Portraits of Contradiction: Kerala's Popular Cinema and the Shifting Narratives of Subjectivity


  • Arunlal K Assistant Professor of English, PG Dept. of English & Centre for Research, Govt College Mokeri, Kerala




Governmentality, Malayalam Cinema, Foucault, Melodrama, Kerala Model


Popular cinema, particularly domestic melodrama, has played a vital role in understanding how families interact with the state and how the popular understanding of the subject changes. The concept of normal subjects has changed drastically with modern norms superimposed on pre-modern social identities. This resulted in a composite construct of subject normality, including pre-modern belief systems and values hidden within the modern secular state's norms. Malayali popular culture narrates the internal biases of the population better than the analyses of 'economics'. Kerala has a unique development trajectory, with family norms and popular cinema playing significant roles in shaping the state's narrative structures. The state's development model is influenced by its economic objectives, with the family being seen as the building blocks of modern society. Popular cinema in Kerala has been instrumental in capturing the contradictions and exceptions in the state's development. Domestic melodramas, which revolve around male subjects, have provided commentary on the discourse of the state and economics. The context of Kerala's popular cinema and its connection with the 'social' of the state allows for various points of ideological import. Popular cinema is a space where the 'exception', resultant contradictions, and connection between popular culture in Kerala during 1989-2009 and the new face of governmentality are portrayed through domestic melodramas. These films enable us to better understand the attitudes of the people engendered by the changed context.


Metrics Loading ...


Donzelot, Jacquez. (1982). Policing the Family. Yale University Press.

Erens, Patricia etal., (1991). Imitations of Life: A Reader on Film & Television Melodrama, Wayne State University Press.

Foucault, M. (1980). Power/knowledge. Pantheon Books.

Gledhill, Christine. (1987). “The Melodramatic Field: an Invsetigation,” ed. Christine Gledhill, Home is Where the Heart is: Studies in Melodrama and the Women’s Films, BFI.

Pines, Jim and Paul Willimen. (1989). “Introduction,” ed. Jim Pines and Paul Willimen, Questions of Third Cinema, BFI.

Rajakrishnan, V. (1990). “Narrative Structure in Malayalam Cinema”, Deep Focus: a Film Quarterly, Vol III No 2.

Ramachandran, GP. (2009). Malayala Cinema: Desam, Bhasha, Sanskaram, State Institute of


Raveendran, PP. (2007). Cinema, Samooham, Prathyayasasthram, Mathrubhumi.

Roberge, Gaston. (2000). The Subject of Cinema. Oxford.

Vasudevan, Ravi.(2000). Making Meaning in Indian Cinema, OUP.

Venkiteswaran, CS. (2011). Cinema Talkies, DCBooks.




How to Cite

Arunlal K. (2024). Portraits of Contradiction: Kerala’s Popular Cinema and the Shifting Narratives of Subjectivity. Creative Saplings, 2(12), 26–36. https://doi.org/10.56062/gtrs.2024.2.12.536