The fresh path opened for Malayalam cinema in the 1970s and the strength imbued through the depth and excellence of the new genre of movies, helped experienced artists like Adoor Gopalakrishnan, G. Aravindan, M. T. Vasudevan Nair and K. G. George to continue with the making of delicately nuanced movies through the 1980s. Along with them, directors Bharathan and Padmarajan and cinematographer Shaji N Karun who did the camera work for Aravindan’s movies, made the period one of total fulfillment for moviegoers.
Padmarajan entered the movie world by writing scripts for Bharathan’s movies Rathinirvedam (Sexual Disenchantment, 1978), Thakara (1980), and Lorry (1981). Soon he himself became a consummate moviemaker and went on to direct brilliant movies like Peruvazhiyambalam (Wayside Inn, 1979), Kallan Pavithran (Pavithran the Thief, 1981), Oridathoru Phayalvaan (A Wrestler Somewhere, 1981), Thoovanathumbikal (Dragonflies in the Rain, 1987), Moonnam Pakkam (The Third Day, 1988) and Innale (Yesterday, 1989). Together, Bharathan and Padmarajan brought down the partition wall between art films and commercial films by making movies that straddled both worlds.
The movies that were considered ‘blessed’ by the artistically-perfect touch of Bharathan are Rathinirvedam (Sexual Disenchantment, 1978), Thakara (1980), Chaamaram (Ceremonial Fan, 1980), Ormmakkayi (For the Memory, 1982), Marmaram (Rustlings, 1982), Vaishali (1988) and Oru Minnaminunginte Nurungu Vettam (Glimpse of a Firefly’s Light). Other good movies released during the same period were K. G. George’s Yavanika (Curtain, 1982), Aadaminte Variyellu (The Rib of Adam, 1983) and Lekhayute Maranam Oru Flashback (Lekha’s Death, A Flashback, 1983); M. T. & Hariharan team’s Valarthu Mrigangal (Trained Animals, 1981), Panchagni (Five Fires, 1986), Nakha-kshathangal (Fingernail Marks, 1986), Amrutham Gamaya (Lead to Immortality, 1987) and Oru Vadakkan Veeragadha (A Northern Story of Valor, 1989); Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s Eli-pathaayam (The Rat Trap - 1981), Mukhamukham (Face to Face, 1984), Anantharam (Thereafter, 1987) and Mathilukal (Walls, 1989); G. Aravindan’s Pokkuveyil (Twilight, 1982), Chidambaram (1985) and Oridathu (Somewhere, 1986); Sibi Malayil & Lohithadas team’s Thaniyavarthanam (Just Repetition, 1987) and Kireedom (Crown, 1989); John Abraham’s Amma Ariyan (For My Mother’s Information, 1986); Shaji N Karun’s Piravi (Birth, 1988); Sathyan Anthikkad’s T. P. Balagopalan M.A. (1985) and Nadodikkattu (The Wandering Wind, 1987); K. Madhu & S. N. Swamy team’s Oru CBI Diary Kurippu (A CBI Diary Entry, 1987); and Sreenivasan’s Vadakkunokki Yantram (Mariner’s Compass, 1989).
Outstanding directors like Fazil, Sathyan Anthikad, Sibi Malayil, Lenin Rajendran, Priyadarshan, Kamal, Siddique Lal; excellent writers like T Damodaran, Sreenivasan, John Paul and Lohitadas; musicians like Raveendran, Johnson and Jerry Amarldev; singers like K S Chithra, G Venugopal, M G Sreekumar; cinematographers like Venu, Sunny Joseph, Jayanan Vincent, S Kumar and Vipin Mohan and sound editors like Krishnan Unni and Hari Kumar all got their platforms in the 1980s to express their skill.
Most of the ever-green heroes of the Malayalam screen made their entry in the 1980s. They include Mammootty, Mohanlal, Suresh Gopi, Thilakan, Shobana, Jayaram, and Urvashi. And there were others who entered the filmdom in the 1970s and went on to create lasting impressions like Jagathy Sreekumar, Bharath Gopi, Murali, Sukumaran, Nedumudi Venu and K. P. A. C. Lalitha.