Renowned filmmaker Jayaraj, one of the few to bridge the gap between commercial and art films, says today's Malayalam directors lack the musical sense of their counterparts of yesteryears.
"There are two things I miss in the new directors. One is the musical sense and secondly the sense of framing," Jayaraj Rajashekharan Nair - popularly known as Jayaraj - told IANS in an interview.
"I am involved in the music of my films right from the beginning. All the songs in my movies have been hits," he said on the sidelines of the premiere of his latest offering "Daivanamathil" at the India Habitat Centre here.
"Daivanamathil" is a take on the fundamentalism brewing among Kerala's youth.
Speaking about the current state of Malayalam cinema and its future, the 45-year-old said: "Quality movies are still being made in Malayalam. Blessy's 'Kaazcha' (2004, starring Mammootty) is an example. The audience still longs for good cinema. But, yes, in terms of quantity, the number of quality movies has certainly fallen."
He said the typical moviegoer's taste constantly changes and this has, to a certain extent, affected Malayalam cinema too.
"With the advent of satellite television, our (Malayali) viewers get to watch Tamil and Hindi films as much as any Tamilian or north Indian does. This indeed has affected the Malayali's taste," Jayaraj said.
"Yet, there is no dearth of characteristic Malayalam movies. People still make them and they are still sought after.
"One cannot speculate about serious cinema in the same way because they are still watched with the same interest. Nowadays youngsters - especially college students - are much more interested in serious cinema than in the past."
An electronics engineer-turned-filmmaker, Jayaraj's fascination for cinema began with the annual film festivals conducted in the Kerala capital Thiruvananthapuram.
He started his career as an assistant to legendary director Bharathan and made his first movie "Vidyarambham" in 1988.
Jayaraj is known for his spectacular success in both commercial as well as art cinema. He has won state, national and international awards for movies such as "Deshadanam" (1996), "Kaliyattam" (1997), "Karunam" (1999) and "Shantham" even as he doled out blockbusters like "For The People" (2004) and "Millennium Stars" (2000).
Though his first independent film "Vidyarambham" was only a reasonable hit because of the high standards set by some supremely talented directors of the 1980s and early 1990s, Jayaraj had to wait a long time to make it big.
It was "Deshadanam" (Migration), his 10th film that brought Jayaraj international acclaim at the 1997 Karlovy Vary International Festival in the Czech Republic and also the best director award in Kerala.
His "Karunam" (1999) won the Golden Peacock award at the International Film Festival of India (2000) and the state award for best film.
Asked where he thought Malayalam cinema was headed, Jayaraj was very hopeful about the future of the film industry in Kerala.
"I have a lot of expectations from the youngsters. They are bringing in a lot of fresh and experimental ideas. Some of them are even technically qualified in their respective fields. So I see a bright future for our cinema," he said.
"I do not think the reigning superstars (Mohan Lal, Mammootty, Suresh Gopi and Jayaram) have stopped experimenting. It may be true they are stuck to a certain extent to stereotypes.
"It can't be helped as the audience wants to see them in such roles. But compared to the other languages, Malayalam movie actors move around much more," Jayaraj maintained.