Malayalam cinema has not shied away from the portrayal of the varied aspects of mental disorders. By tackling this sensitive subject, these select Malayalam movies have helped shape our perception of mental health and individuals with mental illnesses. In the last 30 years, Malayalam movies have shunned the narrative of ‘braanthan’ and have embraced mental health disorders with all its complexities.
But it is important to understand that while there are multiple movies that have done justice in the depiction of a mental health disorder, there are several Mollywood movies that did not.
So on this World Mental Health Day, we thought we’d come up with a list of 6 movies that had a sensitive portrayal of mental health disorders.
In Thanmatra, Ramesan Nair (Mohanlal) has Early-Onset Alzheimer’s disease. Mohanlal’s performance gained critical appreciation for showing how Alzheimer’s affects the character’s daily life – forgetfulness, personality changes, cognitive impairment including speech. The movie effectively showcases the challenges faced by the protagonist’s family as they tried to cope with his mental health -the Caregiver’s burden.
In an effort to dramatize the disorder, Ramesan developed the symptoms fairly quickly. Usually, Alzheimer’s is a gradually progressing disease, and the progression happens over the course of years. Apart from that, the movie tried to stay true to reality.
North 24 Kaatham
North 24 Kaatham has Harikrishnan (Fahadh Faasil) as a protagonist who has Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder or OCPD (not to be confused with OCD). Fahadh portrays the condition relatively accurately, showing how Hari is obsessed with symmetry and cleanliness. The movie shows how the disorder affects the people around him and how their inability to empathize with Hari further deteriorates his mental health.
Raghunandan (Mohanlal) is an alcoholic and therefore, the movie portrayed pathological intoxications, craving, and withdrawal symptoms. The movie shows how alcoholism affects one’s personal and professional life and helped audiences understand both sides of the story.
Like Spirit, Nee-Na also deals with substance use disorder. Neena (Deepti Sati) is addicted to alcohol and smoking, and this leads to various troubles in her life. The movie shows how Neena is admitted to a de-addiction center, how she has to cope up with giving up her addiction. But the movie does not portray the process of deaddiction accurately. However, it makes it into the list for showing that alcoholism is a disorder and not just a ‘bad habit’.
The movie shows Jude Rodriguez (Nivin Pauly) as someone who has Asperger syndrome, and Crystal Ann Chakraparambu (Trisha Krishnan) as a person with Bipolar disorder. Hey Jude makes it to this list for helping us understand what Asperger syndrome and Bipolar disorders are. The movie focuses on how the people around Jude accept his disorder, and thereby, helps us empathize with the character.
Kumbalangi Nights had one of the most moving scenes from recent cinema – when Shaji (Soubin Shahir) consults a psychiatrist. Shaji is suffering from depression and asks his younger brother to help him. Soubin portrays the condition beautifully and is able to induce empathy for the character. The movie opens up a conversation about the importance of consulting a mental health professional and gives us a better understanding of depression.
Those were 6 movies that we felt portrayed mental disorders relatively accurately. There are many other movies in Malayalam cinema that made contributions and we’d like to give honourable mentions to Anantharam, Thaniyavarthanam, Bhoothakkannadi, and Vadakkunokkiyanthram.