Saturday, October 25, 2008

Neelakkuyil (1954)

AWARD-WINNING Sathyan and Prema in Neelakuyil

Neelakkuyil divides the history of Malayalam cinema and its music in the timeline of history. The film set the trend of realistic melodrama and brought the first National award (Presidents silver medal) to Malayalam cinema. The film was a musical hit. It also brought out the best from singers like Kozhikode Abdul Kader, Shantha P. Nair and Janamma David.

The story of Neelakuyil by Uroob that focussed on reformist literature was extended to a performance idiom using new generation stars like Sathyan, Miss Kumari and Prema. A.Vincent’s crisp camera brought out the beauty of black and white frames like never before. It remains one of the best of black and white films made in the language. The manner in which Vincent is amazing.

The pastoral tragedy tells the story of the love affair of a Harijan girl and an educated, high-caste school teacher. The script flays social evils like untouchability, feudalism, and injustice towards women through biting dialogues. The music was mainly based on folk tunes and all the songs had the smell of the soil. It included Mappilappattu, harvest song, a traditonal prayer, romantic melodies, all of which followed the folk traditions of the state.

The plot revolves around rustic life in a small village. Neeli (Miss Kumari), a Harijan peasant girl, falls in love with Sreedharan Nair (Sathyan), a school teacher. Neeli becomes pregnant. Sreedharan Nair refuses to marry Neeli fearing protest from society. Neeli becomes an outcaste. She is later found dead leaving behind her child. Sankaran Nair (P.Bhaskaran), the village postman adopts the child challenging the protests from the society. Sreedharan Nair marries Nalini (Prema), a member of an aristocratic family. Neeli’s son Mohan (Master Vipin) is brought up by the postman. The film ends with Sreedharan Nair and Nalini accepting the boy as their own child.

Sathyan and Miss Kumari excelled in their roles. The rustic slang used gave a realistic touch to the characters.

The film won the President’s silver medal in 1954. What makes this honour special is that Neelakuyil was a venture by relatively newcomers to his field. When the two other national award winning South Indian films were produced by established banners, directed by eminent directors, music composed by well known music directors and enacted by the matinee idols of that time, Neelakuyil was made by newly formed production house, directed by newcomers, music by a new composer and had relatively inexperienced actors.

There were nine songs in the film. Most of them were based on folk tunes. The music completely dispensed with the then prevailing trend of imitation of popular tunes. All the songs became super hits. ‘Ellarun chollanu ellarum chollanu...’ (Janamma David), ‘Kayalarikaathu vala erinjappol...’ (K.Raghavan) became most popular among the songs. Raghavan’s song is considered the first successful Mappila song in Malayalam cinema. A solo by Shantha P. Nair based on Bilahari Raga ‘Unarunaroo Unnikanna...’ is still one of the best devotional songs in the language. Compositions of Tyagaraja had found a place in Malayalam cinema before Neelakkuyil. But in this film there was a song based on a Tyagaraja composition - ‘Sarasa sama daana bheda... (Kaapi Narayani raga) . ‘Kadalasu vanchi aeri...’ a children’s song by Kozhikode Pushpa, ‘Maanennum vilikkilla...’ by Mehaboob), ‘Kuyilinie thedi...’ by Janamma David turned huge hits. Kozhikode Abdul Khader’s ‘Engine nee marakkum...’ in that typical K. L. Saigal style of singing still remains a much sought after melody. The simple lyrics by P. Bhaskaran and sensitive music by K. Raghavan made these songs immortal.

Will be remembered: As the first Malayalam film to win National recognition. As the debut of Ramu Kariat, P. Bhaskaran, actress Prema, Master Vipin (now popular cinematographer Vipin Mohan), music director K. Raghavan and many others who worked in the project. The film is also the first individual effort of cinematographer Vincent. And, of course, for the lovely songs.

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