Monday, November 16, 2009

Bhargavi Nilayam (1964)

Cast: Madhu, Prem Nazir, P. J. Antony, Vijaya Nirmala, Adoor Bhasi

TRENDSETTER ‘Bhargavi Nilayam’ was the first ghost film in Malayalam

This first ghost story film in Malayalam is 45 years old. Released on November 22, 1964, the film confirms the existence of supernatural powers unlike some of the early Indian films in this genre.

Even suspense thrillers of the later period, which can also be classified under the ‘ghost story’ group did not deal with ‘real’ ghosts. For example Hindi films like ‘Bees Saal Baad’ (1962), ‘Woh Kaun Thi’ (1964), ‘Kohra’ (1964) had heroines in disguise as ghosts. But in ‘Bhargavi Nilayam,’ the audience, for the first time in Indian cinema, were told about the existence of the supernatural .

This ghost film was developed from a short story, ‘Neela Velicham,’ by Vaikom Mohammed Basheer, which was included in his short story compilation titled ‘Paavappettavarude Veshya’ published in 1952. The script and dialogues of the film was written by the novelist himself. The film was a huge box office hit. The film marked the directorial debut of noted cinematographer A. Vincent. It was noted for its camera work by P. Bhaskar Rao that gelled well with the script. But the highpoint was the haunting music by M. S. Baburaj.

An enthusiastic and talented novelist (Madhu) comes to stay in a desolate mansion named ‘Bhargavi Nilayam.’ The novelist and his servant Cheriya Pareekkanni (Adoor Bhasi) experience the presence of a strange entity here. They come to know from the local people that it is a haunted house. The story is that it is haunted by the ghost of the daughter of the previous owner. The novelist and his servant encounter strange happenings here - the gramophone plays on its own, objects move around. The novelist finds some old letters written to Bhargavi (Vijaya Nirmala) by her lover Sasikumar (Prem Nazir). It is believed that the ghost of Bhargavi now haunts this house.

The letters give some indication about their love affair and their tragic death. The novelist decides to probe the matter. He starts writing the story of Bhargavi. The information gathered from the local people and the hints in the letters help him in his writing. The story develops. Bhargavi falls in love with her neighbour Sasikumar who is a talented poet and singer. Bharagavi’s father’s nephew, Nanukuttan (P. J. Antony) is also in love with Bhargavi. But Bhargavi hates Nanukuttan who is a wicked wastrel. Nanukuttan tries all nasty tricks to separate the lovers. He kills Sasikumar. Bharagavi becomes furious when she comes to know of her lover’s murder. In a scuffle Nanukuttan pushes Bhargavi into a well, killing her. Nanukuttan spreads the news that Bhargavi had committed suicide.

The novelist reads out the story to the ghost who by now has become quite compassionate with him. Nanukuttan overhears the story. He fears that once the story is published the truth behind the death of Bhargavi and Sasikumar will be out. He attacks the novelist and a fight ensues. Both of them fall into the well in which Bharagavi was drowned. The novelist is helped by the ghost but Nanukuttan is killed. This is Bharagavi’s revenge.

Madhu excelled in the role of the novelist. Prem Nazir was at home in the role of a romantic hero. P. J. Antony was stunning as the ruthless Nanukuttan, while Adoor Bhasi provides some light moments with his comedy. Pappu, who later became popular as Kuthiravattom Pappu was cast in a small comic role. His character was called ‘Kuthiravattom,’ a name that stuck for the rest of his career. Vijaya Nirmala excelled in what probably was her first major role.

All the seven songs by P.Bhaskaran and Baburaj are popular even today. ‘Thamasamente varuvaan…’ sung by K. J. Yesudas is still considered by many surveys as the best film song in the language. ‘Vaasantha panchami naalil....,’ ‘Anuraga madhuchashakam...,’ ‘Pottatha ponnin kinavu kondoru...’ and ‘Potti thakarna kinavu kondoru…’ all sung by S. Janaki became super hits. The Yesudas-P. Susheela duet ‘Arabikkadaloru manavalan...’ and Kamukara Purushothaman’s masterpiece ‘Ekanthathayude apaara theeram...’ are the other memorable songs.

Will be remembered: As the first ghost film in Malayalam. The only film for which Vaikom Mohammed Basheer wrote script and dialogues. As the first Malayalam film of Vijaya Nirmala, for its wonderful music, and for the directorial debut of A.Vincent.

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