BILINGUAL HITA scene from ‘Ashadeepam'
The grand success of the film ‘Amma' produced by T E Vasudevan in 1952 in Malayalam and Tamil simultaneously encouraged him to produce ‘Ashadeepam'. Like his earlier film, this one was also simultaneously produced in Tamil under the title ‘Ashaimakan'. Both the Malayalam and Tamil versions were released on the same day, September 18, 1953.
The main characters in both the language versions were performed by almost the same artistes, Satyan, Gemini Ganeshan (as R Ganeshan in the title cards), T. S. Baliah, Padmini, B. S. Saroja, and Girija. ‘Ashadeepam' was the Malayalam debut of Gemini Ganeshan, the romantic hero of Tamil cinema, who played a negative role in this film. Music director V. Dakshinamoorthy also acted in a minor role, that of a school teacher in the film.
The story of the film was a repetition of the social movies released earlier. The script and dialogues were written by the noted Malayalam novelist Ponkunnam Varkey. And the dialogues for the Tamil version were written by a Tamil scholar, Nagercoil Padmanabhan.
The film was shot at Vauhini Studios, Madras. The dances choreographed by K. R. Kumar were one of the main attractions of the film. A special dance performed by Padmini and her group turned a topic of discussion. A rotating multi-storied, expensive set was designed for the dance sequence. Rajagopal, Adhi.M. Irani and Venkittaraman, three noted technicians of the time, handled the camera. Editing was by M S Mani, and this was his debut film.
The South Indian film version of the Sarathchandra Chatterji's immortal love story, ‘Devadas' (Tamil/Telugu) directed by Vedantam Raghaviah and starring Nageswara Rao and Savithri was released just a week before the release of ‘Ashadeepam'. ‘Devadas' was running to packed audiences in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. In spite of this ‘Ashadeepam' and ‘Ashaimakan' did well at the box office.
Panikkar (T. N. Gopinathan Nair), the wealthy landlord and his widowed sister Lakshmi Amma (Aranmula Ponnamma), live in the same town. Panikkar's son Shekhar (Gemini Ganeshan) is a city wastrel, one who is after wine, women and gambling. The company of Vikraman (T. S. Baliah) and a dancer Jayanthi (Padmini) only helps to make matters worse. They plays all sort of dirty tricks and loot Shekhar's wealth.
Lakshmi Amma struggles hard to bring up her children Chandran (Satyan) and Shantha (B. S. Saroja). Her wealthy brother and his wife Bhanu Amma (Pankajavalli) in no way help Lakshmi Amma. After completing his college studies, Chandran wanted to study Law and approaches Panikkar for financial help. Bhanu Amma insults him and sends him back empty handed. Chandran borrows money from his friends and leaves the town to study.
Bhanu Amma thinks that married life may change the character of her son Shekhar and with the help of her faithful servant Pankan (K. Ramaswami) go around searching for a match. But they find that no parents are prepared to give their daughters in marriage to a vagabond like Shekhar. Bhanu Amma plans to conduct the marriage of Shekhar with Shanta. A helpless Lakshmi Amma accedes to the request from her brother. Chandran rushes home when he comes to know about the secret plans of the marriage, but he fails to reach before the wedding.
Marriage does not change the character or Shekhar's way of life. All his wealth is manipulated and controlled by Jayanthi and Vikraman. Shantha is ill treated at her husband's house. She gives birth to a child, her health deteriorates and is falsely accused of having tuberculosis.
Chandran returns home after completing his studies. He brings Shanta back home. Chandran falls in love with Sarala (Girija), the daughter of the local postmaster. On the day of his wedding with Sarala, the palatial house of Panikkar, ‘Kamalalayam' is attached by the court after people who had loaned huge amounts to Shekhar had moved the court. Chandran gives shelter to Bhanu Amma in his house. Shekhar who realises the true nature of Jayanthi and Vikraman and their hidden agenda quarrels with them. In the ensuing fight Vikraman is killed. Vikraman's men murder Bhanu Amma. Shekhar is sentenced to seven years imprisonment.
A reformed Shekhar confesses before his wife Shantha and Chandran. Shantha forgives her husband and tells him she will wait for him to come back, giving Shekhar a flame of hope - Ashadeepam.
All the actors came out with impressive performances. Gemini Ganeshan in a negative role, and Padmini as a vamp were good in roles that were a total deviation from their usual roles. The film dispensed with comedy scenes.
The 10 songs written by P Bhaskaran were tuned by Dakshinamoorthy. Some of the songs became instant hits. The classical based numbers, ‘Saranam mayilvahana…' (M. L. Vasantha Kumari) and ‘Jananai jayikka nee Malayalamey... (Vasanthakumari and P. Leela) became very popular. A lullaby sung by Leela, ‘Kanmani vaa vaa vo...' was a direct copy of the popular Lata Mangeshkar number ‘Dheere se aaja re...' from the Hindi film ‘Albela' (1951). The Malayalam copy of the Hindi tune composed by C. Ramachandra was also a hit. Another song, ‘Gramathin hridayam..' is considered as one of Jikki's best in Malayalam. The romantic duet, ‘Pandhalittu mele vaanam vishalmaai...' (A. M. Raja-Leela), and ‘Poo veno pudu pookkal veno...' (Leela), and the dance number featuring the lovely sets specially designed for the song sequence ‘Veeshi ponvala…' were other songs that went on to become popular.
Will be remembered: As the debut Malaylam film of Gemini Ganeshan and for the excellent music.