2022 Wrap: Best Malayalam Films Of The Year

A film with 15 songs, a courtroom drama filled with first-time actors, a domestic violence film with the woman fighting back in style: Malayalam cinema in 2022 for you!
2022 Wrap: Best Malayalam Films Of The Year

2022 may be looked at as Malayalam cinema’s year of contradictions. As we sit today looking back at the year that was, the only obvious film you expected to make it to this list was Amal Neerad’s Bheesma Parvam, which came with enough hype to power a small town. The rest, including a film with 15 songs and a courtroom drama filled with first-time actors, hardly felt like propositions that could bring lakhs of people back to theatres. With films like Puzhu and Rorschach, you may look back at 2022 as the year of Mammootty too. Prithviraj too had a terrific year with superhits Kaduva and Jana Gana ManaWith the hit ratio returning to pre-Covid days, we can conservatively hope that Malayalam continues its new wave without worrying about another wave of the pandemic. As we wait for that, all we can say for 2023 is “chambiko”.   

Aavasyavyuham: The Arbit Documentation Of An Amphibian Hunt

Inarguably the most unique film of this year is Krishand RK’s second feature AavasavvyuhamThematically, it may remind one of Aravindan’s Esthappan (1980)as various accounts from various sources offer us pieces to a puzzle to understand the origins story of an unlikely superhero. Part Aquaman, part Devil, we see many shades to Joy (Rahul Rajagopal), the vegetarian fisherman who has the ability to speak to marine life. He is often compared (often wrongly) by these sources to various aquatic beings yet the mockumentary is best when it gets us to observe humankind and its ways as though we’re watching a National Geographic documentary. With satire and a love for the absurd, it becomes more than a film about the environment and the mutation we go through as a species when we mess with nature. If you loved it, also check out Krishand’s Vrithakrithyilulla Charthuramabout a son who wonders why he cannot cry when the news of his father’s death arrives.


Directed by Kunjila Masillamani, this hilarious segment in Freedom Fightforces us to accept our privilege for just having access to clean water and a loo at our workplace. A set of the most natural actors (most of them unfamiliar) take us into their lives as we see them work in one of Calicut’s most dense markets and their conversations are mostly about answering nature’s call. A sequence involving an IAS officer offering a quick-fix in the form of a mobile toilet, gets us to realise how little we know about the practicalities of the issue at hand. Yet the “LOLness” of this scene makes us forget that we’re indeed watching an “issue film”. It grows on you to become more when you’re also able to enjoy it simply as a terrific buddy film. Asangadithar is a blueprint for how a film with women talking about women’s issues does not necessarily have to be smug or pretentious. 


New-age Malayalam cinema finally got its first great horror film with Rahul Sadasivan’s Bhoothakaalam and it got there without having to rely on any cliches you’d expect from the genre. Set in the most normal middle-class house you can imagine for a horror movie, the discomfort comes from knowing how all of us are shockingly close to the plight of these characters. Beneath the supernatural hides a dysfunctional family, with a depressed mother and a insomniac son. Both Revathy and Shane Nigam gave us their best performances of the year and the film also gave us lessons on grief and overcoming past trauma, the “ghosts” of which will keep haunting you if you do not find a way to stick together. 

Bheeshma Parvam

Amal Neerad’s second film with Mammootty reminds one of the reasons why we fell in love with movies at the first place. Larger-than-life was almost a forgotten language in Malayalam, especially post-pandemic, only for it to be brought with megawatts of pure style and a Megastar who can still exhale swag. The Bolt camera that was used for its signature fight sequence, got its own separate fan base and the film’s styling brought back Walkmans, acid-washed jeans and rock-band t-shirts like it was the 90s. Beyond all that, it also gave us the smug satisfaction and relief that we too could pull off mass like it’s nobody’s business.


The first half of Hridayam remains frustrating to this day, as it tries to stuff four-years’ worth of life events into a little over an hour. But as it skips over to the other side, the coming-of-age matures a lot like its lead Arun (Pranav Mohanlal) as he hits his last 20s. There’s time for these profound moments to breathe now and we finally get a romance that allows its protagonist to deal with his biggest heartbreak, affording him the luxury to move on. The scene in which Darshana stares at Arun’s newborn baby remains a confounding piece of drama, but not as perplexing as the other scene in which Arun chooses to call her first, of all people, to share the news of him becoming a father. Recycling the first words that came to mind while watching the film, it then becomes a direct NEFT transfer from Vineeth Sreenivasana’s hridayam to ours. 

Jaya Jaya Jaya Jaya Hey

Right from the very first sequence, a montage of an everywoman getting ready to go to work with her sleeping husband’s feet extending outwards, to tiny two-second shots (like a tree-climbing Jaya being asked to get down), Jaya Jaya Jaya Jaya Hey is a film that’s as fascinating for its writing as it is for its form. The use of music, for instance, including a clever play with the flute to depict Jaya’s (Darshana Rajendran kicking ass) expectations breaking one after another, is in itself one more reason to rewatch this family comedy action woman-empowerment riot. Vipin Das may have invented a sub-genre with his film and you’re positively envious of everyone who discovered the film’s subtle genre shift, before those scenes became the stuff of social media legend. Basil Joseph brought genuine freshness to his character Rajesh, who you assume is a part of at least two WhatsApp groups along with a man named Shammi, and for once, we get a film that doesn’t look at divorce as defeat. 

Mukundan Unni Associates

The year’s darkest comedy is bleak, depressing, screwed up and also surprising relatable. It marks the re-birth of Vineeth Sreenivasan as a solid actor who can pull off a dangerously complex character who smiles blissfully after emptying a bag of snakes into his rival’s car. It also tosses out the laws of karma weighing down on every screenplay and suddenly, we free its evil protagonist from being killed or punished for the sake of poetic justice. A film that works pretty well as a thriller too, much of its comedy comes from its ingenious use of voiceovers. It gets us to see Mukundan Unni like how he sees himself and some of these lines, including a “magnificent resurrection” right after a personal evil victory, feels like the most twisted kind of poetry.

Nna Thaan Case Kodu

It’s amazing how Ratheesh Balakrishnan Poduval was able to give you the feeling that you’re discovering some Pandora-like new planet with his story set in small-town Chemmeni. With his own signature visual style and the best casting decisions of any movie this year, even the simplest of lines evolved into something epic. The film took on the powers-that-be and even this was done so organically that it felt like it was voicing the concerns of a common person and not with the tint of an agenda. The comedy sequences worked big time and smaller ideas like the cutaways to show increasing fuel prices ensured that this will be spoken about even when petrol starts costing Rs.1000 per litre. 

Saudi Velakka

The best cry of the year was courtesy Tharun Moorthy and his extremely moving movie that is said to be inspired from real-life events. This is also probably going to be only courtroom drama you’re ever going to see where the victim is desperate for his attacker to be let off scot free (he even goes ahead and pays his attacker’s fine). Made with all the love and kindness you’d expect from a Pixar movie, Saudi Velakka takes a tiny plot-line and blesses it with characters you fall in love with, without ever making you feel an idea is being stretched too thin.    


You may love the film almost exclusively for its cool Edgar Wright-like visual style or the unparalleled imagination that went in to creating the structure of its screenplay. But Thallumaala, believe it or not, is just as trailblazing as a document that takes us deep into one of Malayalam cinema’s most overlooked sub-cultures, with a dialect, personal styles and atmospherics, single-handedly mainstreaming an entire lifestyle. Usually, when a major fight breaks out inside the protagonist’s middle-class father’s movie theatre, we’d be crushed at the damage it is going to cause. But as events go from wild to wildest, the atmosphere inside the movie theatre became nothing short of euphoric frenzy. The film is easily one of the industry’s best ever action films and Khalid Rahman’s gang can take a lot of credit for co-opting the TikTok generation into the cinematic mainstream. The after-burn of the film is so strong that when that you write about, you need to chant “arathakare shantharakuvin” to yourself.  

Special Mentions: 

Rorschach (for reinventing the wheel for the revenge drama), Puzhu (Mammootty’s best performance of the year in a social movie that’s said from the POV of a bigot), 19 1(a) (a beautiful film that tells you how an idea and ideology can empower anyone), Super Sharanya (the sweetest coming-of-age comedy) and Kuttavum Shikshayum

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