Saturday, September 27, 2008

Sasidharan (1950)

ENTERTAINER Kottarakara Sreedharan Nair and S. P. Pillai from the film

The early period of Indian cinema saw several successful musical plays turned into films. This happened in the South also. Very successful Tamil films like ‘Dumbachari’ (1935), ‘Menaka’, ‘Pathi Bhakti’, ‘Chandrakantha’ (1936) etc. were celluloid versions of successful stage plays of the same title.

‘Sashidharan’ produced by Swami Narayanan, was the first Malayalam play to be adapted to the screen. This was the exact filmy version of the popular play ‘Sashidharan B.A.’ or ‘Premavaichithryam’ authored by N. P.Chellappan Nair. This social drama, rich in music, was staged by prominent drama troupes. The famous stage actors Vaikom Vasudevan Nair and Thankam Vasudsevan Nair immortalised the songs and sequences of this play.

However, the film was not as successful as the play. Perhaps the memories of the play had not faded out and naturally comparisons were made. This film paved way for the entry for many artists of which with Aranmula Ponnamma being the most prominent of them. Interestingly, Aranmulla Ponnamma, the archetypal ‘good’ mother began her career in this film emoting a negative role. She made an impact as a greedy mother.

Sashidharan (P. K.Vikraman Nair), the graduate son of the landlord Panikker (Thumpamon Padmanabhan Kutty) falls in love with Vilasini (Miss Kumari), the daughter of a poor widow Kalyani Amma (Aranmula Ponnamma). A crooked local newspaper editor (N. P. Chellappan Naiar) and the lecherous city wastrel Rajasekharan (Kottarakara) form a tricky plot turning Panikker against his sons wish to marry Vilasini. Sashidharan’s firm resolve forces Panikker to expel his son from the house. Kalyani Amma rejects Sashidharan’s proposal and he s forced to take to the street.

He seeks employment in Malaya with the help of his friend Madhu (Vaikom Mani). Here Sashidharan rises as the leader of the labourers and gains power and fame. Indubala, the daughter of a rich estate owner, takes a liking for him.

Sashidharan returns home after a few years. Here he is shocked to find that Vilasini is married to Rajasekharan. The false news of his Sashidharan’s death in Malaya was actually the handiwork of Rajasekharan with the help of the newspaper editor and Vilasini’s mother.

Sashidharan learns that the money he had sent from Malaya had been taken away by Rajasekharan. Vilasini’s marrriage is miserable.

One night Vilasini manages to meet Sashidharan. Rajasekharan, who gains wind of this, shoots down Vilasini. Sashidharan is arrested on the false charge of murdering his former love. In the meanwhile, Indubala, whose father dies, comes in search of Sashidharan. She helps in clearing the charges against him. The villains are arrested and Sashidharan marries Indubala.

The film had all the ingredients of an entertainer. It had a love story, high melodrama, comedy, fights and 14 songs.

Most of the songs were imitations of Hindi tunes. The song ‘Neeyen chandraney, njaan nin chandrika…’ (Vaikom Mani-Kaviyoor Revamma) was an exact lift of the Naushad hit ‘Too mere chand, mein teri chandni…’ from the Hindi film ‘Dillagi.’ Though the lyrics and tune were imitations of the Hindi songs this duet became an all-time hit. Two other songs, a comedy number by Kalinga Rao and Mohan Kumari, ‘Kanney naanam kollathey...’ and a solo by Revamma, ‘Anandamey, anandamey...’ also became popular.

Will be remembered: As the first Malayalam film adaptation of a popular stage play. Also as the debut film of music director P. Kalinga Rao, first Malayalam film of director T. Janakiram, Aranmula Ponnamma, S. P. Pillai, N. P. Chellappan Nair, Kaviyoor Revamma, P. Mohankumari, and lyricist Thumpamon Padmanabhankutty.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Bhakthakuchela (1961)

C. S. R. Anjaneyalu, Thikkurissi Sukumaran Nair, Kottarakkara Sreedharan Nair, Kantha Rao, T. K. Balachandran, Jos Prakash, Miss Kumari, Ambika, Shanthi, Kusalakumari, Aranmula Ponnamma, Baby Vinodini

TRAILBLAZER C.S.R. Anjaneyalu as Kuchela in the trendsetting film

This was the first big mythological by director P. Subramaniam. The success of this film inspired him and his production house to make more films of this genre.

‘Bhakta Kuchela’ was an unusual collaboration between a Malayalam producer and an array of Telugu-Tamil film stars. The key roles were handled by Telugu actors. The success of this film encouraged Malayalam producers to invite Telugu and Tamil stars, noted for their mythological roles, to act in their films of similar themes.

This film was released on November 9, 1961. On November 18, Udaya Studios released their Kuchela story under the title ‘Krishna Kuchela,’ with Malayalam film stars cast in key roles. But this film, directed by Kunchacko, bombed. The presence of Prem Nazir as Krishna, T S Muthiah as Kuchela and KPAC Sulochana as Kuchela’s wife simply failed to attract viewers to the theatres.

Subramaniam’s film told, apart from the main story of the friendship between Krishna and Kuchela, a few sequences from the Bhagavatha. It tells about sage Sandipani’s hermitage where Krishna and Kuchela are students and close friends. The difference in social status, caste or creed does not come in the way of their friendship. After leaving the hermitage they lose contact with each other. Krishna becomes the king of Dwaraka, while Kuchela struggles to make ends meet with a huge family. His worship of Krishna causes enmity with the king Sisupala. As requested by his wife Suseela, Kuchela decides to visit his old friend. For him it was a chance to renew their friendship than asking for assistance. Kuchela gets a warm welcome at Dwaraka but forgets to ask what he actually wanted. To his astonishment Krishna sends him back empty handed. But when Kuchela returns home he finds that his modest hut has miraculously been turned into a palace. The Lord had showered prosperity on his family even without asking for it.

The film included some sequences which one may not find in versions of the Bhagavatha. For example, when Krishna leaves the hermitage after studies the grief-stricken Kuchela runs after Krishna and falls down a mountain peak but is saved by his friend. This song sequence, ‘Karuna aarna deva Gopala...’ (A. P. Komala) was an added attraction.

Another attraction of the film was the brilliant performance of the Telugu singing star C. S. R. Anjaneyalu as Kuchela. CSR, as he was affectionately known, was noted for his mythological roles. His performance in the film has been compared to that of Papanasam Sivan, as Kuchela, in the Tamil hit ‘Kuchela’ (1936).

Miss Kumari as Kuchela’s wife Suseela virtually made the audience weep. Other Telugu stars, Kantha Rao as Krishna and Kusalakumari as Devaki also did well. Thikkurissi as Kamsa, Kottarakkara as Sisupala, T. K. Balachandran as Narada, Aranmula Ponnamma as Yashoda, and Baby Vinodini as the child Krishna were also impressive. Ambika and Shanthi as the consorts of Krishna added star value to the film.

An advertisement technique adopted for this film was distribution of small packets of ‘avil’ (beaten rice) along with the notices of the film. The film ran to packed theatres for many weeks in all centres.

‘Bhakta Kuchela’ had 15 songs penned by Thirunainar Kurichi Madhavan Nair and music composed by Brother Lakshmanan. Most of the songs were based on classical music. The hit solo by Kamukara Purushothaman, ‘Ishwara chinthaithonne manujanu...’ has stood the test of time, a favourite even today. The other songs like ‘Naale naale ennayittu...’ (Purushothaman), ‘Maya Madhava Gopala... (P. Leela-Purushothaman), ‘Karuna aarna deva Gopala...’ and ‘Kanna thamarakanna…’ (A. P. Komala) were all super hits.

Will be remembered: This film inspired Malayalam film producers to go in for big budget mythological movies. It will be remembered for the brilliant performance of C. S. R. Anjaneyalu, Miss Kumari and others. And also for the super hit songs like ‘Ishwara chintha ithonne...,’ ‘Naale naale ennayittu...’ and ‘Maya Madhava Gopala...’