|Prem Nazir, Satyan, Thikkurissi, T. S. Muthiah, Adoor Bhasi, L. Vijayalakshmi, Chandni, Kodungalloor Ammini Amma.|
Love story retold Prem Nazir and L. Vijayalakshmi in a scene from the film
‘Laila Majnu', produced under the banner of Kerala Pictures in 1962 was the Malayalam version of the classic Sufi legend filmed extensively in Hindi and other South Indian languages. The immortal love story was filmed twice during the Silent Cinema era itself, in 1922 and 1927. The silent film produced by Excelsior Pictures in 1927 under the direction of Manilal Joshi with Zubeida, Vakil and Shehzadi in the lead roles was a box office hit.
During the very first year 1931, when Indian cinema began to talk, the eternal Persian love story had two screen versions in Hindi. The film produced by Krishnatone under the direction of K. Rathod did not perform well at the box office. Madan Theatres, which produced the silent version in 1922 came up with the talking film in 1931 with the singing sensations of the time, Master Nissar and Jahan Aara Kajjan in the lead roles.
The film directed by J.J.Madan created new records in collection at the box office. Music composed by Vrijlal Varma was excellent and the leading singing stars Master Nissar and Jahan Aara Kajjan became the centre of attraction in the cinema world.
In 1945 Hind Pictures came out with a Hindi version of the love story with Swarnalatha and Nazir in the lead roles. Again in 1953 All India Pictures produced another Hindi version with Shammi Kapoor and Nutan in the roles of the lovers. Both the films succeeded at the Box office.
In the South, the Telugu film produced by Bharani Pictures in 1949 under the direction of P.S.Ramakrishna Rao is considered the best version of the Sufi legend in South Indian cinema.
Superstars of that time, A Nageswara Rao and P. Bhanumathi played the roles of the lovers. The film was dubbed into Tamil and both the Telugu and Tamil versions were huge hits at the box office. The very next year, in 1950 Balaji Pictures came up with another Tamil version under the direction of F. Nagoor.
The leading pair of the time, the singing star T.R.Mahalingam and M.V. Rajamma played the main roles. The Tamil dubbed version of the Telugu film starring Nageswara Rao and Bhanumathi left far behind the original Tamil version of the love story.
All the Hindi and the South Indian language versions were produced under the same title, ‘Laila Majnu'. The story was filmed in Persian (1936), Pushtu (1940) languages also under the same title.
B.N.Konda Reddy, brother of the legendary producer and director B.N.Reddy who founded Vauhini Studios, produced the Malayalam version of the eternal Persian love story jointly with the renowned Malayalam lyricist and director P. Bhaskaran.
The fact that the most popular love story was repeatedly filmed in Hindi and other South Indian languages but was not filmed in Malayalam might have inspired Konda Reddy who was basically a cameraman to go for a version in the language. P.Bhaskaran who had good relations with the Vauhini Studios joined in the project as co -producer and also directed the film. The film was shot at Vauhini Studios and some of the scenes were shot in the deserts of Rajasthan. Probably this was the first Malayalam film to be shot at desert locations.
Jagathy N.K.Achary wrote the script and dialogues of the film. Art direction by the renowned artist P.N.Menon and choreography by C.Gopalakrishnan was impressive. Technically skilled crew at the Vauhini studios handled their assignments well. Editing was by Kripa Shankar, processing by P.M.Vijaya Raghavulu, costumes by P.Muthu etc. all led the film to tremendous success at the box office.
The presence of Prem Nazir, Satyan and Thikkurissi, Kottarakkara etc added star value to the film. ‘Laila Majunu' was released in February, 1962 . Tamil and Telugu actress L.Vijayalakshmi, who acted as heroine in the super hit Christian devotional Malayalam film, ‘Gnana Sundari' (1961) was very popular and familiar to the audience. L.Vijayalakshmi played Laila's role in the Malayalam film ‘Laila Majnu' and her performance as the dedicated lover who met with a tragic death along with her lover impressed the audience very much.
The songs written by P.Bhaskaran were set to tune by M.S.Baburaj. An Egyptian dancer, Laila, was invited to perform a dance number in the film which was an added attraction of the film. The familiarity of the quite often repeated story on the screen in various languages did not breed contempt in the audience and the film had a long run at all releasing centres.
Laila (Vijayalakshmi) , the daughter of the immensely rich and powerful landlord Sarvari (Thikkurissi) falls in love with her childhood chum Qais (Prem Nazir). All the attempts of Sarwari to separate the lovers fail. Qais is the son of an ordinaty Arab merchant Amir Ameeri (T S Muthiah) who earns his livelihood by selling animal skin and the horns of stags. Qais is accused of insanity by the crooked landlord Sarvari and he plays all nasty tricks to keep him away from his daughter. When all the attempts to separate the lovers fail, Sarvari shifts his residence to another city on the ouskirts of the holy town of Mecca secretly.
Unable to bear the separation from Laila, the desperate lover Qais wanders in the deserts like a lunatic. Laila meets Qais in the loneliness of the desert. Qais is beaten severely by Sarvari's men and is thrown out in the desert. Qais is stoned by the street children and his health deteriorates. Amir Ameeri finds his son in a very pathetic condition and he takes him to Sarvari's palace. Amir Ameeri falls at the feet of Sarvari and begs for his mercy and requests for the marriage of Laila with Qais. A kind father melts and Sarvari agrees to the marriage on condition that the court of scholars should approve Qais is not insane.
In the meantime Baqthum (Satyan), the Prince of Iraq happen to see beautiful Laila and he falls in love with her at first sight. Baqthum betrays his former lover Zarina (Chandni) to win Laila's love. Baqthum sends his messenger to Sarvari with the proposal for his marriage with Laila. Sarvari breaks his promise to give his daughter's hands in marriage to Qais and conducts Laila's marriage with the Prince Baqthum.
Broken hearted Qais is now a real lunatic. He wanders in the deserts in search of his beloved Laila. Eventually once Laila happen to meet her beloved Qais in the lonely deserts on her return from Iraq. The separated lovers meet in the deserts. Laila and Qais lose their lives in a sandstorm as if to unite in the other world.
Prem Nazir and Vijayalakshmi performed their roles in an impressive manner. Thikkurissi, Chandni, Kottarakkara, Adoor Bhasi, Bahadur, all performed the roles assigned to them quite appreciably. T.S.Muthiah's performance as the father of the hero is considered as his best after his super performance in the film ‘Paadatha Painkili' (1957). The hilarious comic scenes involving Adoor Bhasi, Bahadur etc, were just repetitions from earlier Malayalam films.
Music composed by M.S.Baburaj was one of the main attractions of the film. Some of the songs became instant hits. ‘Koottinilamkili Kunjaattakkili ....' (A.P. Komalam, P. Leela),
‘Thaarame Thaarame Ninnude Naatttilum....' (Udayabhanu), ‘Chudu Kanneeralen Jeevitha katha....' (Udayabhanu) stood the test of time and still remain favourites among the old film songs.
Other hits from the film include ‘Annathinum Panjamilla.....' (Mehboob, K.S. George, chorus ) , ‘Pavanurukki Pavanurukki....' (Udayabhanu, P Leela) etc.
The lyrics authored by P.Bhaskaran are considered as some of his best. And the film is graded as one of the best compositions of the talented music director M.S. Baburaj.
Will be remembered:
For the excellent music.