The field of Malayalam theatre and drama had become active by the end of the 19th century. The first drama in Malayalam was Manipravala Shakunthalam, a translation of Kalidasa’s Abhijnana Shakuntalam by Kerala Varma Valiya Koi Thampuran in 1882. This was soon followed by other Sanskrit translations and also new dramas written in Malayalam. Tamil drama troupes also reached in theatres during this period. In 1884, C. V. Raman Pillai wrote a farce named Chandramukhi Vilasam, which was heavily influenced by western drama traditions. He continued to write more farces like Kuruppillakkalari, Doctarkku Kittiya Micham, and many others.
Other Malayalam dramas, all written towards the end of the 19th century, were Kalyani Natakam written by Kodungallur Kochunni Thampuran in 1889; Lakshanaasangam (1891), Gangavatharanam (1892) Chandrika (1892), and Uma Vivaham (1893) written by Kunhikuttan Thampuran; Bhagavad Doothu (1892) by Naduvath Achan Namboothiri, Kavisabharanjanam (1892) by Changanasseri Ravivarma, Manorama Vijayam (1893) by Vayaskara Mooss, Lakshmi Kalyanam (1893) by K. C. Kesava Pillai, and Abrayakutty by Kandathil Varghese Mapillai.
Chakki Chankaram (1893) written by Munshi Rama Kurup, and Dusparsha Natakam by Seevolli Narayanan Nampoothiri in 1900 mocked at the low-quality works produced under the influence of Tamil musical dramas.
Plays that made significant changes in the field of drama literature were those written by E. V. Krishna Pillai. Unlike other dramas, humour was never superficial in the works of E.V. It pervaded the entire drama and was inseparably connected with its plot. Two typical examples of such dramas are Kavitha Case and Pennarasu Naadu. E. V’s character portrayal was so impressive that people could relate to the characters. His other works included Seethalakshmi (1926), Raja Kesavadas, (1929) Pranaya Commission (1932), Vismrithi (1933) Maya Maanushan (1934) and Iravikuttipilla (1934).
From 1930s to 1950s many talented dramatists produced new plays. Writers who adorned the firmament of Malayalam drama were T. N. Gopinathan Nair, Jagathy N. K. Achary, N. P. Chellappan Nair, Chelanatt Achutha Menon, Thikkodiyan, Appan Thampuran, M. P. Sivadasa Menon, Kainkkara Padmanabha Pillai, Vailoppilli Sreedhara Menon, E. M. Kovoor, Kainikkara Kumara Pillai, V. Krishnan Thampi, K. Padmanabhan Nair, Moorkoth Kumaran, and N. V. Krishna Warrier.