Survival drama 2018: Everyone is a Hero the highest-grossing Malayalam film of all time, has earned the prestigious honour of being India's official entry for the 2024 Oscars, marking a momentous achievement for the Malayalam film industry. It is the first Malayalam movie to cross the 200Cr benchmark. After successful theatrical runs, the movie is also streaming on a popular OTT platform.
Directed by Jude Anthany Joseph, the movie not only shattered box office records but also resonated with audiences for its powerful storytelling. Set against the backdrop of the devastating 2018 Kerala floods, the film pays tribute to the unsung heroes of the crisis - the fishermen. These courageous individuals, primarily from the Muslim community, emerged as Kerala's own army during the floods, undertaking selfless rescue missions and providing aid to countless stranded residents.
Before 2018, three Malayalam movies including Guru (1997), directed by Rajiv Anchal and starring Mohanlal; Adaminte Makan Abu (2011), directed by Salim Ahamed and Lijo Jose Pellissery’s Jallikattu (2019) were chosen as the country’s official entry for the Oscars, but none of these films got nominated.
In this article, we delve into why "2018" truly deserves its place as India's official Oscar entry, celebrating its compelling storytelling, cultural harmony, and portrayal of the resilient spirit of the people of Kerala.
At its core, "2018" is a compelling portrayal of one of the most devastating floods to hit India, a man-made calamity that shook the nation. It delves deep into the harrowing experiences of those caught in the deluge, showcasing the raw emotions of despair, fear, and hope. The film's narrative serves as a stark reminder of the consequences of neglecting nature's warnings.
Amidst growing concerns of minority repression and discrimination, "2018" paints a beautiful picture of cultural harmony and the resilience of Kerala's social fabric. It showcases a community coming together to face a crisis, transcending barriers of religion and caste. The film's message resonates deeply at a time when social cohesion and unity are more critical than ever.
The film which portrays the catastrophic floods that inundated Kerala in 2018, achieved a significant milestone by securing India's official Oscar nomination. However, this achievement was not without its challenges, as the film faced fierce competition from over 20 other contenders, each vying for the coveted nomination.
The selection process for India's official Oscar nomination was characterized by intense competition, with a diverse array of films representing different languages, cultures, and genres. These films were meticulously evaluated to determine the most deserving entry that would represent India on the international stage.
Key Competitors: Among the noteworthy films that "2018" contended against, several stood out as formidable competitors:
The Kerala Story (Hindi): A cinematic exploration of Kerala's rich cultural narrative, the complex and controversial theme of extremism and religious conversion.
Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani (Hindi): A Hindi film that delves into the complexities of love and relationships, showcasing human emotions and connections.
Mrs. Chatterjee Vs Norway (Hindi): A film that delves into a legal battle, potentially addressing social and legal issues of contemporary relevance.
Balagam (Telugu): A Telugu-language film that likely sheds light on regional culture, customs, and concerns, showcasing the diversity of India.
Vaalvi (Marathi): A Marathi-language film with a compelling storyline that likely addresses significant societal issues, reflecting the essence of Maharashtra.
Baaplyok (Marathi): Another Marathi film, offering a unique perspective on life and society, demonstrating the diversity within the Marathi cinema landscape.
August 16, 1947 (Tamil): A Tamil film that likely explores historical events, providing a glimpse into the past and its impact on the present.
Two Malayalam films, "2018" and "The Kerala Story," graced the silver screen in May this year, offering starkly different narratives that captivated audiences and sparked discussions across the region. "2018" delved into the heart-wrenching events of the devastating floods that engulfed Kerala in 2018, while "The Kerala Story" explored the complex and controversial theme of extremism.
"2018" emerged as a cinematic testament to the catastrophic floods that ravaged Kerala in 2018. Starring Tovino Thomas, the film painted a vivid picture of the challenges faced by individuals from various walks of life as they battled the relentless deluge. It celebrated the spirit of resilience, unity, and heroism that emerged amidst the tragedy, focusing on the selfless efforts of Kerala's fishermen who became unsung heroes.
In sharp contrast, "The Kerala Story" ventured into the complex and sensitive realm of extremism. The film revolved around the story of three women who were allegedly brainwashed by an extremist and coerced into converting and joining the conflict in Syria. The film's exploration of religious extremism and radicalization sparked controversy and ignited debates about its portrayal of sensitive subjects.
Calls for a Ban: "The Kerala Story" found itself embroiled in controversy as calls for a ban on the film intensified. Critics and certain factions of society argued that the film's narrative could potentially fuel communal tensions and misrepresent the state's demographics. The controversy surrounding the film raised questions about the balance between artistic freedom and responsible storytelling.
While "2018" celebrated the resilience and unity of the people of Kerala in the face of a natural disaster, "The Kerala Story" delved into the murky waters of extremism and radicalization. The juxtaposition of these two films highlighted the diverse storytelling within Malayalam cinema, with one offering a tribute to real-life heroes and the other exploring contentious issues in contemporary society.
During the 2018 Kerala floods, when almost the entire state was submerged in water, the fishermen of Kerala emerged as unsung heroes. They came to the forefront, utilizing their simple fishing boats, and became the difference between life and death for millions of stranded Malayalis. These fishermen, despite lacking formal training in life-saving techniques or disaster management, acted with the precision of a well-trained force. They ventured into remote areas that even the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and Navy boats couldn't access, rescuing countless people and providing essential supplies to others in dire need.
The heroic efforts of these fishermen didn't go unnoticed. The entire state of Kerala came together to salute them for their selfless bravery and dedication. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan rightfully hailed them as "Kerala's own army." Their actions during this crisis showcased the indomitable spirit and unity of the people of Kerala, transcending barriers of caste, creed, and religion.
Official Recognition for Kerala's Fishermen: Almost a year after their heroic acts, Kerala's fishermen were officially integrated into the state's disaster response force in 2019. This recognition is a testament to their bravery and dedication and highlights the importance of their ongoing role in disaster management and rescue operations.
While the Malayalam film "2018" has garnered acclaim for its portrayal of the devastating floods , it is essential to recognize that the reality faced by those on the ground was often far more harrowing than what can be depicted on the silver screen. In a poignant account shared with Manorama Online, a fisherman who braved the cataclysmic floods recounted the terrifying experiences of real-life heroes who risked their lives to save others during the calamity. Their selflessness and courage stand as a testament to the indomitable spirit of Kerala's people in the face of adversity.
The fisherman's account reveals that the actual events during the 2018 Kerala floods transcended the cinematic portrayal. The relentless fury of the floodwaters, the daunting challenges faced, and the sheer magnitude of the disaster were often more terrifying than any film could capture. Real-life heroes like these fishermen displayed incredible bravery, putting the lives of others before their own safety.
He recounts that they saved the lives of all, humans and animals alike, within their reach, exemplifying the unwavering commitment to preserving life. The description of clinging to electric lines and navigating through strong currents in the Pamba River paints a vivid picture of the life-and-death situations these heroes confronted. Buses lay submerged, adding to the chaos, while the thunderous roar of cascading waters served as a constant reminder of the imminent danger. Their determination to reach those in distress, even at great personal risk, epitomizes the resilience and sense of duty that emerged during the floods.
While "2018" may not be considered a cinematic masterpiece in terms of visual flair, it excels thematically by highlighting the unity of the people. The film skilfully captures the atmosphere leading up to the calamity, with rain becoming an omnipresent character that sets the stage for the unfolding tragedy. It effectively foreshadows the worsening conditions and showcases how individuals, regardless of their social or economic status, were affected and came together to help one another.
What sets "2018" apart is its ability to transport viewers into the heart of the disaster. It offers a window into the real-life struggles faced by the flood victims, making the audience not just spectators but active participants in the narrative. The film accomplishes this by meticulously detailing the daily challenges, emotional turmoil, and sheer tenacity exhibited by the people of Kerala during this trying period.
Technical Brilliance: "2018" is further distinguished by its technical excellence, particularly in the art direction supervised by Mohandas Pallakkottil. The film minimized the use of visual effects (VFX) and instead focused on creating sets and props, including those for the flood scenes, from scratch. This dedication to craftsmanship underscored the power of teamwork in bringing a compelling vision to life. Notably, a significant portion of the flood scenes was shot on a meticulously constructed 22-acre set in Maravanthuruthu, Vaikom.
Talented Ensemble Cast: Another asset of "2018" is its ensemble cast, featuring accomplished actors such as Tovino Thomas, Indrans, Kunchacko Boban, Aparna Balamurali, Vineeth Sreenivasan, Asif Ali, Lal, Narain, Tanvi Ram, Sshivada, Kalaiyarasan, Aju Varghese, Siddique, Joy Mathew, and Sudheesh, among others. These actors skillfully portrayed the emotions of millions of Malayalis and ensured that the film's message remained clear, without overshadowing the narrative.
Oscar Journey and Challenges Ahead: With its official entry to the 2024 Oscars, "2018" faces the formidable challenge of competing with films from around the world in the Best International Feature Film category. While this competition is stiff, the film's producer, Venu Kunnappilly, remains determined to put up a strong fight. He acknowledges the significance of the opportunity and is committed to making the most of it. The goal now is to secure a place among the 15 films shortlisted for the Oscars.
Message and Promotion: "2018" carries a universal message about man-made disasters and the importance of heeding nature's warnings. It depicts how negligence can lead to catastrophic consequences, a message that resonates not only in Kerala but also worldwide. The film's team aims to promote this crucial message, recognizing its relevance beyond regional boundaries. They also consider entering the Golden Globes race, further expanding the film's reach and impact on a global scale.