Kochi Biennale Foundation invites applications for Talking about Malayalam Cinema, a discursive workshop on the history of Malayalam cinema, led by CS Venkiteswaran. The sessions will be organised on April 8-11, 2021 in Fort Kochi, Kerala.

The workshop is part of the educational programming of the Kochi Biennale Foundation. These workshops offer meeting grounds for young artists and scholars to work with artists and thinkers from around the world. Previous faculty at the workshop programme include Sarnath Banerjee, Arjun Appadurai, Dilip Menon, TV Santhosh, Orijit Sen, Sundar Sarukkai and others.




 “I went to the talkies to see cinema”. In the 50’s and 60’s, one used to describe the experience or the act of going to movies in Malayalam thus, when theatres were called ‘talkies’. Apparently, there is some confusion of terms here, as one can only go to cinema to watch talkies, and not the other way round. But retrospectively, the popular usage seems to resonate with meaning, for the Malayalee viewers were indeed going to the ‘talkies’ (entering film narratives) to see and be part of ‘cinema’ (a secular space).  It was virtually a ‘new and secular’ space, creating narratives and a language of its own that cut across regional, cultural, caste and class differences, yet addressed them, one and all.  It was an experience akin to dreaming, like a film, yet real, like the space of the theatre. So it was a desire to see oneself projected, and what was ‘projected’ was also the idea of the nation of Kerala, which films created, showed and invited the audience to share and participate in.

Though cinema may have a global history, every region, nation and language that it travelled to has a different story and history to tell. This depended on local modes of storytelling, traditions of dramatic performance and imaging practices. For example, in all other language cinemas in India, we finds films with mythological and patriotic themes. In Malayalam, such genres are conspicuous by their absence. So, by looking closely at ‘regional’ cinemas, one could trace both the trajectories of the locality as well as its negotiations with the national and global at various levels.

This workshop will take you through the journey of Malayalam cinema, by following its history, thematics and narrative trends, highlighting the major landmarks and turning points. Certain narrative preoccupations and thematic trajectories will be discussed. For instance, one whole session will be dedicated to Malayalam cinema’s tryst with the communist ideology.

Conceived as an interactive process, the workshop will have lectures, presentations, film screenings and discussions.  Each day, the ideas pursued by the workshop will be elaborated through meetings with film-makers, scholars, historians and critics.



The workshop will take place across four days (Apr 8-11, 2021) at the spaces of the Kochi Biennale Foundation in Fort Kochi, Kerala. Participants are expected to complete the required readings and viewings ahead of the workshop, and are expected to be present for all sessions, including meetings with guest faculty.


CS Venkiteswaran is a film critic, translator, curator and documentary film-maker based in Kerala. He has won National Awards for Best Film Critic and also for Best Documentary Film on Arts & Culture. His writings have appeared in journals and national newspapers like EPW, Seminar, Indian Express, Mathrubhoomi, Film International, Cinema in India, etc. His book-length publications include A Door to Adoor (as editor), Udalinte Tarasancharangal, Malayala Cinema Padanangal and Cinema Talkies.



The programme is open to anyone interested in the subject-matter. Knowledge of Malayalam is not expected from the participants, though it may be useful for the required film viewings.

Participants selected for the workshop will be provided a travel allowance and basic accommodation in Fort Kochi. Everyone will be required to follow COVID-related safety measures as advised by local authorities. No fee is charged for the workshop.

To apply, please send 1) a brief note on any aspect of Malayalam cinema history (500 words), and 2) your resume by end-of-day Mar 10, 2021 to [email protected] with the subject-line ‘Malayalam Cinema workshop’.

This workshop is organised by the Kochi Biennale Foundation and supported by the HCL Foundation and Kiran Nadar Museum of Art.


Dates of the workshop: April 8-11, 2021

Last date for application: March 10, 2021