‘Sree Rama Pattabhishekam,' released on October 11, 1962 was the second Malayalam film based on the ‘Ramayana', the first being ‘Seetha' (1960) produced by Udaya Studios. The film was produced and directed by P. Subramaniam under the banner of Neela Productions. Tales from ‘Ramayana' were performed on the stage from time immemorial and was a staple subject in all forms of Indian performing arts. Cinema was also fascinated by the epic.
The silent film ‘Lanka Dahan' produced and directed by Dada Saheb Phalke, the Father of Indian Cinema, in 1917 was the first Indian film based on the epic. Several silent films and sound films were produced based on Ramayana tales. The Hindi film ‘Rama Rajya (1943) produced and directed by Vijay Bhatt is considered as the best Indian film based on the epic. The film was a sequel to the Hindi film ‘Bharat Milap' (1942) produced and directed by him. ‘Sree Rama Pattabhishekam' closely followed the story line and the sequences of ‘Bharat Milap'.
‘Bharat Milap' as well as its Tamil dubbed version ‘Bharathan' (1950) was box office hits in Kerala also. The grand success of ‘Seetha' might have prompted P. Subramaniam to make another film on the epic with portions of the story not told in ‘Seetha.'
Both ‘Bharat Milap' and the Tamil film ‘Sampoorna Ramayanam' (1958) focussed on the character of Kaikeyi, step mother of Rama and one who was instrumental in banishing him to the forest. Durga Khote performed the role of Kaikeyi in the Hindi film, while G. Varalakshmi did this role in Tamil. Both of them left an indelible imprint on the audience with their sterling performance.
Almost all the popular stars of the time like Prem Nazir, Prem Navaz, Thikkurissi, G. K. Pillai, Kottarakkara, T. K. Balachandran, Jos Prakash, Miss Kumari, Adoor Pankajam, were part of ‘Sree Rama Pattabhishekam.'
Vasanthi , who had acted in Tamil films like ‘Maadappura' (1962) was cast in the role of Seetha. This was her first Malayalam film. The versatile Kaviyoor Ponnamma also made her film debut in this film. She played the role of Mandodari, the consort of Ravana.
The dialogues written by the noted playwright Nagavalli R. S. Kurup were impressive. Camera by Kannappa, coupled with special effects, brought to the screen flying images, magic arrows, etc. The film was edited by another debutant N. Gopalakrishnan. The dances were choreographed by Thankappan and performed by Padmini Priyadarshini, Sukumari and Shanthi. The music composed by Brother Lakshmanan was based on classical ragas, dispensing with the usual practice of imitating other language film tunes.
One of the scenes in the film won wide appreciation, even from the critics. This showed Ravana trying to justify his actions including the abduction of Seetha. Here the ten heads of Ravana speak, which revealed the imagination and cinematic skill of the director.
The duration of the film, full three hours, was too short to depict the story of Rama, from his birth to his coronation. The director attempted to string in important scenes through song sequences.
The emotional and dramatic sequences like banishment of Rama to the forest, death of Dasharatha, wedding of Rama, encounter with Parasurama etc. were given prominence. A few scenes, like the parents of Sravan Kumar cursing Dasharatha, were shown as a flashback.
On the whole the film succeeded in showing the main events of the epic quite effectively. The film was a huge hit.
Prem Nazir played Rama, while his real life brother Prem Navaz was Lakshmana. Both of them came up with impressive performances. Thikkurissi as Dasharatha, T. K. Balachandran as Bharatha, G. K. Pillai as Vishwamithra, Jos Prakash as Sumanthra did justice to their characters, while Kottarakkara Sreedharan Nair was superb as Ravana. Miss Kumari excelled as Kaikeyi. Adoor Pankajam as Manthara and Kaviyoor Ponnamma as Mandodari impressed. But Vasanthi as Seetha was a flop. Not being very charming and comparing her to others before her who were captivating in the same role were reasons attributed to Vasanthi's failure.
Comic scenes involving S. P. Pillai also failed to create a ripple of laughter.
There were 12 songs in the film penned by Thirunainarkurichi Madhavan Nair. The tunes composed by Brother Lakshmanan and some of them became big hits.
The romantic number ‘Chollu sakhi chollu sakhi...' (P. Susheela), the dance number ‘Mohini njaan Mohini njaan..' (S. Janaki), a solo ‘Pookkatha kaadukale…' by K. J. Yesudas and a duet by Kamukara Purushotaman and Susheela, ‘Parannu parannu pongum...' were the other popular songs.
A few verses from the ancient Malayalam poetic work ‘Ramayanam - Irupathinalu Vruttham,' believed to be written by Thunjathu Ezhuthachan, like ‘Mamatharuni Seethe…' (Kamukara) were also included in the film.
Will be remembered: As the debut of Kaviyoor Ponnamma, editor N. Gopalakrishnan and the first Malayalam film of Vasanthi. And as one of the early Malayalam films based on ‘Ramayana'.