Cracking The Code of “Mass Cinema” with Porinju Mariyam Jose!

By Mahima Nandakumar
It’s a grand setup, a few people on screen and a hall-full in the dark are waiting for him to appear, shadow of a mass bgm is making it’s way in; and with a BANG! – there he is, Kaattalan Porinju! This introduction is followed by an exceptionally choreographed fight sequence and that was enough to energize the entire room of audience for what came ahead in the movie. Yes, this is not a new scenario, we might have seen it over five decades played by various actors. But to be honest, even in 2019, if the sequence is done well, it works like a charm!
Lately, the phrase “content is king” is adapted by all major film industries. The fear of people not buying tickets has crawled into every filmmaker’s heart. As we witness the changes, we understand that the people are no longer buying any of the old selling tropes. This change paved a new path for writers with unique vision and filmmakers who are brave to experiment. Occasionally a Pulimurugan or a Baahubali creates storm across the regions but we don’t see much of the conventional cinema in a smaller scale becoming a success. And that’s where veteran director Joshiy’s latest film ‘Porinju Mariyam Jose’ is staying on ground and making waves! This creates room for discussion and thoughts on the future of “Mass Cinema”.
‘Porinju Mariyam Jose’, in it’s core, is the same old story but the makers have made it highly engaging, with brilliant performances and a fantastic technical team. The new bottle for the old wine is really attractive. But what is it about this film that made it more endearing and entertaining than, say a ‘Madhura Raja’ or a ‘Kalki’? The answer, metaphorically speaking, is in Porinju’s style of fighting; Porinju firmly stands on ground and faces his opponents, he’s a strong man but not superman, he’s one of us, but a little larger than life in dramatic context.
And so were his legendary predecessors, be it Aadu Thoma or Aanakkaattil Chackochi, be it Mangalassery Neelakandan or Narasimha Mannadiyaar, they were all relatable, they never lost their nativity. It was easier for the common man to feel like he himself was committing these heroic acts. In the need to become big, bigger, huge and massive our heroes didn’t just lose their human nature but became something else that we couldn’t even name! In many of those bad films, neither did the hero nor the story world connect with us; more tragically, not even with each other!
The key to understanding the perfect balance between larger-than-life and relatability is to create a story world of which the hero is a part of and not vice-versa. The conflict, the chacteristics and every other element should emerge from the story itself. Porinju Mariyam Jose succeeds in doing that. Even while being the the story of the three titular characters, it brings in their surroundings, their lifestyles, their people and their problems. Even the main conflict arises from this. That way, even if you are familiar with the subject, you are able to connect to this version of it. And with the superiority of the director’s craft, it visually becomes a treat.
The meaning of the word ‘commercial’ is something that’s intended to make a profit and that’s different from making a movie with the intention to appeal to a larger number of audience. When you consider the numbers, the more footfall is equal to more money but the goal should be to make a movie that audience from all social circles will equally enjoy. With the movie in hand, who knows this better than Joshiy! The idea that art cinema is good and commercial cinema is bad, is not true.
Some might argue that it’s the conventional narrative that they have a problem with, and that makes sense. But even that doesn’t mean that to have a conventional story as a basement is such a bad thing if the filmmaker has something new to offer to that particular story. Mass films are missed, a regular cine-goers’s experience isn’t complete if he/she isn’t receiving that regular dose of energy-rush. Porinju Mariyam Jose, currently fills that void but the hope is to see more filmmakers experiment with this league of cinema as well. We belong to that group of audiences who would walk into a single screen with a whole set of band instruments, and it is a true shame if they are not often given a movie to celebrate!