi, the film spins an endearing love story between the brooding tall handsome business tycoon Roy (Mammootty) and the convent-bred Shirley (Shobana).
Shirley falls for a much older Roy while the latter, who also finances her education, is in denial and keeps pointing to their age gap as an excuse. It soon turns into a triangular love story when Shirley is pursued by the much younger Baby (Rahman) but she evades him.
The setting has all the elements of a typical Betty Neels romance, with the man’s feelings kept under wraps while the girl is falling all over him, only to end on a happy note. It’s the moments between the evasive Roy and Shirley who wears her heart on her sleeve that really warm us to the film. The romance is subtly staged but the intensity is no less. One film which has aged well.
Sukhamo Devi (Hotstar): There are two love stories running parallel in this film scripted and directed by Venu Nagavalli. The one between Sunny (Mohanlal) and Thara (Geetha) is uninhibited and fun while Nandan (Shankar) and Devi’s (Urvashi) seems volatile and complicated.
If Sunny flaunts his love, Nandan is an unassuming lover. Devi is moody and temperamental while Thara is always cheerful. But when both love stories end tragically, it seems like a bizarre twist of fate that even Thara and Nandan’s union seemed like an obeisance to their previous love stories.
Pranayam (Hotstar): Wonder what it is about love stories of the aging that bring a lump to our throat. Is it the longevity of a love that has weathered many storms and has stood the test of time? Perhaps. In Grace (Jayaprada) and Mathew’s (Mohanlal) case, they are knotted to each other’s soul. She has been given a second chance in life after her failed first marriage. And soon enough, Mathew who uses a wheelchair becomes her world and it remains unwavering despite the growing years. It’s the purity of this romance that prompts her former husband to forge a lifelong friendship with Mathew.