'C U Soon' to 'Drishyam 2': 8 Malayalam films made entirely during the pandemic

In the lockdown, several wonderful films were made, cleverly camouflaging the limitations of shooting with restrictions by writing stories that justified it.
From left: Fahadh Faasil in 'Joji' and Mohanlal in 'Drishyam 2'
From left: Fahadh Faasil in 'Joji' and Mohanlal in 'Drishyam 2'
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The months ahead had looked gloomy for the Malayalam film industry when a government order in March 2020 asked all production work – shooting, screening, distribution included – to be stopped immediately. COVID-19 had just broken out all over the country. By June, the government slowly began lifting restrictions. At first, they allowed television series to resume work with minimal crew and following COVID-19 protocols. Movies were next on the list. But producers got together and decided to take it slow until the finished films – more than 60 of them – could release first.

C U Soon – an experimental film by Mahesh Narayanan and Fahadh Faasil – was the first to break away. There was a bit of a row then but Mahesh and Fahadh said it was an experimental work and was not meant for theatres. The term OTT began to float around casually and movies began to be written and made for online platforms. Theatres were still closed and creative spirits could wait no longer. In the lockdown months of COVID-19, several wonderful films were made, cleverly camouflaging the limitations of shooting with restrictions by writing stories that justified it.

Most of these came online on streaming platforms while a few waited for January for theatres to reopen. Fahadh Faasil appears to have had quite a busy lockdown, featuring in three of the eight films released in the past few months. Here is a list of notable works, written, shot and finished during the lockdown.

C U Soon: It was more experimental than Fahadh and Mahesh had hinted. Mahesh, an editor turned director, should have found it easier to adapt to this new form of filming – all screen-based. Fahadh, with a taste for the unconventional, played a lead character and produced the film. Roshan Mathew and Darshana Rajendran joined the sets. Without letting the audience take much note of the limited space it was shot in, the story was told with a brilliant use of screens. The story revolves around a young man who meets a woman on a dating app and the mystery that surrounds her. A serious issue was narrated with some good writing and great performances.

Watch: Trailer of C U Soon

The Great Indian Kitchen: This is one movie that has had such unexpected acceptance that one of the big players in the OTT field decided to screen it months after its release on a relatively small player called Neestream. The monotonous and thankless work of a newly married woman in a large house was portrayed with the most precise details that it easily resonated with the tens of thousands of women who live those lives for years and years. Nimisha Sajayan and Suraj Venjaramoodu appeared to live those characters in the very realistic setting created by director Jeo Baby. That this script came from a man made it all the more dear to the audience who embraced the film.

Watch: Trailer of The Great Indian Kitchen

Drishyam 2: When Mohanlal announced end of last year that the sequel to such a celebrated film as Drishyam would release on OTT, there were murmurs from all ends. Why couldn’t he wait a little more and let his audience enjoy a theatrical experience, asked many. But when the film came out, it was received just as well as the first part – a monster of a family thriller. Director Jeethu Joseph had insisted on calling it a family drama and not a thriller though it had all the elements of the latter – murder, suspense, an investigation and yes, drama. The sequel, with Drishyam actors reprising their roles and new actors added to it, did the impossible job of being a satisfactory end to a great mystery.

Watch: Trailer of Drishyam 2

Love: Director Khalid Rahman, having made two critically acclaimed films, relied on his first heroine – Rajisha Vijayan to play the female lead. The male lead was played by Shine Tom Chacko. The title can suggest many possibilities, including a cosy romance. But Love was anything but cosy. It was all chilling, all psychological with a lot of mind play.

Watch: Trailer of Love

Santhoshathinte Onnam Rahasyam: This is one of the first films made during this time to acknowledge the pandemic. Masks and sanitisers and references to COVID-19 showed up, not disturbing the heart of the tale. Which is in essence a relationship story, mostly surrounding the exchanges between a couple, played by Rima Kallingal and Jithin Puthenchery. Don Palathara, known for his shorter black-and-white films, beautifully recorded it inside a car, a single shot covering the entire drive, conversation and the breaks in between. The film premiered at the International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK).

Irul: Irul, meaning darkness, was aptly shot mostly in the dark, perfect to give you the chills. Add to it a large and mostly empty old-fashioned bungalow, complete with candle lights and bookshelves, a crazy owner to open the front door and a stranded couple in the rain seeking refuge. New director Naseef Yusuf Izuddin definitely got his ingredients right for a scary thriller. And he got three perfect actors to do the honours – Fahadh Faasil, Darshana Rajendran and Soubin Shahir.

Watch: Trailer of Irul

Aarkariyam: This one is the only theatrical release in this list. And it comes with the tag of a COVID-19 film. Acclaimed cinematographer Sanu John Varughese decided to turn director with this script he had had in mind for a long time. Parvathy Thiruvothu, Biju Menon and Sharaf U Dheen – all proven actors – play a family coming together during COVID-19. But the challenges posed by the pandemic become a shade too trivial when the old father (Biju Menon) drops a bomb of a secret to the son-in-law (Sharaf).

Watch: Trailer of Aarkariyam

Joji: The newest in the lot, Joji too has small references to the pandemic when characters wear masks and a priest refers to the disease during a gathering. But the film is not centered on COVID-19. Made by a master of filmmaking, Dileesh Pothen scores with yet another wonder-movie, Joji, relying on his champion actor Fahadh Faasil to play the lead. Fahadh once again plays the crazed individual, surrounded by a pack of wonderful actors playing his family members. A loose adaptation of Macbeth, Syam Pushkaran's script once again casts magic, quite effortlessly.

Watch: Trailer of Joji

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