I recently made the blunder of watching Pushpa in Malayalam even after watching it in Telugu. The interval title was something I was hoping to see sooner in the ‘I-could-die-and-reincarnate-twice’ long movie. And once it DID appear, I was intrigued. Not about the movie of course, but by the typography and the shot. The interval is written as “Thazhathila” behind Pushpa’s signature move of ‘thaadi choriyunu’ on a background designed as a fingerprint. All these elements are relevant to the plot (forget for a minute that the plot has little relevance), and they add up beautifully.
Intervals started off as a means of a break for theatres to change reels. With projectors taking over, it became a more commercial thing. Theatres used these breaks to cash in through ads and sell snacks we’d whine about because they cost more than the ticket. And of course, intervals became the necessary bathroom break. After all, the ideal film length should be directly related to the human bladder’s endurance (Alfred Hitchcock, etho kaalath).
Makers tend to get creative with how an interval is conveyed and undeniably adds to the cinematic experience. This cliffhanger or a buildup towards something more eventful in the second half is among the most exciting bits in the movie. It also gives the audience a window to decide whether to sit through the second half or whine again about the money they spent on the ticket.
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Here are a few such interval scenes from Malayalam movies that stay in my head rent-free.
Breaking the fourth wall
The most memorable interval scene was that of Ravanaprabhu. It was one amonst those movies experimented with the idea of breaking the dramatic fourth wall that separates the audience from the actor. The actor speaks to the audience by looking directly into the camera, enough for the 10-something-year-old me to get the romancham feels.
The interval shot: After a fight scene and three-four punch dialogues thrown around here and there, Mohanlal asks his friend to go have tea by the time he completes his routine visit to the police station. After that, he turns to the camera and asks the audience to “Have a tea break”.
The Tea/Mobile Break
Get your snacks, check your messages, do whatever it is that you want to do during the break and come back for the second half of the movie. Among the movies that wrote this out clearly for the audience are Action Hero Biju, Aadu oru Bheegara jeevi, and #Home.
The interval shot: Action Hero Biju was a simple movie that narrated the everyday adventures of the Kerala Police. On one such adventure, their department walkie-talkie gets stolen by a drunkard. Now the department has to find the drunkard and the walkie. This is the interval shot and we have the drunkard speak (to the audience), “You are is go…drinking coffee tea…but also come back…”
#Home also has an interval shot induced by a family dilemma caused by a smartphone. It says “Time to check your phone” (quite ironically) with the iPhone ringtone fading in the background.
You’ve made it this far, ini korachum koodi. These movies let you know the journey you’ve completed and what’s left. Two movies with this idea worked into their plots Oru Vadakkan Selfie and North 24 Kaatham. Both movies had an ETA indicator right before starting a journey.
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The interval shot: In Oru Vadakkan Selfie, Aju Varghese and Nivin Pauly are 2 hope illatha people who go on a hopeless search to find another hope illatha person, Manjima Mohan in Chennai. The interval scene shows a shirt illuminated in the backdrop with the word ‘Hope’ written on it. Adding on to this, they write “Shesham Chennai’yil…”, to indicate exactly where the movie is taking us next.
North 24 Kaatham also conveys the ETA by saying that the audience has “12 kaatham” more to cover in the movie.
Malayalam mass movies have this very peculiar style of showcasing their interval scenes. It would either have something blasting or flying or would at least have the hero giving out a warning for everyone. Take every Suresh Gopi movie ever, for example. The Big M’s too have their fair share of mass-o-graphically shown intervals. Some of these were in the movies Christian Brothers, Shylock, and Narasimham.
The interval shot: Christian Brothers had Mohanlal pair up with Sharath Kumar to get out of jail in a series of twists. The twist scene (which I just revealed btw) is the interval shot. It has Mohanlal and his gunda boys walk in slow-motion with the word “Intermission” written in a metallic font.
Shylock also followed a similar metallic style of writing up “Interval”, and attempted to bring out all the mass elements. We know how that ended.
Some movies are too cool to have an interval. Randomly switch the lights on when they feel they have reached halfway through the movie. Memories, Twenty-20, and Kumbalangi Nights are some movies I remember having done this trend. These movies spoke for themselves when the interval was due and brought in the ‘anticipation element’ by the intervals.
The interval shot: Twenty-20 had one of the most memorable interval scenes that showed the Big M’s in a face-off. Now, who wouldn’t want to know who wins against whom at such a crucial stage?
This is what we got when word art templates met with the kid who asks, “Chetta mobile’l graphics undo?”. It’s simple and puts across its point with a little more sophistication than its 1980s version. They don’t base heavily on the idea of getting fancy with an interval shot and try to put it across subtly. Among those movies were Pullipulikalum Attinkuttiyum and Manoharam.
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The interval shot: Pullipulikalum Aattinkuttiyum had a zoom-out shot of the villain smirking on his houseboat in the interval scene. The ‘Idavela’ is written in a simple font and has a wavy motion (for the obvious reason that there was water around).
For those who stand by the idea that size matters, these intervals will be quite reassuring. These intervals reassure you, in vendakya aksharam, that the interval will be small. A few movies that had this going on were Premam and Jack and Daniels.
The interval shot: Premam had the interval scene shown during the entry of Ariv, cousin of the protagonist’s love interest, who ends up coming in idayil (between) of them. Appropriately then, his entry is shown as a ‘small ida-vela’, indicating both – his position in their love story and the duration of the interval.
This was a new kind of interval that visibly confused me. Those who have watched Hridayam would understand what I’m talking about. The interval scene was the title scene of this movie. So when Pranav Mohanlal leaves Chennai and says tata bye-bye to Darshana, the makers write “Hridayam” on the screen. I pretty much thought that was the entire movie and walked out.
Interval shot: The movie title was introduced to the audience after about 1.5 hours of the movie in the form of an interval scene.
Are there other Mollywood intervals that have stayed with you? Share them in the comments section.