Monday, January 11, 2010

Aabhijathyam (1971)

Madhu, Thikkurissi Sukumaran Nair, Adoor Bhasi, Veeran, S. P. Pillai, Sharada, Kaviyoor Ponnamma, Sukumari, Junior Sheela etc.

FAMILY DRAMAFrom left, Sharada, Junior Sheela, Kaviyoor Ponnamma, Thikkurissi, and Madhu in a scene from the film

Aabhijatyam' is considered one of the best family dramas in Malayalam cinema. The film was an adaptation of Anant Mane's Marathi film ‘Manini' (1961) which bagged the President's Silver Medal for best regional film in 1961. The film was based on a story penned by the noted Marathi writer Mahadev Shastri Joshi.

The Malayalam adaptation was a huge hit. The same story was remade in Tamil by S. P. Muthuraman as ‘Petta Manam Pitthu' (1973) and in Gujarati as ‘Maa Dikri' (1977) by Krishnakant.

The Malayalam version of this urban melodrama with stagey overtones outshone the other language versions in terms of box office success.

Dialogues penned by Thoppil Bhasi were excellent and the film, in spite of its high melodrama, was hailed as a realistic family story. Editing by Venkatraman and camera work by Suryaprakash gave the film a huge technical edge. The film is considered as one of the best directorial ventures of A.Vincent. The film was shot at AVM Studios. Dances choreographed by Madhavan and the lovely melodies tuned by A. T. Ummer were the other highpoints of the film.

The film relocated a neo-traditional value system into the emerging urban middle class. The Malayalam remake, true to its original in Marathi, followed the storyline very closely and even retained the names of the hero and heroine, Madhavan and Malathi (Madhav and Malathi in Marathi). The highly emotional scenes in the Malayalam version were exact copies of the Marathi film.

Malathi (Sharada) is the daughter of a wealthy landlord, Sankara Menon (Thikkurissi) and Janaki Amma (Kaviyoor Ponnamma). Recommended by a friend of Menon, a poor student Madhavan (Madhu) seeks accommodation in Menon's house. Madhavan is studying music at the Sangeet Academy in the town. Madhavan and Malathi are drawn to each other.

Madhavan teaches music to Malathi. After completing his studies, Madhavan decides to go back to his village. Malathi pleads to Madhavan to accept her as his life mate. But Madhavan, loyal to Menon by whose generosity he was able to complete his studies, refuses to accept Malathi's proposal though he actually loves her.

Suspicion springs up in the mind of Janaki Amma about the relation between Malathi and Madhavan. When questioned Malathi remains silent leading Janaki Amma to think that Malathi is pregnant. This situation leads to the marriage of Malathi and Madhavan. Menon rejects the couple and Madhavan returns to his village with Malathi.

Supported by the kind villagers, Madhavan and Malathi manage to make a living in the village.

Menon tries to force Malathi to abandon her husband. But Malathi refuses. Malathi and Madhavan come to attend the wedding of Sumam (Junior Sheela), Menon's youngest daughter. Undesirable situations develop. Madhavan and Malathi are accused of theft and are publicly humiliated. Menon's eldest daughter Sreedevi (Sukumari) and her husband Barrister Pillai (Veeran) also join sides with Menon in this cruel drama. Malathi eventually breaks away from her oppressive feudal family.

Janaki Amma falls ill and pleads to Menon to bring home Malathi, but Menon refuses. Janaki Amma dies broken hearted. A miracle takes place. Janaki Amma visits Malathi's house in the village and consoles her. The next day her father informs her of the death of Janaki Amma. It is then that Malathi realises that that her mother's spirit had visited her before her death. This tear jerking ending was impressive. This highly emotional ending echoes the climax of the Japanese film ‘Ugetsu Monogatari' (1953) directed by Kenji Mizoguchi which was titled in English as ‘Tales of Moonlight and Rain'.

Kaviyoor Ponnamma and Sharada excelled in their highly emotion-charged roles. Sharada, who was noted for her tear-jerking performances, once again proved her mettle in handling such roles. Madhu also did justice to his role. The hilarious comedy track involving Adoor Bhasi, S. P. Pillai and others provided the much needed comic relief.

There were six songs penned by P.Bhaskaran. The music was by A. T. Ummer with orchestration by R. K. Shekhar. All the songs turned hits. The romantic duets, ‘Raasaleelakku vaikyathenthu nee...' (Yesudas-Vasantha), and ‘Vrischika rathrithan ....' (Yesudas-P. Susheela) are two of the best in the genre. The devotional number by S. Janaki ‘Mazhamukil olivarnan Gopalakrishnan...' ranks among the best devotionals in the language. The comedy number ‘Thallu thallu thallu thallu thallippoli vandi...' by Adoor Bhasi and Sreelatha was a super hit. The other beautiful melodies include ‘Chempaka poonkavanathile...' (Yesudas), and the lullaby ‘Kalyana kuruvikku…' sung by P. Leela.

Will be remembered: As one of the best family dramas made in Malayalam cinema, which also did very well at the box office also. It will also be remembered for its excellent music.


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  2. A wonderful write-up, with all relevant informations! Enjoyed reading this. very nostalgic! It took me to my good old days!
    Thank you very much! - K.Balaji