Malayalam film love stories that stood the test of time, and some that didn’t

From young mushy love to graceful twilight-year romances, many of Malayalam cinema’s love stories have aged like fine wine, while some bloomed and then wilted with time.
Malayalam film love stories that stood the test of time, and some that didn’t
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Some love stories stand the test of time, some bloom but wilt with time, while a few failed to prosper at the onset but flourished over time. On this Valentine's Day, we take a look at a specially curated list of such films.

Thoovanathumbikal (1987)

When Padmarajan conceived the idea for a narrative centred on a manchild dithering between two women, it found no takers in the late 80s. If one is his love, the other is his guilt that stems from his patriarchal notions attached to chastity. When Radha (Parvathy) jilts him, a hurt and incensed Jayakrishnan (Mohanlal) finds solace in the arms of Clara (Sumalatha), a beautiful sex worker. But Clara turns out to be a subversion — she is mysterious and dignified, and never paints herself a victim, further throwing Jayakrishnan into a quandary. Eventually, it is Clara who helps him with his coming-of-age arc, before gracefully making her exit. The liquid melodies and rain elevate their meetings, and perhaps that’s why Thoovanathumbikal found an audience decades later. After all, for a man, there is always a pull towards a space that keeps alive the likelihood of a no-strings-attached relationship.  

Kanamarayathu (1984)

It’s a quintessential Mills & Boons plot — a young orphaned girl falls head over heels in love with a business tycoon. She carries her heart on her sleeve while he is evasive, as he is wary of the wide age gap between them. Every time Roy (Mammootty) tries to keep her at arm’s length, Shirley (Shobana) naively breaks through his defences, leading to an anticipated closure. The film surprisingly has aged well (massively amplified by the performances), despite the cliche narrative.

Mayaanadhi (2017)

Very few romance films have sparked such a rush of audience reactions on social media as Aashiq Abu’s Mayaanadhi, inspired by the 1960 French film Breathless. A large section hailed it as a modern-day Greek tragedy, that had two ill-fated lovers battling it out with the world to stay together. Mathan (Tovino Thomas) is a thug on hire, who has this blow-hot blow-cold relationship with Appu (Aishwarya Lekshmi), an aspiring actor. The man keeps letting her down yet pursues her with the hope of mercy, and she eventually relents. Their romance is flawed, intense, and volatile and when it ends, we are left with a throbbing pain in our hearts. Though it failed to set the box office on fire, the film will always be remembered for showing love in all its wreckage and intensity.

Aniyathipravu (1997)

For the 90s teen, the love story of college-going Sudhi (Kunchacko Boban) and Mini (Shalini) was a mushy rollercoaster. Sudhi meets Mini at a library as they reach out for the same romance novel and instantly sparks fly. Then came their clandestine innocent meetings, followed by more shy glances and trembling lips. There cannot be a more sanitised love story than Aniyathipravu in the last few decades. The romance was treated with kid gloves, ensuring a closure that appealed to the cornerstone of society called family. Today everything about the film appears dated and regressive, including the cringe, cleansed romance, and that convenient happy ending.

Niram (1999)

All is well in the universe of childhood friends Sona (Shalini) and Aby (Kunchacko Boban), until one of them starts to develop romantic feelings for the other. Up until this point, the narrative is strewn with their camaraderie, sprinkled with enough cheesy lines to cause you heartburn. The Sona-Aby romance never evolves beyond his conflicted feelings for her. Sona doesn't reciprocate, rather she falls in line with his plans. Though the film caught the imagination of the college-going crowd back then, today Niram doesn’t register as anything more than a shallow college romance.

Premam (2015)

There are three stories running parallel in Alphonse Puthren’s sophomore outing. It is set in different age periods in George (Nivin Pauly)’s life — from teenage to adulthood. Though it is only a brief episode, the romance between George and his teacher Malar remains the most moving part of the narrative. Puthren treats the forbidden romance between George and Malar with an irreverence that’s beautiful to watch, and yet it oddly affects you. Sure enough, even after nine years, their romance hasn’t faded away.

Namukku Parkkan Munthirithoppukal (1986)

Solomon and Sophia not only broke the glass ceiling, but also remained the most iconic romantic celluloid couple in Malayalam cinema. It is Solomon (Mohanlal) who gently invites the evasive Sophia (Shari) into his world, prodding her to loosen her guard. Solomon knew she was battling with herself and he won her over with his compassion. When the untold occurs, even when the world comes crashing down for Sophia, you have complete trust in Solomon’s love for her. Nothing less than a classic!

Oru Cheru Punchiri (2001)

This is one of those rarest of the rare films, where an ageing couple in their twilight years overwhelm us with their unwavering love and companionship. Krishna Kuruppu (Oduvil Unnikrishnan) and Ammalukutty (Nirmala Sreenivasan) are so content in their little world fenced with flora, fauna, the milkman, the postman, and the neighbourhood brat, that they are anxious to get back to their haven even when they occasionally visit their children. At a time when relationships generally seem messed up and short-lived, their companionship makes you teary-eyed. You can easily guess the hurdles and hardships they had to trek to reach that space of fulfilment. If “growing old with someone” ever had heavenly imagery, then it has to be Kuruppu eyeing his wife in admiration as she steps out in her glowing kasavu mundu, her cheeks tainted by a faint blush. Of course, the film didn’t exactly make money at the box office, but over time it garnered a loyal audience whenever it was screened on TV.

Meghamalhar (2001)

When journalist Nandita (Samyuktha Varma) meets advocate Rajeevan (Biju Menon), they are unaware that their destinies are already entwined. Both were “happily married” to other people till fate had other plans. It is Nandita who first recognises her childhood friend Rajeevan, whom she still remembers with a secret longing. Rajeevan too feels drawn towards her, and their dynamic evolves into a relationship. But they are wise enough to wean themselves out of it and go back to their partners into a life imposed by society. The film unsurprisingly crashed at the box office, but today it can be viewed as a brave, profound romance where two people decided to give up on their love to be with those who loved them.

Neelima Menon has worked in the newspaper industry for more than a decade. She has covered Hindi and Malayalam cinema for The New Indian Express and has worked briefly with She now writes exclusively about Malayalam cinema, contributing to and She is known for her detailed and insightful features on misogyny and the lack of representation of women in Malayalam cinema.

Views expressed are the author's own.

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