For a long time, all the sound emerging from the tinsel world of Malayalam cinema was rather unpleasant. Acrimony among film personalities and bickering among organisations of producers, distributors, actors, directors and technicians generated noises, which sometimes rose above the din of movies crashing at the box office.
For a change, pleasant sounds are now emerging from Malayalam moviedom. The industry is celebrating the grand success of a film, which is truly the result of a collective effort.
The film “Twenty:20” is quite unlike anything has been produced before not only in Kerala but also elsewhere else in the world. It has set records which may remain unbroken for long.
Produced by actor Dileep for the Association of Malayalam Movie Artistes (AMMA) and directed by veteran Joshi, the film brings to mind the lines of the nursery rhyme about all seas being one sea, all trees being one tree, all axes being one axe, and all men being one man. The rhyme goes on to say:
And if the great man took the great axe,
And cut down the great tree,
And let it fall into the great sea,
What a splish-splash that would be!
It is such a splish-splash that the Malayalam industry has created by bringing together a host of actors and playback singers.
Superstars Mammootty, Mohanlal and Suresh Gopi head the glittering cast of more than three scores of actors. They appear in roles that they have played with consummate skill in a number of movies previously – as lawyer, rowdy and police officer respectively.
Also in the cast are veteran Madhu, Dileep, Jayaram, Indrajeet, Prithviraj, Jayasurya and Boban Kunchacko. Viewers may well miss some of them unless they are quite attentive. Jayaram’s is just a guest appearance. Prithviraj, who has already demonstrated the potential to evolve into a superstar, figures along with Jayasurya and Boban in a dance sequence presented by Nayantara.
The comedy brigade is present in full force. Innocent, Jagathy Sreekumar, Jagdish, Cochin Haneefa, Harishree Asokan, Salim Kumar, Suraj Venjarammood and Bijukuttan are all there, along with the indispensable Kalpana.
KJ Yesudas and Jayachandran lead the 17 playback singers. All of them come together to sing one song, which was penned by Gireesh Puthencherry and set to music by Benny Ignatius.
The one weak link in the chain is the feminine department. There are only three women stars, Bhavana, who is cast against Dileep, and Gopika and Kavya Madhavan. As one critic has observed, Gopika and Kavya vanish from the scene very quickly. Meera Jasmine, Malayalam’s most talented actress, is conspicuous by her absence.
The low-key female representation in the star-studded extravaganza is in conformity with the industry practice of devaluing young artistes who are reluctant to be paired with the ageing superstars.
A movie of this kind calls for considerable dexterity on the part of the director, the script writer and the cameraman since they have to achieve a careful balance, keeping in view the sensitivities of the superstars’ fans who will not tolerate a situation where their favourite hero appears to be only the second best.
Joshi has repeated in this film the difficult feat that he accomplished in 1990 when he cast Mammootty and Mohanlal together in his movie “Number 20 Madras Mail”. First reports indicate that the fans are quite pleased with the work of Sibi K. Thomas and Udayakrishna, who wrote the script, and Sukumar, who handled the camera.
The initial response of critics, too, has been favourable. Reviewing the film for rediff.com, Paresh C. Palicha wrote: “We may have heard that too many cooks spoil the broth but, if handled with care, they can spread interesting smorgasbord. And ‘Twenty:20’ proves this fact.”
AMMA produced the film to raise funds to help needy film artistes of yesteryears. To ensure good initial collections for the big budget film, it approached the State government with a request to allow the theatres to raise the ticket rates for the first few days.
The government conceded the request. However, the High Court subsequently stayed the decision on a petition challenging its validity.
The government’s bonanza enabled the 115 theatres, where the film was released on November 5, to make a record first-day collection of Rs.17.4 million. Following restoration of normal rates under court order, the collection dropped by about 20 percent on the second day, but by all accounts the film is well on its way to setting a new box office record.