That oft-asked question about Malayalam cinema's reluctance to get into the long-form storytelling space is finally getting an answer in the form of a Disney+ Hotstar Original series, Kerala Crime Files, helmed by Ahammed Khabeer (June, Madhuram), scripted by Ashiq Aimar (Madhuram), produced by filmmaker Rahul Riji Nair (Ottamuri Velicham, Kalla Nottam), and headlined by Aju Varghese and Lal. 

Now, calling it "Malayalam's first web series" might be disingenuous as there have been previous attempts to tell episodic stories, even with actors from mainstream cinema. But none boasted the kind of production values that -- one assumes after seeing the promos -- Kerala Crime Files has. The time seems to be finally ripe for introducing Malayali audiences to the kind of serious-minded storytelling one sees in shows made in other Indian languages. Well, it had to start somewhere. Someone had to do it. 

In a conversation with us, Ashiq Aimar tells us that the pressure to deliver is immense, as everyone is looking at this maiden attempt at a "proper" series with bated breath, that too one in the thriller genre. Perhaps this pressure also explains the past reluctance of Malayalam cinema to take this giant leap, despite the existence, in the state, of a percentage of audiences that constantly binge on content from platforms such as Netflix or Prime Video. 

"There's always the nagging thought at the back of the mind that Kerala doesn't have a big audience for the long-form storytelling format in the Malayalam language," says Ashiq, adding that it is first necessary to introduce Malayali audiences to out-of-the-box content in a package they're familiar with, and then aim for bolder strokes in narrative experimentation later.

And one is always fascinated by filmmakers that previously dabbled in lighthearted content suddenly foraying into thrillers because we know of two filmmakers that recently succeeded at this transition -- Midhun Manuel Thomas (with Anjaam Pathira) and Vipin Das (with Antakshari). It excites us, because we never know which of these 'feel-good' filmmakers harbour the potential to conjure up some stirring thriller material that makes you look at the creators behind them in a new light. 

I sense this while talking to Ashiq, who attests to nurturing a need to do "content-oriented" projects for a long while. He, too, belongs to that group of filmmakers who found the idea of debuting with lighthearted entertainers relatively safer. Ashiq made his entry in 2021 with the SonyLIV original, Madhuram, which he co-wrote. If not for the pandemic rearing its ugly head, Ashiq would've started with a project called Inshallah, also helmed by Ahammed. (Currently, it has been put on hold considering its scale and budget. "It will happen, but not immediately," shares Ashiq.)