Everyone loves to watch a good comedy film. Slice-of-life comedies, laced with satire and at times dark hues, in particular, have always been popular among Malayalam cinema buffs.
Family audiences cutting across generations still watch the timeless films of Sathyan Anthikad and Priyadarshan, backed by Sreenivasan’s screenplays and Mohanlal’s performance, on TV.
Some of the best Malayalam films of all time were released over the past decade, a sizeable number of which were comedies.
The generational shift that took place in Malayalam cinema over the past decade has resulted in comedy occupying a pivotal place in the narrative structure.
Crossover films such as Bangalore Days, Maheshinte Prathikaram, Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum and Premam mesmerised millions of those who don’t speak the language, because of the top-notch humour that helped them cross the cultural barriers. Apart from these most popular titles, there are many others that were grossly underrated when they were released in theatres, though some of them did make money at the box office.
These are films that we do not normally find on top of the lists, but still deserve to be watched.
1. Tamaar Padaar (2014)
This rollicking socio-political satire missed the bus on both box office success and positive reviews. However, soon it found audience praise when it was released first on DVD, and later on TV and on the streaming platform.
Directed by Dileesh Nair, Tamaar Padaar, for the most part, is a hilarious ride through the antics of its three self-styled protagonists, the heavily accented and upright cop ACP Pouran (Prithviraj), and the street performers ‘Jumper’ Thampi (Baburaj) and ‘Tubelight’ Mani (Chemban Vinod Jose).
After the humorous first half, the film starts making impactful commentary about some present realities when Thampi and Mani perform a stunt to make a statement against rape culture and then get arrested by ACP Pouran, who suspects them to be global terrorists.
2. Vedi Vazhipadu (2014)
One of the best adult comedies of recent times, Vedi Vazhipadu shows the mirror to the society that holds morality as a mask to hide its fantasies and perversions.
The leads in Shambu Purushothaman’s debut movie decide to have a salacious blast on the day of ‘Attukaal Pongala’, when their wives are away for performing the festival rituals. Trying to make the best of the short window that they have, they invite a sex worker to spice up their get together.
As the day progresses in the backdrop of the noisy festivities and live commentary on TV, the events that ensue make the tipsy bunch and their spouses put their fantasies, insecurities and social mores to test.
3. Double Barrel (2015)
Lijo Jose Pellissery’s comic caper experiment is uproarious till the end, thanks to a script, which is spiced up with outlandish one-liners and characters who are perpetually in a high (or was there one at all?).
Double Barrel failed to enthuse the theatre crowd, probably because it was ahead of its time and the audience wasn’t prepared for Lijo’s out-of-the-ordinary treatment. The wacky film throws all the formulaic conventions out of the window in pretty much every frame.
At the core, Double Barrel is a diamond heist drama about gangs that vie with each other to take possession of two gems called Laila and Majnu, which have value only when they are sold together.
A host of characters who are different in their own unique ways, right from the way they dress and talk, go through crazy adventures and shootouts till the end.
4. Godha (2017)
In a season full of high-octane sports dramas, Basil Joseph gave Malayalam cinema a humourous one that bucked the trend. A woman wrestler who has lost her hope finds a ray of hope in a dusty village where the love for wrestling is kept alive by a bunch of senior citizens, against odds.
Tovino’s outing sans heroism in the film underscores his ability to carry comedy effortlessly.
This superhit film has an astute focus on its plot that your attention doesn’t waver at any point. The humour is not out of place, nor is the action. Wamiqa Gabbim is convincing as a professional wrestler. The ease at which the movie traverses the language barriers is also curious to watch.
5. Punyalan Agarbattis (2013)
Joy Thakolkaaran (Jayasurya) who runs the upstart firm Punyalan Agarbattis, which makes incense sticks out of elephant dung, walks around like a motivational guru bustling with confidence.
As an optimistic entrepreneur with dreams, he tries to take on every hurdle, ranging from taking a contract to collect elephant dung from temple compounds. His protégé Greenu sees a visionary in him and his wife, though a vocal critic, has confidence in him. The story ends on an optimistic note, which has paved way for a second part that is already out.
Other than an impressive Nyla Usha who plays Joy’s wife, the supporting cast that delivers the laughs includes Aju Varghese who plays Greenu, Innocent who plays the young-at-heart grandfather, Rachana Narayanankutty who plays his lawyer and Sreejith Ravi who played the weak-hearted driver who works for Joy’s company.
6. Tharangam (2017)
Tharangam, the curious case of Kallan Pavithran, is a heady mix of wacky machinations by men and God. Pavithran, a thief who stole a temple idol and was beaten to death by villagers for his crime, expects God to redeem himself for the sake of his future generations that have to bear the brunt for his act. God, in turn, explains how difficult is it to resolve all the prayers.
In another instance, a traffic cop Padmanabhan (Tovino) lives with his girlfriend Malathy (Shanthi Balachandran) in a shared flat. She is so suspicious of him and his loyalty towards her that she constantly tests him. After he is suspended, he and his colleague take up a private detective assignment by a man who wants his wife tracked. Instead of some secret information that they can share for some quick bucks, they find a corpse for which they become answerable.
Tharangam is an earnest attempt by a debutant to create a perfect dark comedy. He succeeds in it for most of the runtime in this Tarantino-meets-Guy-Ritchie thriller. It is an experimental film that you may love or hate, as it’s the case with most films in this genre.
7. Vijay Superum Pournamiyum (2019)
Asif Ali started 2019 with this delicious romantic comedy before winning wide critical acclaim for his dark, acid attacker character in Uyare.
Right from the opening matchmaking sequence that ends in the wannabe pair of Vijay (Asif Ali) and Pournami (Aiswarya Lekshmi) getting locked up in a bedroom, the film never lets you down.
A lazy and jobless engineer and an aspiring entrepreneur are an unlikely couple to go on a life journey together and the matchmaking fails for obvious reasons, but they do strike a chord of friendship to tide through ups and downs in the career that they decide to build together.
Director Jis Joy is in top form in this remake of the Vijay Devarakonda-starrer Telugu original Pelli Choopulu.
8. Varnyathil Aashanka (2017)
Four men on the lookout for some quick bucks hatch a plan to loot a jewellery shop. As they execute their plan, a drunken man barges in from nowhere, forcing them to strike a deal with him.
In Varnyathil Aashanka (read our review here), Director Sidharth Bharathan takes a not-so-funny route to tell this heist story, sticking to his style of realism.
The narrative shuttles between the heist and the life stories and struggles of the leads, especially those of Dayanandan (Suraj Venjaramood) who takes to drinks after he loses his job as a bartender following the government decision to close down bars in the state.
The film is a fun watch though I would have loved to see a bit more dark humour and a better climax.
9. Aadu (2015)
With a unique signature BGM playing with the intro of every character, Aadu Oru Bheekara Jeeviyaanu was dismissed as madness when it was released in theatres.
Soon, the sheer craziness of the film caught the imagination of the youngsters that it was eventually turned in to a franchise. Thanks to the following for Shaji Pappan and his team, the second part was released to much fanfare. Rumours are that yet another film in the series cannot be ruled out.
Shaji Pappan is a misogynist who hates women because his wife had eloped with a driver. When his team gets a goat as the prize in a competition, he refuses to take it home because it’s a female.
A gang is after a fortune and they cross paths with Pappan. With a thin plot that has satire and dark humour weaved into it, Aadu has a lineup of interesting characters, which includes the ‘Dabang’ styled cop played Vijay Babu, the aide played by Saiju Kurup and the baddie played by Vinayagan.
10. Chandrettan Evideya? (2016)
Chandrettan Evideya was the second collaboration between writer Santhosh Echikkanam and Sidharth Bharathan after Nidra (2012).
The box office success of the film marked Dileep’s comeback to family-oriented roles from slapstick comedy that has been giving him limited returns.
Echikkanam’s script that explores middle-class realism through relationships does not offer anything fresh when it comes to plot or characterisation. However, the humour is efficiently handled by the lead pair of Dileep and Anushree.
Anushree, who was previously hailed widely for her performance in Diamond Necklace, plays Sushama, the possessive wife who keeps a tight leash on her husband even though she works and lives far away from him.
Her husband Chandramohan, though a government servant, is a connoisseur of classical dance who watches dance performances and writes eloquent reviews about them in the media.
The funny sequences involving the art-loving husband and the temperamental wife aside, a major part of the story meanders through an ancient form of astrology practised in Thanjavur that ‘reveals’ connections between Chandramohan’s past life and an affair that beckons him in his present life.
(Dress Circle is a weekly column on films. The author is a communication professional and film enthusiast. Read his past works here.)