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Feb 11, 2008


Many of the cult classics in Malayalam came out in the early eighties and escaped media attention because most films made in that era were of above average quality. Today, looking back at those, a quarter century later, all that I could do is to lament and curse at the speed with which the value of Malayalam movies have eroded to pathetic nothingness.

Idavela is one such classic movie of the eighties(1982.) The humble beginning of the movie without any flashy overtures, how the story progresses in a natural manner unpretentious of its merit and reaches the final crescendo which itself is underplayed is not achievable these days. Idavela stands in stark contrast to what could a present day director could have made out of its story. If it was today there would be rib-damaging tickles meant to invoke laughter, ostentatious costumes and over-the-top dialogs that bear no resemblance to life in campus - living or dead, strict adherence to the formula loop one has to follow- comedy followed by a song n dance routine, followed by a tension-some chase scene, a fight - it is all oh-so-predictable these days and the only difference to look for is, which of the 50 year old M and M superstars duo is playing the 'college kumaran' in the particular film.

M.Mohan's understated classic starts out as a campus story involving four boys. Much of the credit goes to the script, written by one of the master writer-directors of Malayalam movie-world, Padmarajan - he who never wrote or directed the same story twice yet churned out refreshingly new movies and scripts one after the other. The main two characters are played by Ashokan and Babu(who later became famous as Idavela Babu after this movie) who are themselves in their late teens or early twenties. I do not know the name of the other two actors although one of them seems to be familiar.

There is the usual pranks that the boys of the age do, although the movie doesn't just revolve around these. Every character including the ones of the boy's family members, the college staff is explored and evolved to exact proportions as is required, nothing more, nothing less. The conversation and the story is natural and free flowing. Somewhere halfway through we get an inkling that this is going to be a coming-of-age movie. But like in real life the coming of age does not happen with fan-fare and hoopla, it just unfolds along the narrative path.

The second half of the movie takes us to scenic locales of Munnar, which itself was an unsullied hill station in Kerala in the eighties, away from the beaten path of tourists. The second half also introduces the major female character, played by Nalini, an eighties actress and the story takes a turn. It is a relief that the characters talk like you and me and not like people from soap operas, even in situations which could've justified the insertion of soap talk. The ending is perfect and there are no sudden jumps or cuts to reach that conclusion, things just fall in to place.

I wish the present day Malayalam directors would take some time out and sit down and watch eighties movies produced by the same industry they are affiliated to now.

(p.s- It's interesting to note the extent to which IMDb is riddled with mistakes when it comes to early eighties Indian regional language movies and actors. So much false information which is worse than no information. )