Saturday, May 10, 2008

Jnaanaambika (1940)

Cast: Sebastian Kunju Kunju Bhagavathar, K. K. Aroor, Alleppey Vincent, C. K. Rajam, C. A.
Seethalakshmi, L. Ponnamma, T. I. Rose

TRUE ENTERTAINER Sebastian Kunju Kunju Bhagavathar who plays the hero in Jnanambika

This second sound film in Malayalam had a close resemblance to the first talkie, ‘Balan,’ and the plot was similar to some of the Tamil films of the time. It had all the ingredients of an entertainer and was a huge box-office success.

The film shot extensively outdoors at locations in Thiruvanathapuram and Thripunithura was a new
experience for the audience . ‘Jnanambika’ was produced by Annamalai Chettiar and directed by S.
Nottani. It was based on a novel by C. Madhavan Pillai.

Jnanambika, the heroine of the film, is the daughter of a wealthy landlord, Rajasekharan. After the death
of her mother, her father marries again. Rajamani, the villainous second wife tortures Jnanambika, forcing her to run away from home. Rajamani, with the help of her secret lover Sreekumar, plots to appropriate the wealth of the mild-mannered Rajasekharan. Into this imbroglio enters Raveendran, the chivalrous hero.

The heroic deeds of Raveendran are in fact the main plot of the film. A Casanova, Rajamani happens to be one of Raveendran’s sweethearts. How Raveendran manages to save Jnanambika and get her married to Chandran forms the main part of the film.

It was with ‘Jnanambika’ that the concept of anti-hero came into Malayalam films. Raveendran has
been portrayed with negative qualities. There are many who consider Ashok Kumar’s role in the Hindi
film ‘Kismat’ (1943) as the first successful anti-hero. But ‘Jananmbika’ that had noted stage actor
Sebastian Kunju Kunju Bhagavathar in a similar role was released three years before ‘Kismat.’

Fights, car chase, twists in the plot, romance are all there in the film. Added to this are dances and songs.

There are 15 songs in the film. Music director, T. K. Jayaram Iyer, followed the trend of using popular
Hindi and other language film tunes for the songs in ‘Jnanambika.’ The lyrics are by Puthenkavu Mathen

One of the songs, ‘Katha ithu kelkan, sahajare vaa....’ sung by Sebastian Kunju Kunju Bhagavathar, an

imitation of the K. L. Saigal-Kanan Devi duet from the film ‘Street Singer’ (1938) ‘Ghunghuruva baaje
chama chama cham....’ was the most popular of them. Though no prints of the film exist, the songs are still

Will be remembered: ‘Jnanambika’ will be remembered as the first box office hit in Malayalam. It will
also be remembered for its songs.

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