Monday, January 31, 2011

Oraal Koodi Kallanaayi (1964)

This early Malayalam film sought to project basic social issues like unemployment of the educated. This screen adaptation of the stage play of the same title, written by popular playwright S. L. Puram Sadanandan, was a box office success. Written in 1956, the play was staged the same year by Kalpana Theatres, a troupe headed by the playwright himself. The stage play was a hit. It won the gold medal for the best play in the competition conducted by Samastha Kerala Sahitya Parishad.

The popularity of the stage play paved the way for the screen version. Produced under the banner of Thomas Pictures, this was the first film produced and directed by P. A. Thomas. The script written by Sasikumar, who later became a very successful director in Malayalam, had some deviations from the original. The dialogues written by the playwright were impressive.

Apart from the unemployment of the educated, the film also criticised the practice of accepting huge donations for appointment of teachers by managements of Government aided private schools. The film was a hard blow directed straight at such managements.

Cast: Prem Nazir, Sheela, T. S. Muthiah, S. P. Pillai, Murali, Ambika, Devaki etc.

SOCIALLY RELEVANT Sheela and Prem Nazir in a scene from the film

The film was shot at Film Centre, Chennai. Camera by P. B. Maniyam and dance direction by Kalamandalam Madhavan was commendable. Several personalities from professional drama made their entry to Malayalam cinema through this film. Popular among them was music director Job. He was assisted by George Pallathanam, another popular stage artiste. This film saw the debut f lyricist Sreemoolanagaram Vijayan. The film is widely considered one of the best musical hits of the early years of Malayalam cinema.

The star cast included popular artists like Prem Nazir, S. P. Pillai, Muthiah, Adoor Bhasi, Ambika, Sheela etc. Stars like Gemini Ganeshan, Thikkurissi, P. J. Antony, Alleppey Vincent, Kushalakumari etc. appeared in guest roles. A stage play featuring these artistes was an added attraction of the film. The publicity campaign of the film adopted new methods like printing still photos of the scenes on the cover pages of notebooks.

Govindan (T. S. Muthiah) is a poor farmer who struggles hard to bring up and educate his children. His elder daughter Devika (Ambika) secures the job of a school teacher, but only on donating a huge amount to the management. Govindan's son Prabhakaran (Prem Nazir) is an unemployed graduate and another daughter Sharada (Devaki) is undergoing teachers training course. Govindan borrows money to educate his children from the local financier Manakku Kamath (S. P. Pillai) by pledging his house and land.

Owing to hard work and neglect of health Govindan contracts tuberculosis. The family struggles to survive on the income of Devika. Prabhakaran helps at a teashop owned by Beeran (P A Thomas). He also assists in maintaining the accounts there. Beeran's daughter Aysha (Sheela) falls in love with Prabhakaran. Shekharan (Murali), Devika's colleague in school proposes marriage. But duty bound to her family, Devika requests Shekhar to wait till Prabhakaran gets a good job. Meanwhile, the Government does not approve of Devika's appointment and she loses her job.

Soon, Devika also falls prey to tuberculosis. Shekharan helps Devika for the treatment, but the disease turns acute. Manakku Kamath sues for his dues and the court orders confiscation of Govindan's house. Prabhakaran reaches the spot with money to prevent the execution of the court order. The police also reach the spot. They arrest Prabhakaran for stealing money. Heartbroken Devika dies bringing the film to a tragic end.

This was perhaps the first South Indian film to focus on burning social issues like unemployment and the illegal appointments in schools. Hindi films like Bimal Roy's ‘Naukari' (1954) and Raj Kapoor's ‘Shree 420' (1955) had unemployment as its sub-plot.

Ambika excelled in the role of the struggling teacher who sacrifices her life for the family. Prem Nazir handled his dual-faced role of the romantic hero and the dejected unemployed youth quite impressively. S. P. Pillai's hilarious comic role, in which he used the Konkani slang, was a unique experience. This character reappeared in different forms later films like for example in ‘Kannur Deluxe' (1969).

The lyrics were by Abhayadev and Sreemoolanagaram Vijayan. Two poems written by the great poet G. Sankara Kurup were also included. The music composed by Job was excellent. Some of the songs became very popular. The romantic hit, ‘Kinavilennum vannenne ikkili...' (K. J. Yesudas-P. Leela) is still considered one of the best in this genre. ‘Karivala vikkana...' (Leela) is one of the early hits of the singer. The prayer ‘Karunyam kolunna snehaswaroopa...' and the children's song ‘Poovukal thendum poompaatta…' (both by Leela and chorus) are the best film versions of G Sankara Kurup's poems. Another duet by Yesudas and Leela, ‘Chayakkadakkaran Beeran kakkede...' (Yesudas-Leela) was another popular hit.

Will be remembered: As the debut film of music director Job and lyricist Sreemoolanagaram Vijayan. As the first venture of producer-director P. A. Thomas, as the first film based on a play by S L Puram Sadanandan and for its lsongs.

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