Saturday, August 2, 2008

Randidangazhi (1958)

P. J. Antony, T. S. Muthiah, Thikkurissi, Kottarakkara, JAR Anand, Miss Kumari, Adoor Pankajam

LANDMARK ‘Randidangazhi’ celebrates its Golden Jubilee this month, this year

The film was an adaptation of a novel of the same title by Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai. A seminal political movie set among the conditions of bonded labour in the Kuttanad, the film was dominated by its script and dialogues, written by the novelist himself. The genre was akin to many of the stage plays of the KPAC, the famous drama group. The music by Brother Lakshmanan was influenced by the style propagated by India Peoples Theatre Association (IPTA).

The film released on August 24, 1958, celebrates its Golden Jubilee this month.

Chirutha (Miss Kumari) is the beautiful daughter of a peasant Ittitharakali. Her avaricious father wants to marry her off to the first person who can provide the penpanam’ or a sort of dowry system that prevailed in the community. Koran (P. J. Antony) and Chathan (T. S. Muthiah), two peasants are in love with Chirutha. Chirutha has a soft corner for Koran who decides to sell himself to the local landlord for a loan. Using this loan money Koran pays the ‘penpanam’ and wins Chirutha’s hand in marriage. A dispute arises during the marriage. The landlord demands ‘Thampran panam,’ a tax levied by the landlords at the time of marriage from their tenants, especially lower cast tenants. Chathan stands by Koran here.

Koran and Chirutha move to the neighbouring village, work in the paddy fields, and lead a happy life. Ouseph, the landlord here, is a cruel bigot who exploits his labourers terribly. Koran protests against this. He organises the labourers and forms a union to protect their rights. For this he has to pay a huge penalty. Koran is whipped by the landlord. He turns a revolutionary, organises protests against the landlord that also includes a strike in the fields.

Koran also brings to light the shady deals of the landlord. These incidents make Koran a sort of rebel. The landlord hatches a conspiracy against Koran and the peasant leader falls into the trap. He is implicated of charges of theft. Fearing police arrest Koran flees the place. Chacko, the landlord’s son, attempts to molest Chirutha but is foiled by timely arrival of Koran. In the ensuing struggle he strangles Chacko to death. Before Koran is arrested and sentenced to 10 years rigorous imprisonment, he hands a pregnant Chirutha to Chathan, his intimate friend, and who always nursed a silent love for her. Chathan looks after her like his own sister till Koran is released from jail.

One of the attractions of the film were the dialogues penned by Thakazhi. The film projected the evils of the feudal system that prevailed in the State, especially in areas like Kuttanad.

The film had nine songs. Most of them became popular. Stage actress KPAC Sulochana made her playback debut in this film. One of her duets, with Kamukara Purushothaman, ‘Thumbappoo peyyana poonilave...,’ has stood the test of time. Her solo, ‘Poomazha peythallo...’ also became a huge hit.

Will be remembered: One of the most talented actors of Indian cinema, P. J. Antony made his debut in this film. The film will also be remembered for its super hit songs. It was also the first film to project the evils of the feudal system that prevailed in Kerala then.

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