Malayalam Movie Tropes From The 90s – Part 1

Malayalam Cinema goes through a transformation every decade or so. In our lifetime, we’ve probably noticed the change in trends from the 80s; when we had the common man stories. We then moved on to stories about larger than life characters, and then to a whole plethora of 90s family movies, and then the mimics parade movies, to new age cinema, and now to the realistic cinema. With these ever-changing trends comes many attributes specific to those times that may not necessarily have aged well. Let’s take a look at some of those Malayalam movie tropes that we’ll never see in our present films.

FaceTime Letters

Let’s face it, it’s very hard to have text on screen because the notion is that people don’t watch movies to read. Directors have often employed voice-overs for the letters and that seemed to work for a time. But some decided to go even further. They put a frame of the letter and had the actor’s face pop up on top of it, reading out the letter emotionally. It looks awkward now, but I still can’t help but think voice-overs would’ve been enough, no? (Watch Bangalore Days letter reading by Vijayaraghavan to see the comedic potential of such a premise) 

Neduneelan English dialogues with Malayalam translation

Ah, the good old political thrillers of the 90s, with the dynamic duo at the helm: Shaji Kailas and Renji Panikker. Their movies were of a different genre altogether, I suppose. Most of these movies were about 3 hours long, and I’m positive they could’ve been done in 2 if not for the long monologues in English and the pain of translation of the same in Malayalam immediately after.

Chethth piller gang on bikes

I guess back then adipoli piller were always on their bikes. You have a bunch of guys with their Yamaha/Suzuki 2 stroke bikes, baggy clothes, mullet hairdo and of course a song that serves as an intro to them and their adipoliness. Ultimate examples of ‘Show, don’t tell’.

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Computer is the solution

The ultimate Malayalam movie trope from the 90s. Back then we didn’t quite understand how computers or technology worked and, I mean no disrespect, filmmakers completely exploited our lack of knowledge. Characters used Photoshop to find the blood intensity, Windows Photo Viewer to make facial composite sketches. But don’t @ me about Adofom; at least they made a different interface for it!

Classical sangeetham abhyasi protagonist

Imagine this scenario. We have a hero. Of course, we’re made to sympathise with him because he’s already the hero. But we want others to love and respect him as well?

90s Director: Let’s make him an expert in Classical music!

Does that factor into the story somehow? Him being really good at Classical music?

Director: Nah! Let’s just do this and never mention this again in the movie.

High octane, low-risk vehicle chases

Having a chase scene in the movie used to be a flex, I guess. Because every movie back in the day had one. And it always followed the same beat. Not complaining here, I absolutely loved them!

Everybody knows naadan thallu!

This was one of the staple Malayalam movie tropes from the family movies of 90s. There will be a climax where you have your evilingly evil villain and his goonies face off with our hero and every supporting actor in the movie. The main actor would have a very serious fight with an intense background score, and the comedy actors have a completely different thing going with funny music and general buffoonery. Of course, it’ll all be sorted with the police arriving right on cue and arresting only the bad guys. 

Freeze frame end credits (Shubham!)

Nothing screamed “Shubham” in the end better than all the actors lining up together in front of the camera and one of the comedians cracking a joke for everybody to laugh and be freeze-framed. Except, of course actually writing “Shubham!” in the end.

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What are some of the Malayalam movie tropes from older Malayalam movies that evoke nostalgia for you?

Shahbaz M
I see movies, I talk about it.

6 COMMENTS

  1. Cutting to song sequence on some alternate reality on top of some mala, paadam, beach, marbhoomi or amusement park (with or without background dancers). Actress’s hair length that keeps randomly increasing and decreasing throughout the movie. OTT villains who always have only one evil expression on their face (I wonder if they retain this expression even when they’re sleeping or in the bathroom also). Sad song to show that the hero/heroine is sad because how will we know otherwise. Comic music during comedy scenes because how we will know when to laugh otherwise.
    Shubham.

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