Recreating 90s Malayalam movies – A (really serious) study

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, an estranged writer starts watching her favorite movies from the 90s. It’s a period where new-gen movies have begun to destory the moral fabric of society. The people have become selective (and not collective) of movies to watch. The big Ms have fallen, Gobi is found only in Pondicherry and vegetarian buffet, J.Ram is trying to be cool. Pursued by sinister long-haired intellectuals, the writer studies 90s movies aboard her starship Silma Reviews, in an attempt to make malayalam cinema great again!


The movie begins at sunrise with an orchestral bgm. We are at the hero’s tharavaadu where a kasavu saree clad mother is making the breakfast, happy and content in the kitchen.


Enter teenage sister, who is getting ready to go for type writing class in her half-saree. She tries to take a dosa or two, but mother flicks on her head and asks her to call her brother Unni to eat.

Meet Unni – he is nothing but macho. He sports a moustache, he wears mundu, he can smear kumkum on forehead, he is adored by everyone.


Unni screams at the sister for his ironed clothes. When the sister joyfully brings it to him, he wonders where his under wear is. Mother brings it to him happily and tells him she has washed it well and he must wear it and not throw away. They all share the happiness of this family moment.

Audience cue: Beam with happiness

As Unni begins to eat the hot dosas, his friend barges in. His friend, though he has his own home, tends to eat only at the hero’s place. He enters with a poor joke, replies to everyone with poor joke, and keeps telling the poor jokes until the hero asks him to shut up.

Audience cue: LOL

Just as the audience begins to think if the hero and his friend are jobless, camera moves to a gang of local sanskari uncles squatting under a banyan tree in the centre of a town who looks at the duo and tells each other : “Unni Thamburan, son of Prabhakara Varma Thamburan, is so talented. He sings, dances, and writes so well that even his fart is like Beethoven’s symphony. He had first rank in IIT Madras and was offered a job at NASA. But he came back to the village because of his love for our land”. The group nods in praise and appreciation for Unni’s selflessness. No one talks about the lame friend, because his only job in the movie is to make poor jokes.

Audience cue: Proud

Unni and the friend are merrily bathing in the nearby river flaunting their 34D moobs.

giphy (16)

They discuss one of the biggest problems they face – girls. The friend lets the audience know that Unni ain’t getting any action though he is the most eligible bachelor in town. Unni, who is also a deep shit philosopher, reminisces the time he spent reciting Neruda’s poetry in the lap of Claude, the French woman he met in one of his past sexcapades. But, he admits he is still in love with his childhood friend, Kalyani Menon. Friend teases him, and Unni pinches his nipples. To show how close these buddies are, they will be joyfully spanking each other as well. (1)

Audience cue: Laugh

Jump cut to the heroine’s entry, a song. She is seen to be coming back from somewhere because she carries a suitcase. She is wearing jeans and tshirt and sun glasses over her face. But since this is a movie, she is also completely made up, her hair perfectly tied, even her lipstick has not faded out. Obviously, the heroine is fair AF. Kalyani is grinning like she is high on pot, plays cricket with street kids while dancing, and pats the old men perching on road sides.

giphy (17)

Kalyani is an Oxford graduate, but she takes up the job of teaching children in the nearby LP school. Before the audience begins to search the logic behind this decision, the headmaster asks her why she has chosen to teach in this village, Kalyani gives a short speech on her commitment to develop her home town. Such charity, much wow!

Audience Cue: Whatever

As she is teaching English to children, the hero has come to the school because he is part of the management. Kalyani teaches the children, “Twinkle twinkle little Star, how I wonder what you are, up above the world so high, like a diamond in the sky”. Unni over hears this and corrects Kalyani, uninvited. He tells her it’s “we” and not “I”, embarking on a lecture on the importance of community feel required in the Indian society and whatnot. An offended Kalyani defends herself saying there are different versions of the same rhyme, but Unni steals the show by mentioning how her make up is a pretension just as her degree is, slipping in a vulgar statement about the movement of her breasts in a heavily accented English to mock her. An enraged Kalyani tries to slap him, but Unni tells her she has to remember she is only a woman who should not raise her hand to a man!

Audience cue: How dare she!

Kalyani reports this sexual harassment to the headmaster who calmly tells her, “we all are part of this establishment. Don’t see him as a man, but a well educated human advising another human”.

Audience cue: Obviously


Kalyani goes home and vents her anger to her feminist aunt. Feminist aunt is divorced, has a sense of fashion, and wears sunglasses.


They both confront Unni, and aunt questions him. Unni’s friend intervenes, tells her how these “feminichis” are sexually deprived and ruins the lives of other women, obviously jealous that Kalyani gets the attention of most eligible bachelor in town who is an all-rounder. But aunt fiercely fights back calling out Unni’s entitled attitude to women. Friend immediately slaps her saying she deserves it.

Audience cue: Clap, cheer, exhilaration 

Kalyani gets all seduced and wet (in a rain sequence, ob) at how talented Unni is and that Unni has a PhD on Linguistics too; she regrets her previous action. The next day she appears in front of Unni in saree, wearing nude makeup, coyly eyeing at him for apology. Unni is impressed that she has tamed Kalyani, and tells her, you have now become my old childhood friend Kalyani.

Audience cue: Louves

Love song. Both Unni and Kalyani dance to a slow melody atop a hill, in a river, in a jungle. They do all romantic positions, but would not kiss, because culture!

giphy (18)


Audience cue: Such cultured lovers for a family movie. Our child isn’t born of sex either

Since they have declared their love for each other, next step is of course marriage. But Kalyani’s rich family doesn’t approve of Unni as he doesn’t have enough tradition. Kalyani is banned from seeing Unni. Although she is Western educated, Kalyani succumbs to the patriarchal force readily.

Audience cue:  Well of course, but tension

Separation of love birds lead to another song where they fondly remember their childhood games and later, the adult games of passionate love (but without making out).


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Unni, to prove Kalyani’s fam wrong, takes up the challenge to run the year’s temple festival. The girl’s uncles try to stop him, but he succeeds in running it with the help of friend and sanskari uncles. The girl’s father is so impressed, he lets Unni have Kalyani.

Audience cue: Yaayyy!!

The friend cracks a poor joke, everyone laughs together- even Kalyani’s family members and aunt. Movie ends.

Audience cue: Such an entertaining family movie with morals

Note: This is a 90s cinema masterplan that is as secular as it can get. For example, Unni Thamburan can easily become Sunny John Kurishinkal, Kasavu saree mother can wear Chatta and Mundu and make appam and egg curry instead of dosa, sister can go to a church instead of type writing class, temple festival can become perunnal. Heroine’s daddy can take pride in being 916 descendants of Christians converted by Thomas, the apostle.

The only limitation is that, it’s quite difficult to make the hero a Muslim. Now, if it’s absolutely necessary, maybe one can make the hero’s mother’s caste brahmin or nair.


Unni – Mohanlal/Mammotty/Jayaram/Suresh Gopi. Or Mukesh if other four are busy

Mother– Kaviyoor Ponnamma/Renuka or Philomina

Sister– Any serial artist, doesn’t matter.

Kalyani– Anyone who is fair complexioned. Doesn’t matter who. After all, “the world is a circus, and actresses are monkeys”

Friend– Jagadeesh/Jagathi/Hari Sree Ashokan

Kalyani’s Dad– Janardanan/Narendra Prasad/Rajan P Dev

Feminist aunt– Sukumari/Ponnamma Babu

Kalyani’s uncles– Bheeman Raghu/Kundara Johny

Sanskari uncles– Random old men led by Sankaradi

Headmaster– Siddique

You can find the malayalam translation here  🙂


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16 thoughts on “Recreating 90s Malayalam movies – A (really serious) study

  1. Another good one. This is as simple it can get. But the saddest part is it still won’t penetrate most tough skulls.

    BTW, around the mid part your Kalyani becomes Lakshmi. But men, what difference does it all make. They were all the same.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. 😀 😀 Cool Job!! I had a good laugh!
    The kind of movies you targeted here were basically like porn for most of the men. Depiction of their fantasies!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Seems the author is some nri mallu who knows korachu korachu malayalam and just started watching malayalam films. poorly resesrched and unfunny article.


  4. Absolutely loved your analysis! Finally someone addressed the disgusting SLAP TO CORRECT A WOMAN’S BEHAVIOUR trope that was so prevalent in 90s movies. The only thing better than your sarcasm is your Meme game! It is God-tier! Keep up the good work!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This was typo mallu films that you might have watched in TV on weekday mornings. But the gem are rarely telecast. Though there were cliche family dramas which supported patriarchy (thanks to the directors), a lot of Malayalam films have been pathbreaking and had the quality to be among the country’s best.
    Eg: Many of MT , bharathan works.
    Please note that siddique was also one among the hero’s friends in the period you mentioned. Rarely have I seen him as the headmaster.


  6. You make me rethink every other movie I once enjoyed. And thanks for pointing out the anti feminist idea in Malayalam movies. Really good memes. Go ahead. Waiting for the next one.


  7. The one thing seen in Mallu cinema especially Indian cinema is the bias attitude about the cheating in relationships. If the man cheats, wife can forgive and she should forgive, at least in the end. Otherwise it would be interpreted as her arrogance. But if its the woman who finds solace in another man, all hell breaks loose. A man’s decision to not rejoin with her is totally understood by audience and made conveyed by the writers. Because she is a slut. Writers take special care that heroines do not go anywhere near cheating. Bollywood husbands are so afraid of being cuckolded, that they need to kill the wife’s lover to forgive his wife. Rustom is the latest example. But a woman is expected to do all this without shedding a single drop of blood. Oh yeah, she can shed as much of tears she want.

    A husband who is a player, fucks many woman and finally patches up the relationship with his wife is a plot for a blockbuster Indian rom-com movie(regardless of language). If the end shot reveals that the husband had not yet given up his ‘adventures’ and his transformation is just another bluff and he is still doing it secretly. It will be a hilarious ending even for the current gen movie goers. I wonder what happens if the gender is switched in the movie. What if the wife is a player, fucks many men and finally patches up with her husband. Audience would stone the hubby for being such a pathetic wimp to choose the slut again.What if the end shot reveals that the wife had not yet given up her adventures with men and that she is still sexually active with other men? I dont think any Indian writer can portray such a theme as rom-com or any Indian audian can see it as a rom-com.


  8. Other underlying themes that are always implied/understood but difficult for us to keep in mind when seeing 90s movies:

    Chronic joblessness
    Lack of future prospects
    Gulf and occasionally some other distant land as the only escape
    Lack of purpose (everyone seems to scrape by on a day-to-day basis)

    Many Mohanlal-Srinivasan movies (Mithunam obviously but so many others as well) capitalized on these aspects. And these movies would have hit quite at home with the audience which might have been the reason for their success.

    The popularity of the other category of movie with super human figures (thampuran genre) can also be explained in part by the same dynamic. Aaram thampuran for instance is quintessential LARPing. Heirs migrating to cities, abandoned family temples, disputed claims on tharavads, discontinued traditions would have all hit quite close to the heart for many young adults coming of age in the 90s. And the fantasy of someone rich and powerful trying to restore them would have been attractive considering their own bleak prospects.

    That these genres died out probably has more to do with better economic conditions and maybe generational memory. The young adults these days have other things to get emotive about.


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