Saturday, November 22, 2008

Koodappirappu (1956)

Prem Nawaz, T. S. Muthiah, Muthukulam Raghavan Pillai, Ambika, Kumari Thankam, Aranmula Ponnamma, Adoor Pankajam

Musical milestone Prem Nawaz and Ambika
It was in this film in 1956 that Vayalar Rama Varma, one of the most powerful poets in the language, made his debut as lyricist. Vayalar, as he came to be known popularly, went on to reign supreme for over two decades. ‘Koodappirappu,’ produced under the banner of Khadeeja Productions and directed by J. D. Thottan, will always be remembered for this. In his very first film itself, Vayalar impressed with his rich poetic imagination that was conveyed through simple language.

The film also saw the entry of Prem Nawaz, brother of Prem Nazir, and Ambika, member of the Travancore Sisters family. She had made her Malayalam debut in the1952 film ‘Vishappinte Vili,’ but it was in this film that she carved a niche for herself. It was also her first film as heroine. ‘Koodappirappu’ also saw the debut of director J. D. Thottan and script-writer Ponjikkara Rafi.

The story was a tearjerker with a generous mix of all ingredients needed for a typical commercial film. However, the film could make no claim for artistic value or technical perfection. The only saving grace was the songs.
Muthukulam Raghavan Pillai, who wrote the story, picked up a few characters from some of the successful Tamil films of the time, placed them in the story that was set in the pattern of family dramas, far removed from and stretched out from reality. ‘Koodappirappu’ was just an average success at the box office.
The film tells the story of two brothers Rajan (Prem Nawaz) and Kesavan (T. S. Muthiah), sons of a poor widow Kalyani Amma (Aranmula Ponnamma). The only source of income of this middle class family is a grocery shop run by Kesavan. In order to give his younger brother the best in life and education, Kesavan even gives up his dream of marriage.

Parvathi (Ambika), the daughter of Kalyani Amma’s cousin, is Rajan’s childhood friend. Their friendship turns to love and they decide to get married.

In the meanwhile, Rajan leaves the village for higher education. Parvathi becomes pregnant. In the city, Rajan falls into the company of a professional singer Latha (Kumari Thankam). Kesavan goes to the city to bring back Rajan to the village and get him married to Parvathi. But Kesavan is insulted by Rajan and sent back. Kesavan stops sending money to Rajan. However, Rajan is thrown out by Latha and that brings him to his senses. He returns to the village, falls at the feet of his elder brother, marries Parvathi and brings the film to a happy end.
T.S. Muthiah excelled in his role as Kesavan. Ambika impressed with her charm, looks and talent. The performance of other actors was average. Prem Nawaz, as hero, failed to make an impact. There were 10 songs penned by Vayalar and a Swati Tirunal kriti in the film. Music by K. Raghavan complemented the lyrics. The songs by Vayalar fitted the situations and characters perfectly.

The solo by Santha P. Nair ‘Thumbi thumbi vaa vaa…,’ a romantic solo by A. M. Raja, ‘Maanasa rani…,’ one of M. L. Vasantha Kumari’s best songs in Malayalam ‘Mani varnane innu njaan kandu sakhi...,’ a duet by Raja and Santha P. Nair ‘Angadiyil thottu madangiya ...’ became instant hits. Raghavan dispensed with the practice of imitating other language tunes.

Will be remembered: As the first film of poet-lyricist Vayalar Rama Varma, Prem Nawaz, director J. D. Thottan and script-writer Ponjikkara Rafi. Ambika madder her debut as heroine. The film will be remembered for the hit songs.


Saturday, November 8, 2008

Kandam Becha Kottu (1961)

IN COLOUR Prem Nawaz with Thikkurissi and Ambika in the film

Modern Theatres, producers of the first talkie film in Malayalam, also brought colour with the Muslim social drama ‘Kandam Bacha Coattu.’ Based on a popular novel, which was also staged as a play under the same title, the screen version in Eastman colour was a success.

The film focussed mainly on the evil of dowry system which was rampant in the Muslim community. A trailer of the film was introduced for the first time in Malayalam cinema.

This film was the first Malayalam directorial venture of the famous director T. R. Sundaram. Nellikkodu Bhaskaran, noted for his character roles, made his debut in this film. It introduced the Kozhikodan slang throughout the film. The dialogues by K.T. Mohammed were impressive. He assailed the many undesirable practices in the community with a punch. All the artists, especially Nilambur Ayisha, spoke the local slang in a very natural style.

The story of the film revolves around a kind hearted cobbler Mohammed Kakka (T. S. Muthiah). He keeps his life savings into the pockets of his old coat to realise his dream of going on a pilgrimage to Mecca. Alikoya Haji (Thikkurissi) loves his son Ummer (Prem Nawaz) and brings him up showering all love and affection. Hajis’s sister Kadeeja (Pankajavalli) and her family lives in the neighbourhood. Amina (Aranmula Ponnamma) and her children, Kunju Bibi (Ambika ) and Hassan (Nellikkodu Bhaskaran) lives in the same house. Amina’s husband is a businessman in Singapore. Kadeeja’s husband Avaran (Kedamangalam Sadanandan) is very considerate to his brother’s wife Amina and her family. But Kadeeja keeps ill treating Amina.

Ummer falls in love with Kunju Bibi, his childhood mate. Kadeeja is jealous of this affair. She tries all sorts of tricks to create trouble but fails. Alikoya Haji decides to accept Kunju Bibi as his daughter-in-law, but demands a dowry of Rs. 2,000.

Amina’s husband starts from Singapore with the money. Arrangements for the wedding is made but to the dismay of everyone a telegram arrives informing the death of Amina’s husband during the voyage back home. Amina and her children are pushed out of the house, the marriage is postponed as Haji gives an ultimatum to organise the dowry.

Mohammed Kakka gives shelter to Amina and her family. Kadeeja continues to harass them, while Ummer tries hard to help them organise the money. He even goes to the extent of stealing from his father’s safe. Ummer is caught red handed and is placed under house arrest. Mohammed Kakka makes arrangements for the marriage. He offers the money he had saved and kept in the pockets of the coat. He also appeals to others in the neighbourhood to contribute for the marriage. Ummer finally marries Kunju Bibi providing a happy ending to the film. Mohmmed Kakka’s noble deed glorifies him.

The film ran for weeks in packed theatres. Thikkurissi excelled in his role of the Haji. Prem Nawaz, Aranmula Ponnamma, Ambika, and others came up with impressive performances. However, the main attraction was T. S. Muthiah’s Mohammed Kakka, considered to be his best performance in Malayalam. The film had nine songs by P. Bhaskaran and M. S. Baburaj. Some of the songs were hits of the time but could not stand the test of time. A comedy number ‘Zindabad, zindabad...’ by Mehboob, ‘Puthen manavatti...’ an Oppana song by P. Leela and chorus were popular. A drama, ‘Elayadethu Rani, was an added attraction.

Will be remembered: As the first colour film in Malayalam. It will also be remembered as the first directorial venture of T. R. Sundaram in Malayalam, as the debut film of Nellikodu Bhaskaran, actor and script writer K. T. Mohammed. As the first film to use the typical Kozhikode Muslim slang right through.