Saturday, June 7, 2008

Snehaseema (1954)

Sathyan, Kottarakkara Sreedharan Nair, Padmini, G. K. Pillai, Artist P. J. Cherian

Landmark movie Padmini and Sathyan
Released on December 30, 1954, this was a New Year gift to the Malayali. One of the most successful films produced by the thespian T. E. Vasudevan, the USP of ‘Snehaseema’ was a strong social theme and some wonderful music. The plot revol ves around Johny (Sathyan), an orphan raised by a Christian priest who works as a teacher in a private management school. Omana (Padmini), the daughter of the manager of the school, falls in love with Johny. This leads to their wedding, quite against the wishes of Omana’s father. Johny resigns from the school and joins the army. Meanwhile, Omana give birth to a baby girl. War breaks out and Johny is reported to be killed at the front. Despite protests, Omana is forced by her father to marry Doctor Baby (Kottarakkara Sreedharan Nair). This was an alliance that her father proposed before Omana’s marriage to Johny. The story takes a twist when it is known that Johny is not dead and the news that was floated was by some mistake. Johny returns home to find Omana married again. Suffering a huge setback Johny attempts to commit suicide. Doctor Baby tries in vain to save him. The heart-broken Omana also succumbs to death.

Written by Ponkunnam Varkey, noted for his attacks against the church and its orthodoxy, it lays bare the laws and practices that the community had to suffer from. One of the Draconian laws pertaining to marriage and remarriage is what is discussed in this film. Ponkunnam Varkey made a bold attempt to correct such unjust laws.

The film’s storyline often appears to be an adaptation of Lord Tennyson’s story poem ‘Enoch Arden,’ Elizabeth Gaskell’s historical novel ‘Sylvia’s Lovers,’ especially the melodrama element, and Adelaide Anne Procter’s poem, ‘Homeward Bound.’ ‘Snehaseema’ also had close resemblance to the Noor Jehan- starrer, Pakistani film, ‘Dupatta,’ which was released in March 1952. In fact, prior to the 1965 Indo-Pak War, Pakistani films were released in India also. ‘Dupatta,’ a musical hit, with the sweet melodies by Noor Jehan and music by Firoze Nizami was a box office hit in India too.

V. Dakshinamurthy, who composed the music for the film, dispensed with the practice of imitating other language film tunes, though not fully. The music composer successfully blended Carnatic music with Christian devotional tunes. The song, ‘Kanivolum kamaneeya hridayam…’ rendered by P. Leela is based on Sankarabharanam raga. This composition is identified by musicologists as the first Christian devotional in a Carnatic raga. Dakshinamurthy composed another song in this film which was a blend of the choir and western tune. ‘Adhawanikunnavarkum bhaaram chumakunnorkum…’ sung by P. Leela and chorus also became popular. Another song, a lullaby, ‘Kannum pootti uranguka neeyen...’ by P. Leela and A. M. Raja, remains the most sought after number from this film.

Sathyan, Kottarakkara, and Padmini came up with brilliant performances. The dialogues by Ponkunnam Varkey gave the film a strong social reformist touch. Encouraged by the success of the film, ‘Snehaseema’ was dubbed into Tamil. The film ‘Punyavathi’ had a good run in Tamil Nadu. Will be remembered: The film developed a reputation and enduring appeal mainly for its secular credentials. Snehaseema will also be remembered for its evergreen songs and soulful music.

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