Monday, June 8, 2009

Chilamboli (1963)

Prem Nazir, Thikkurissi, Muthiah, Adoor Bhasi, S .P. Pillai, Bahadur, Ragini, Ambika, Sukumari, Adoor Pankajam.

Musical A scene from Chilamboli 

Chilamboli,’ produced under the banner of ‘Vrindavan Pictures’ was an adaptation of the legend of Bilwamangal, Sanskrit poet and an ardent devotee of Lord Krishna. This legend has been the theme of many an Indian film. In fact, various states claim him as their own. The ancient Sanskrit epic poem ‘Sree Krishna Karnamrutham,’ supposed to have been written by him, gives evidence of the life and time of Bilwamangal, known as Vilwamangalam Swamiyar, in Kerala. The story of ‘Chilamboli’ revolves around Guruvayoor temple and surroundings.

Madan Theatres, one of the reputed film producers of early Indian cinema, sent the black and white version of the Hindi film ‘Bilwamangal’ (1932) abroad and had it printed in colour. Another Hindi film of the same title released in 1954 had singing stars C. H. Atma and Suraiya in the lead roles. Some film versions presented the legend as a biography of Surdas, for example Homi Master’s silent film ‘Bilwamangal.’ Most Hindi and Bengali versions tell the story from the male perspective, following Girish Ghosh’s famous play ‘Bilwamangal’ (1886), but the South Indian films narrate the tale of Chintamani, the courtesan who influenced the life of the poet. The importance given by the stage and the screen indicate the influence of the legendary poet on the people.

The Tamil film version of the legend ‘Chintamani’ (1937) directed by Y. V. Rao with M. K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar in lead role and another singing sensation, K. Ashwathamma as Chintamani created a record of sorts at the box office. The Telugu remake directed by P. S. Ramakrishna Rao had N. T. Rama Rao and P. Bhanumathi in the lead roles. The Kannada remake of this Tamil film had Ashwath and B. Saroja Devi in the lead roles. Directed by M. N. Basavarajiah this film was an early experiment in colour. Both the Telugu and Kannada remakes were huge successes. The Malayalam film ‘Chilamboli’ also followed Rao’s Tamil version. The script and dialogues penned by Thikkurissi was almost a copy of the Tamil film. But the Malayalam version did not click. This can be because the Tamil and Telugu films had good runs in the State. The then super stars of Malayalam cinema, Prem Nazir, Thikkurissi, Ragini, Ambika handled the main roles. The film was a musical hit, the choreography of Madhavan was also greatly appreciated.

According to the legend prevalent in Kerala, the life of Vilwamangalam is closely associated with major temples, like the Guruvayoor temple, Poornathrayeesa temple, Tripunithura and the Chottanikkara temple. The film narrates some of the episodes connected with the Guruvayoor temple. It was later dubbed in Tamil under the title ‘Bilwamangal.’

‘Chilamboli’ (sound of the anklets) opens with the courtesan Chintamani (Ragini) performing a dance on the premises of the Guruvayoor temple. Vilwamangalam (Prem Nazir), a rich merchant and Sanskrit scholar, is introduced by his friend Visweswaran (Thikkurissi) to Chintamani. Chintamani is a devotee of Lord Krishna. Vilwamangalam’s devotion to the Lord and his knowledge of Sanskrit attracts Chintamani towards him. Vilwamangalam gets drawn towards Chintamani. Though a courtesan, she stands against the wishes of her mother Parijatham (Adoor Pankajam) who tries to pressurise her into following the traditions of courtesans. Vilwamangalam deserts his wife Sumangala (Ambika) and his family to lead a life with Chintamani.
Vilwamangalam reaches home to find his father (T. S. Muthiah) on his death bed. Sumangala’s attempt to stop her husband from leaving home is in vain. Vilwamangalam’s love for Chintamani leads to tragedy. Sumangala jumps into a swollen river and commits suicide. Vilwamangalam crosses the river on that stormy night holding on to a log floating in the river. He reaches Chintamani’s chamber by climbing over a wall with the help of a hanging rope. But he never realises that the log he had clutched on hard happened to be the dead body of Sumangala and the rope a python. These images have been used to show Vilwamangalam’s blinding fascination for Chintamani. As time passes Chintamani gets disillusioned and pleads with Vilwamangamalm to offer his love to God. The lovers are separated and both lead a life devoted to the Almighty. Vilwamangalam loses his eyesight. From thereon both their lives are guided by the hand of God. They are united in life once again only to gain salvation at the feet of the Lord.

Prem Nazir and Ragini excelled in their roles. The dance sequences involving Ragini and Ambika, along with the choreography, were the high points of the film. The comic scenes by S. P. Pillai, Adoor Bhasi, Bahadur, and Sukumari were exact copies of the 1937 Tamil film The child artists, Baby Vinodini and Baby Vilasini, who performed the roles of Krishna impressed. Direction and camera work by G. K. Ramu were commendable.

Twelve songs penned by Abhayadev were set to tune by Dakshinamoorthy. The song by P. Leela , ‘Priya manasa nee vaa vaa...’ became a super hit. A duet by Kamukara and Leela, ‘Poovinu Manamilla....” and the solos by Kamukara, ‘Odi vaavaa odi vaavaa...’ and ‘Mayamayanude Leela...’ also became extremely popular and have stood the test of time.
Will be Remembered: For the good music and choreography. It will also be remembered as the first Malayalam film with the Guruvayoor Temple as the background for some important scenes.

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