Unconventional Love Stories in Malayalam Cinema

There is something endearing about a well portrayed love story, isn’t it? From feel good romantic dramas (think Thattathin Maryathu) to ones where the romance is seamlessly woven into a larger narrative (Mayaanadhi), movies are never in shortage of love angles. Let’s also not forget films where love makes a blink-and-miss appearance (Action Hero Biju) or the likes of Trance, where the plot could well do without a romantic angle. Nevertheless, love is everywhere and undoubtedly the most inventive of all genres.

From Alphonse Puthren’s coming-of-age classic Premam to P Padmarajan masterpieces such as Namukku Parkkan Munthiri Thoppukal and Innale, there are a great deal of evergreen romances in Malayalam that have stood the test of time. Stories about damsels being whirled off by their Knights are in plenty, but here’s looking at a few unconventional love stories that have stood the test of time. 

Unnikrishnan and Thulasi – Yathra 

The film starts with Ilaiyaraaja’s beautiful composition Thanannam Thannanam and the lyrics penned by ONV Kurup perfectly sum up the movie’s plot. As the title suggests, the film is about an ex-convict Unnikrishnan’s uncertain journey (Mammootty), to meet his lover, Thulasi (Shobana). While part of his mind yearns to be reunited with her, he also fully accepts the possibility of her having settled with a husband and kids. 

The climax is a heart-warming visual treat by veteran cinematographer Balu Mahendra, with the couple reuniting after 14 years, amidst a thousand lamps lit by Thulasi. 

Rajeevan and Nandita – Meghamalhar

Meghamalhar is a poetic rendition of love that leaves you with equal bouts of nostalgia and sorrow. Rajeevan (Biju Menon) and Nandita (Samyuktha Varma) are long-lost childhood sweethearts whose paths cross after they happily settle into their respective marriages. Unaware of their past connection, their interests in poetry, art and ghazals bring them together. But upon realising that they are each other’s eidetic childhood memory, the friends, who by now have deep feelings for each other, mutually part ways lest they bring sorrow to their loved ones.

Meghamalhar is poignantly beautiful and lingers within us, just like the melodious touch of the raga it is named after. 

Krishna Kuruppu and Ammalukutty – Oru Cheru Punchiri

An utopian love story of an elderly couple, Oru Cheru Punchiri re-affirms ‘the happily ever after’ of married life. Krishna Kuruppu (Oduvil Unnikrishnan), a retired officer in his mid-70s and his wife Ammalukutty (Nirmala Sreenivasan) who’s in her 60s, never let their mundane routine get the better of them. There is no blatant confession of love here; instead, it is expressed by means that could otherwise pass off as trivial. When Krishna Kuruppu dedicatedly combes Ammalu’s hair or when she cutely fusses about not being married off into a well-off family, you can’t help but smile at their adorableness. There’s mutual respect, admiration and humour, but what stands out is the tranquility of being in each other’s company. 

Oru Cheru Punchiri takes you back to a time where love and companionship weren’t deterred by one’s ‘space’, and what’s more winsome than seeing the couple discover each other even after 49 years of marriage!

Joseph and Stella – Joseph

While the film is an investigative thriller, the heart of it lies in Joseph’s eternal love for his ex-wife Stella. A retired police officer, Joseph lives a secluded life with alcohol and cigarettes. In a series of flashbacks, we see Joseph and Stella’s captivating romance and this is beautifully captured in the song ‘Poomuthole’. However, following an incident, Joseph divorces Stella, who enters wedlock after a few years. 

While it is obvious that the couple never stopped loving each other, we are poignantly reminded of it when Joseph breaks down at Stella’s funeral, and when he sets out to uncover the reason for her death.

Krishnankutty Menon and Sridevi – Ishtam

What is more beautiful than two lovelorn people finding their way back to each other after decades? While Dileep and Navya Nair are the poster faces for this film, the real ‘Ishtam’ is between the elderly couple played by Nedumudi Venu and Jayasudha. While the scope for melodrama is exploited, there are still glimpses of romance unfurling through old school romance. It is also delightful to see the father of a 20-something man trying to impress his old lover by dressing colourfully and through cheesy conversation.

True love is immortal, transcending time and space, and Ishtam is a gentle nudge to it.

Moideen and Kanchanamala – Ennu Ninte Moideen

One of the most sublime love stories of recent times, Kanchanamala (Parvathy) and Moideen’s (Prithviraj) rebellious love story is all about strength, longing and despair. 

When Moideen first expresses his love for Kanchanamala, he kicks off communal tension between two seemingly secular families. Not ones to succumb to unrealistic ideologies, the feisty lovers stand their ground and hold onto the smallest thread of hope. 

Their youth withers away and the couple who are now in their 40s, decide to elope but as fate may have it, their plans fail due to unforeseen circumstances. While we are well aware of the tragedy that will ensue, it feels easier to hope for a filmy miracle. Moideen and Kanchanamala’s love saga might seem too honest and perfect for the real world, but realising that the movie is based on a true story, you’re left with a lump in the throat. 

Raghu and Suma – Anuraga Karikkin Vellam

When Raghu (Biju Menon) tries to bring the spark back in his cold married life through sweet gestures like getting a masala dosa for his wife Suma (Asha Sharath), it is heartening to see her eyes twinkle with happiness. Such small anecdotes help this middle-aged couple rediscover each other after years of mundane routine, which solely revolved around job, household chores and their children.

Love is after all not about diamonds and riches, but about the smaller things in life, isn’t it?

Kalidasan and Maya – Salt N’ Pepper

A grumpy bachelor Kalidasan (Lal) in his mid-40s receives an unintended phone call from an unmarried dubbing artist Maya (Shweta Menon), to place her food order. While they hit off on a wrong note, hate quickly gives way to companionship and the two bond over their common interest in food.

The romance between Kalidasan and Maya has the naivety of old-school romance and the apprehensiveness of new-age love. At a time when onscreen romantic relationships showcase macho men and dolled-up women, Salt N’ Pepper gives a delicious spin to the term ‘falling in love’.

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