The theme of ‘friendship’ has been extensively employed in Malayalam movies over the course of its history. It is so recurring that most friendships are overlooked or presented in a casual manner. If you really look at it, friendships in Malayalam movies are not always romanticized; it is given an authentic raw feel to get the nuances in friendship right.
Malayalam cinema has mostly employed the theme of friendship to bring out a comedy element. Sidekick characters are frequent tropes of friendship, whose character is introduced primarily for comedic effect alone. While these characters are usually mocked for a joke which points to a toxic friendship, there are other examples of effective sidekick characters that give heroes reality checks. Jagadish in Godfather is a sidekick character for Mukesh, the hero. But, it is often the sidekick that saves the day for the hero when he is clueless.
Malayalam Cinema has portrayed a number of friendships and this article is an exploration to classify its various types.
‘Tom & Jerry’ kinda friendship
Dasan and Vijayan are the perfect embodiment of a friendship that exists between two guys, brilliantly portrayed through Nadodikattu, Pattanapraveshanam and Akkare Akkare Akkare. Though, Mohanlal seems to dominate their professional standards with his “B. Com first class” card at times, their friendship is pure and respectful. In a scene from Nadodikattu, Dasan who earns a meagre amount from his vegetable sales gives Vijayan money. The scene has no formality whatsoever, which pictures a beautiful image of friendship. Two best friends most often tend to be closer than family without any insecurities.
Hari and Krishnan from Harikrishnans, Porinju and Jose from Porinju Mariam Jose, Haseeb and Ichaapi from Parava, etc. are all examples of this kind of friendship. They often face problems but are always there for each other no matter what.
The three-piece friendship
We’ll start with the example of the blockbuster three-piece combo of George, Shambu and Koya from Premam. Premam is a movie that has a brilliant take on friendship, yet does not romanticize it.
The three-piece gangs are risky as well as safe. Safe, in terms of having someone when you need them even if one of your best friends is not present. This friendship is mostly risky because, one among the three will always be entitled to be on “air” and will be the object for ridicule and mockery.
If you don’t think this is true, I’ll quote an example from a movie itself. The movie Friends which revolves around the lives of three friends Aravindan, Chandu and Joy is a perfect example. Joy, played by Sreenivasan is the one that is entitled to be mocked, while he is also the one that stays with Aravindan (Jayaram) when Chandu leaves.
The 2×2 gang
This four-piece gang could be a band, if they actually tried. Mahadevan, Govindkutty, Appukuttan and Thomaskutty from the In Harihar Nagar franchise even tried to do so with their masterpiece Ekantha chandrike but were demotivated at their budding stage by Mahadevan’s mother. A serious offence to the music industry!
A four-piece group is never short of activity and entertainment, as something will always be happening. A quartet is a standard number of friends, which can function without much problems. Anything beyond four could be a risk if not properly managed.
Seniors, Super Sharanya, “4 the people“, etc. all follow this pattern of the four-person friendship model.
Any friendship with more than four people can be classified under this category. Now a major problem with a huge group can be a concern for space. If four friends enter a restaurant, they’ll probably have a table for 4, but for each extra person, they might have to pull in chairs from other tables. See, I’m not being negative here, but was just trying to paint a picture for you.
Any large friendships are great to experience, provided sub-groups don’t form within the larger friendship. Classmates follows the friendship of such a large group, and as seen, issues between two can affect the whole friendship. Anandam, Malarvadi Arts Club, Idukki Gold, Dear Friend, etc. are all movies that explored friendship among a larger number of people.
Family turned Friends
This kind of friendship is portrayed in its entirety through the film Bangalore Days. When you become best friends with people you are related to by blood, it’s the best. To those who have it, you guys are blessed.
Aju, Divya and Kuttan are cousins, but they are best friends too. These friendships are so warm, that their portrayals are beautiful. The best part is the fact that one’s parents can’t rebuke their child from spending time with their cousins. This is so wholesome.
KL 10 Pathu is another movie that explores friendships within a family between brothers and cousins.
Age neutral friendship
This is the friendship that exists between people of different ages. Achuvinte Amma is a perfect example of it, though they are portrayed as mother and daughter. The friendship that exists between both the characters is wholesome, which makes you want it.
Thommanum Makkalum, Guppy, B.Tech, etc. are other Malayalam movies that have this kind of friendship portrayed through their narrative.
The recent movie Dear Friend talks about this toxic nature in friendship. Though this movie may have negative reviews for its ending, I believe this movie clearly tries to portray the toxicity of friendship.
I would like to raise a spoiler alert, in order to mention a scene from the movie. Initially, in a scene ‘Vinod’ argues with his friend for not respecting one’s decision and stating it as toxic. The greatest irony in the movie lies in the climax, when Vinod himself turns out to be the toxic guy who uses a friendship, when it mattered a lot more to his friends.
Friendships too have a lot of toxicity but are left unnoticed. When sidekicks who are technically ‘friends’ with the hero are only introduced for the hero to generate laughter by shaming is an example of a toxic friendship.
If you find out about other kinds of friendships being portrayed in the Malayalam movies, feel free to add.