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.

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