Malayalam cinema has quite a bunch of “youth-oriented” movies. But for this list, I’m not going to kanakkil-edukkaling the college-going crowd. So movies like Niram, Classmates, Anandham are out. I’m only talking about those teenagers who portrayed those lovely awkward years in school, filled with raging hormones, first crushes, untimely pimples and moods that swung like a pendulum. You know, the most relatable teenagers in Malayalam cinema.
While there have been many movies that have grossly misrepresented teenagers by adults who seemingly have never even met a real-life teenager, there are a few filmmakers who seem to have got it right, giving us characters that our teenage selves were truly able to connect with.
Ammini from Aranyakam
While teenagers in the era that this movie came out were often portrayed mainly as the hero’s coy pengal, with a fair amount of adakkam and othukkam, Ammini was a far cry from the pavam potti penpillar we’d grown accustomed to. She whistles, hikes up her skirt as she sits, loves to cut into conversations, and gets reprimanded for her lack of demureness. She had a mind of her own filled with curious thoughts, opinions, questions and dreams – pretty much as we all did at that point in our life. She is definitely one of the most relatable teenagers in Malayalam cinema.
Pradeep from Daisy
I have never been a teenage boy smitten by first love, but I imagine I’d behave pretty much like Pradeep did in the song Thenmazhayo in the movie Daisy. Running, hopping, rolling about in the grass, just irikka porudhi illadhe fully losing my shit while my friends look on like “Wtf, bro?”. Pradeep’s advances towards Daisy are awkward, their romantic exchanges drip with cheese, and his reactions to conflict are immature. Is there a better way to describe teenage romances?
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Janaki from Ennu Swantham Janakikutty
Janaki is every introvert’s dream come true. A bespectacled teenager with unruly hair and pimples, she was a far cry from the perfectly put together teens in some of the more recent teen movies. Janaki looked like any of us and she most certainly acted like us too. The only thing anyone ever seemed to say to her is “Poi irrin padikke”; words that used to grate on my nerves as a teenager. A certified loner, she spends her days on her own, talking to herself, while roaming about the grove. She also nurtures a crush on an older boy, only to have her heartbroken later. I can literally tick off the number of relatable instances that Janaki put forth for any teenager.
Pooja from Om Shanti Oshana
Perhaps one of Malayalam cinema’s first rom-com from a female perspective, Pooja was the opposite of the one-dimensional syrupy sweet bubbly heroine. She’s the typical angsty teen, sometimes grouchy and pensive, sometimes cheerful and enthusiastic. Dressed in the universal teenage attire – pyjamas/shorts and t-shirts – and her hair carelessly bundled on top of her head, Pooja definitely looked the part. Her progression from tomboy to a more feminine young person was personally super relatable for me. She’s pelted by a steady stream of advice like “girls shouldn’t sit with their legs apart, should not whistle, should walk properly” all of which Pooja grumpily ignores. A bheegaramaya crush on a hot stranger results not only in dreamy song sequences but also has her plotting elaborate schemes to capture his attention, something we’d only seen boys do in Malayalam cinema up until then.
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June from June/ George from Premam
While both these characters remain teenagers only for a small portion of the movie, both June and George brilliantly displayed many of the traits we’ve all had at the time. Whether it’s hiking up our school uniform skirt, or calling our crush’s landline only to have her parents pick up the phone, both these characters successfully put forth the range of vulnerable and confusing emotions that one goes through on the verge of adulthood. June’s interactions with her parents and George’s conversations with his friends was void of the artificiality that is often plastered all over other so-called ‘teen movies’.
Athira from Udaharanam Sujatha
Athira may come from a different financial background when compared to June and Pooja but her teenage struggles are pretty much the same. She idolizes DQ, stays glued to the TV and is admonished by her mother for her lack of interest in studies. All she really wants to do is chill, watch TV, hang out with her friends and spend money while being blissfully unaware of the amount of effort that went into earning it. She’s often shown to be self-centred, stubborn and moody – all the classic characteristics of a growing teen.
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Jaison from Thaneer Mathan Dinangal
Melodrama comes easily when you’re a teen. When Jaison from Thaneer Mathan Dinangal listed down all his “valiya preshnangal”, I was taken back to a time when getting your parents to sign a paper with a bad grade or your best friend being absent in class was considered to be some of the most life-threatening problems you thought you’d encounter in life. And also didn’t we all have that one teacher whose only purpose in life was to make our life a living hell?
Other teenagers that you’re going to tell us our list is “incomplete without” – the trio from Notebook, Ichappi from Parava, Guppy from Guppy, Ravi Puthooran from Koodevide.
Not so honourable mention: Oru Adaar Love (ugh!)
Did we miss out on any on-screen teenagers you found the most relatable in Malayalam cinema? Tell us in the comments.