Book chapter / Masculinity in Malayalam cinema

Pillai, Meena T. ‘The Feudal Lord Reincarnate: Mohanlal and the Politics of Malayali Masculinity’.

in Lawrence, Michael, ed. Indian Film Stars: New Critical Perspectives. London: British Film Institute, 2020. pp. 87-98.

Excerpt: This chapter seeks to interrogate the representational politics of stardom and masculinity in Malayalam cinema, one of the most prolific of the regional film industries in India, with special reference to the rise of Mohanlal as a ‘superstar’. The entry of Mohanlal (Mohanlal Viswanathan Nair, 1960—) into Malayalam cinema as a villain in the early 1980s, his much-praised energetic and performative prowess in a succession of highly successful roles in light-hearted romantic social comedies, and his gradual transformation into the ultimate icon of Malayali masculinity in the 1990s, mark a paradigm shift in the ideology and visual iconography of Malayalam cinema.

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Book chapter / First Malayalam Female Star

Mini, Darshana Sreedhar. ‘Star’s “Dust”: Miss Kumari and the Fossilized Memory of the “First Malayalam Female Star”’.

in Lawrence, Michael, ed. Indian Film Stars: New Critical Perspectives. London: British Film Institute, 2020. pp. 31-44.

Excerpt: Taking a slight detour from prevalent works on stardom in South Indian cinema and female actors in particular, this chapter looks at the star persona of Miss Kumari, the actress whose filmic career and rise to fame was entwined with the success of Merryland studios, one of the foremost studios in Kerala established in 1951. Drawing on archival sources, film texts and interviews, I look at the varied modes through which the figure of the female star emerges in the construction of Miss Kumari as a studio artist.
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Journal Article / The Growth of a Film Publicity Industry in Kerala in the 1980s

Ashok, Rajarajeshwari. ‘In Retrospect: The Spatial Shift of the Film Publicity Industry in Kerala during The 1980s’. South Asian History and Culture. Published ahead of print, 22 April 2020.

Abstract (edited): Captivating film posters and advertisements with images of idolized actors like Mammootty and Mohanlal, blended in with vivid colours and appealing captions, is a spectacle that is a part of the cultural identity of Kerala. The massive six-sheet posters that command attention, the smaller 30 × 40 posters that line the walls of the streets, and the enticing advertisements that catches one’s eye in a magazine are all ways in which cinema is weaved into the Malayalee milieu.

Publicity materials epitomise aspects of the film that it is promoting. In time, it signifies not only the personal, social, and cultural memories of the viewer and the augmentation of a film industry, but also the process it goes through to become the cultural product that people see.

This article analyses newspaper and magazine advertisements designed by publicity designers working in the Malayalam film industry during the 1970s and 1980s. It argues that the publicity industry shifted from Madras (now Chennai) to Ernakulam during the 1980s while the larger Malayalam film industry was still centred in Madras, and tries to understand the grounds for this spatial shift and evaluate its correlation with the production of publicity materials, and the rise of an independent film publicity industry in Kerala.

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Journal article / Fatherhood and the Dynamics of Masculinity in Malayalam Cinema

Mokkil, Navaneetha. ‘Sleepless Fathers in Malayalam Cinema: Unraveling the Dynamics of Caste and Masculinity’. South Asian Popular Culture. Published ahead of print, 03 March 2020.

Abstract (edited): This paper explores the formations of masculinity and its links to the perceived vulnerability of young women’s sexualised bodies by focusing on popular Malayalam cinema.
I will specifically undertake a reading of Achanurangatha Veedu (A Home in which the Father Cannot Sleep, 2006) and deploy my analysis of Drishyam (Sight, 2013) as a point of contrast. In both these films, the primary focus is on fathers who are compelled to act in order to protect their adolescent daughters from sexual violence.
The marginalised Dalit Christian father in Achanurangatha Veedu is mired in humiliation and physical breakdown as his search for justice ends in failure.
In Drishyam, on the other hand, the father, who belongs to an upper caste and middle-class location, acquires heroic proportions as he launches a thrilling set of operations to safeguard the realm of domesticity.
My analysis shows how in Achanurangatha Veedu the viewer is constantly buffeted between identification with the victimised father and a possibility of distancing where we step back and watch the spectacle of pathos.
I argue that the film offers a possibility of critiquing social hierarchies in instances where we slip out of both of these modes of viewing and inhabit a more contingent and disorienting position.
My focus is on the visual and aural transactions through which masculinity is reassembled in cinema and the practices of spectatorship it engenders.
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