English Cinema and Kerala

Think English Cinema and one goes out to the great celluloid extravaganzas of Ismail Merchant and James Ivory. This duo produced films of such beauty that is irresistibly seductive. Many directors and producers followed the Merchant Ivory route to glam celluloid. The most recent films to nail it are ‘Victoria and Abdul’ and 2019 Oscar and Golden Globe winning actress Olivia Colman in ‘The Favorite’. Both films are based on British royal lives. Naturally this sets the set for opulence, extravagance and splendid costume. The beauty of period history cinema is that the costume designer gets carte blanche for creativity and style. It doesn’t really matter if the clothing is inaccurate. The costumes just need to look magnificent. In lieu of that allowance, lycra and polyester can be used even though they weren’t invented at the time. Who cares? As long as it makes for superb cinematic viewing.

Malayalam films cater to a small but significant audience of movie-goers. The classic Oru Vadkken Veergadha of 1989 is a favorite among Keralites. Malayees also mention Vaishali, Guru and Kalapani. But we are going with two films, both based in the British colonial time era. Pazhassi Raja was produced in 2009 and Lybonte Pushtakam In 2014. Between the two films are costumes worth applauding. That the patriotic story lines are appealing add to the narrative. But the clothing still stands out to create the difference between the British and the local heroes.

Artwork by Fabian Gonsalves.