Monday, March 28, 2011

Kudumbini (1964)

Thikkurissi Sukumaran Nair, Prem Nazir, Punjabi, Sheela, Kaviyoor Ponnamma, Aranmula Ponnamma, Jayasree, Adoor Bhasi, Master Shaji etc.

FAMILY DRAMA Kaviyoor Ponnamma and Master Shaji in a scene from the film

Released on December 22, 1964, ‘Kudumbini' was one of the best family dramas in Malayalam.

The film was based on the Malayalam novel of the same title authored by K. G. Sethunath. Scripted by Sasikumar, the dialogues were written by another popular Malayalam novelist E. J. Philip, who was popularly known by his pen name, Kaanam E. J.

The story of this highly emotional family drama resembled some of the Hindi films like ‘Ghar Sansar' (1958), ‘Bhabhi' (1956) etc. and Tamil films like ‘Kula Deivam' (1956). ‘Kudumbini' was a huge box office hit.
The star cast included popular artists of the time like Thikkurissi, Prem Nazir, Kaviyoor Ponnamma, Sheela etc.

This was the debut film of playback singer Zero Babu. Though C. O. Anto entered Malayalam cinema in 1963 through the film ‘Kadalamma', it was ‘Kudumbini' that brought the playback singer to the limelight. This was the second film of music director L. P. R. Varma and one that brought him fame.. His first film ‘Sthree Hrudayam' went unnoticed.

The film was shot at Film Cntre, Chennai (then Madras). Film critics consider the dialogues written by Kaanam E. J. as a model for such family dramas.
Successful novels, when adapted on the screen, very often failed simply because of unimpressive dialogues. ‘Kudumbini' was an unusual example of some very good dialogues that managed to keep the emotional impact of the novel on screen also.

The story…Raghava Kurup (Thikkurissi) lives happily with his brother Madhavankutty (Prem Nazir), sister Sarada (Jayasree) and mother Parukutty Amma (Aranmula Ponnamma) in a small village where religious customs, practices and traditions were strictly followed .

The conduct of the temple was the responsibility of Kurup's family. The land holdings of the family were often sold out to raise funds to conduct the festival.
Raghava Kurup marries Lakshmi (Kaviyoor Ponnamma) and she takes over the administration of the household. Lakshmi objects to the lavish spending, especially for the annual temple festival.

Except her husband all other members of the family disagree with her view. The landlord Swami's (Punjabi) eye is on the land holdings of Kurup's family. With the support of his manager Kelu Nair (Adoor Bhasi), he takes advantage of the dispute in Kurup's family over the conduct of the festival and turns Madhavankutty against his brother.

Madhavankutty demands his share of the ancestral property and vows to conduct the festival. When Kurup disapproves, Madhavankutty leaves home in protest.
Raghava Kurup resolves the family dispute by transferring the property in Madhavankutty's name and decides to leave home with his wife and son. Madhavankutty realises his mistake and requests his brother not to leave, to which Raghava Kurup accedes. But the peace and harmony established in the family does not last long. Madhavankutty marries Janaki (Sheela), his lover with the blessings of his elder brother and his wife. Sarada poisons the mind of Janaki and turns her against Lakshmi.

The family is split and Raghava Kurup shifts to a small house with Lakshmi and son Manikuttan (Master Shaji).

Janaki, who is pregnant, is admitted to the hospital and her condition becomes critical. Kurup and Lakshmi rush to the hospital. Lakshmi donates blood and Janaki's life is saved. But disruption of power supply in the hospital and negligence results in the death of Lakshmi.

The film focussed on some of the undesirable traditions followed in some of the villages, like families spending on festivals just for the sake of honour or prestige. Most of such families are ruined because of such extravagant spending.
Kaviyoor Ponnamma excelled as Lakshmi, the central character. Master Shaji impressed with his natural acting. Thikkurissi, Prem Nazir and others also did justice to their roles.

Seven songs written by Abhayadev and set to tune by L. P. R.Varma became popular. The solo sung by Anto, ‘Veedinu ponmani vilakku nee...' became an instant hit and is considered the best of the singer. Two children's songs, ‘Ambilimaman pidicha ...' (K. J. Yesudas) and ‘Enthellam kathakal undammakku...' (P.Leela) also became very popular. The other hits include the romantic number ‘Swapnathin pushparathathil...' (Leela-Yesudas), ‘Veedana ellam enikku...' (Leela), ‘Olathil thulli ...' (Leela) and ‘Kanninu kanninu...' (Zero Babu).

Will be remembered: As a good social film. As the debut film of playback singer Zero Babu and for its excellent music.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Kidappadam (1955)

Cast: Prem Nazir, Thikkurissi, Kottarakkara, Miss Kumari, Kumari Thankam, Adoor Pankajam

OLD CLASSIC A scene from the film, Kidappadam

‘Kidappadam,' released in 1955, was the 21st film produced at Udaya Studios. A moderate commercial success, the film was produced by Kunjacko under the banner of XL Productions and was directed by M. R. S. Mani. The film focused on the hardships faced by the farmers and the methods adopted by the landlords to snatch the land holdings of small farmers.

Muthukulam Raghavan Pillai wrote the dialogues for the script penned by Kunjacko. The story of the film was adapted from Bimal Roy's Hindi classic film ‘Do Bigha Zamin' (1953). The story of the Hindi film was written by Salil Chaudhary . ‘Kidappadam' can be considered as a remake of the Hindi film with some minor changes. The dialogues reflected the sentiments and emotions contained in the dialogues written by Paul Mahendra for ‘Do Bigha Zamin'. A multi-starrer , the star cast included Prem Nazir, Thikkurissi Sukumaran Nair, Kottarakkara Sreedharan Nair, Muthukulam, Miss Kumari, Kumari Thankam, Adoor Pankajam etc. The dances by Baby Girija were an added attraction of the film.

The story of the dispossessed peasant and landlord had been told many times before in Malayalam in films like ‘Navalokam' (1953), ‘Sariyo Thetto' (1953) etc. but in ‘Kidappadam', a much wider context was chosen with rural poverty at one end and the brutal effects of city life at the other. The story revolves around a small farmer Sankaran (Prem Nazir) who lives with his father (Thikkurissi), wife Kalyani (Miss Kumari) and son Ravi (Boban Kunjacko) in a small village in Kerala. The small plot of land in which they live was owned by the family by hard work and was beloved to them, more than their life. Sankaran's father had borrowed money from the landlord (Kottarakkara). The landlord's wife (Kumari Thankam) hated Kalyani, while the landlord had an eye on this young woman. The landlord's manager (Muthukulam) was at hand to support his master's evil plans. The landlord sues Sankaran's father for non-repayment of the debt using the blank papers that he got signed while lending money. He demands the ‘Kidappadam' (dwelling) of Sankaran as repayment of the debt. The landlord allows Sankaran some more time to repay the debt failing which, he says that he would confiscate the property.

Sankaran leaves the village and reaches Chennai (then Madras) in search of a job. His goal is to earn money and repay the debt. Sankaran faces several hardships. Unable to find a good job, he works as a rickshaw puller. Unknown to Sankaran, his son, Ravi also reaches the city and works as a mobile coffee vendor. Both Sankaran and Ravi face the cruelty of the city.

In the village, Kalyani struggles hard for a living. She also struggles to protect herself from the landlord's clutches. The money sent to her by Sankaran and Ravi is stolen by the landlord's manager. Sankaran's father dies of hunger and illness; Sankaran is injured seriously in an accident and his leg is broken. Ravi meets Sankaran and they decide to return to their village in time to save their plot from being confiscated. But fate works against them. They get into a wrong train and reach the village after the end of the extended date. The landlord takes over their plot. Physically and mentally shattered Sankaran dies when he sees his ‘kidappadam' taken away. Kalyani and Ravi walk away from the village bringing the film to a sad end.

The Hindi original ‘Do Bigha Zamin' was promoted as the epitome of Indian neo-realism. But the Malayalam remake, with some minor changes in the story line, failed to come anywhere near the original. This was perhaps because the remake focused on entertainment factors like comedy, dances etc. and also because of the changes brought about in the story.

Miss Kumari impressed with her subtle acting. Prem Nazir also did well as the tragic hero. But their performance paled in comparison to that of Balraj Sahni and Nirupa Roy in these roles in ‘Do Bigha Zamin'. Thikkurissi as the poor farmer, Baby Girija with her dances, Mathappan as a rickshaw puller and Adoor Pankajam as his wife also impressed.

Eight songs written by Abhayadev were tuned by V. Dakshinamoorthy. Some of the songs became instant hits. A solo sung by A. M. Raja ‘Kunkuma chaaraninju pularkaalam…' was the most popular of them. A duet by Raja and Revamma, ‘Ennini njaan nedum...', ‘Paavanamidamani ...', ‘Abhimanam vediyathe...,' ‘Panathin neethiyil…' (all by Raja), and ‘Naalathe lokathil...' (L.P.R.Varma and Stella Varghese) were other hits from the film.
Will be remembered: As a social film with a strong storyline. For its good music, particularly for the song ‘Kunkuma chaaraninju..

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

‘Ganalokaveethikalil,' on Kochi FM, completes 200 episodes

Landmark movieA scene from the Malayalam film, Balan

‘Ganalokaveethikalil,' the programme documenting the evolution of Malayalam film music, focussing on the history of Indian film music, with special emphasis on South Indian cinema music, completes 200 episodes on February 24.

The 200th episode of the programme, which began in 2007, will be broadcast at 8 a.m. on All India Radio, Kochi FM. Films released in Malayalam are analysed chronologically. The 200th episode will start with films of the year 1959. Each film and its songs are discussed in detail. Along with Malayalam films the analysis includes a comparative discussion on Hindi, Tamil and Telugu films.

Chronological analysis

The programme has so far featured 70 films that were released from 1938 to 1959. Ninety singers, 25 music directors and 22 lyricists have so far found mention, their work analysed.

The entry of each singer, lyricist and music director is supplemented with relevant details about the artiste. Their career is highlighted giving all relevant details like their debut, contributions in other languages etc. Interesting interviews with the artistes are included wherever possible.

The well researched programme is produced by a team headed by musicologist, B Vijayakumar.

They have unearthed songs never before broadcast by AIR, and some not in circulation before. The team has put together songs from film prints as gramophone records of these films were not made. For example, the programme included the first playback song in Indian cinema, from the film ‘Dhoop Chaon' (1935) and also three songs from the Malayalam film ‘Kerala Kesari' of which, it was widely believed, that gramophone records were not made.

Singers, long forgotten, like Stella Varghese (who sang in ‘Kidappadam'), Lalitha Thampi, Machad Vasanthi, Seeethalakshmi (who sang and acted in ‘Gnanambika'), lead actress of the first Malayalam talkie ‘Balan,' M. K. Kamalam, Kumari Thankam, the glamour star of yesteryears, Meena Sulochana (who sang in ‘Shariyo Thetto), singers like Seeethalakshmi (‘Gnanambika'), Syamala (‘Newspaper Boy') and many others recounted those early days and rendered songs.

Produced by K. V. Sarathchandran, AIR, Kochi FM, the team includes V. M. Girija and Shaji Yohannan, N. Ajith, Shijo Manuel, Sunil Elias and Deepak Sujathan.

A public function to mark the landmark 200th episode is slated to be held sometime in March this year.

Chechi (1950)

Cast: Cherthala Vasudeva Kurup, Kottarakkara Sreedharan Nair, G. N. Raju, S. P. Pillai, Miss Kumari, Aranmula Ponnamma etc.

‘Oachira Parabrahmodayam Nadana Sabha' was a leading drama troupe. Popular playwrights like Muthukulam Raghavan Pillai, N. P. Chellappan Nair and others wrote several historical, mythological and social dramas for the troupe. ‘Yachaki', ‘Vasanthi', ‘Suprabha, ‘Chechi' were some of the social plays staged by the troupe. In 1950, Swami Narayanan produced the film version of the play ‘Chechi' with the same title.

The drama was a huge hit. Popular stage artiste and singer Vaikom Vasudevan Nair played the hero in the play. Aranmula Ponnamma and Thankam Vasudevan Nair, sisters in real life, and Kottarakkara Sreedharan Nair also played important roles in the play.

There was a time when theatre was taboo for women. Male artistes like Oachira Velukutty performed the roles of female characters. And when women did venture to act they faced a lot of flak from the society. ‘Chechi' was an strong reply to such mindless criticism.

Playwright N. P. Chellappan Nair wrote script and dialogues for the film. Highly emotional dialogues, mandatory to a stage play, were modified for the film. But they carried the punch and sentimental impact. Directed by T. Janakiram, the film was shot at Ratna Studios, Salem. This was the debut Malayalam film of T. Janakiram. Radhika (Miss Kumari) is a popular stage actress. The society is suspicious of her morality and rumours are spread about her personal life. Radhika entrusts her younger sister Malathi (Omana) with the landlord Singapore Gopalan (K. S. Krishna Pillai) requesting him to look after her and leaves to another town. Radhika wanted to keep her sister away from the rumours and disgrace heaped on her because she chose an acting career. Malathi grows up under the guardianship of Gopalan without knowing that her elder sister is a stage actress.

Radhika joins the drama troupe owned by Ratheesh (Kottarakkara Sreedharan Nair). Ratheesh blackmails Radhika with the threat of disclosing the truth about her to Malathi. This was one of his nasty tricks to win over Radhika. The hero of the troupe Prafullachandran (Cherthala Vasudeva Kurup) is in love with Radhika. Having failed in his attempts to win her heart, Ratheesh manages to influence Kanakam (Aranmula Ponnamma), wife of Gopalan and succeeds in his plan to stay with the family of the landlord.

Malathi falls in love with Vasantha Kumar (G. N. Raju) son of Gopalan. But Ratheesh poisons Vasantha Kumar's mind with stories about the private life of Malathi's sister Radhika. Malathi is abandoned by her lover and she leaves the landlord's home in search of her sister. When Malathi comes to know about the facts from Radhika , her anger and hatred against her elder sister melts. Radhika pleads to Vasantha Kumar to marry Malathi, but he refuses. Ratheesh attempts to murder Vasantha Kumar to usurp his wealth. Prafulla Chandran intervenes in time and saves Vasantha Kumar's life. Thinking that the allegations about her life ruined the life of her sister, Radhika decides to end her life and sends her last words in a note to Malathi. All of them rush and manage to save Radhika's life. They now come to know about the tricks played by Ratheesh and misunderstandings are cleared. Radhika marries Prafulla Chandran, and Malathi marries Vasantha Kumar.

There were 11 songs written by Abhayadev and tuned by G. K. Venkatesh. Some of the songs became hits. A classical raga-based number sung by Kaviyoor Revamma, ‘Kalitha kalamaya Kailasavasa...' was the most popular. Some of the songs were direct copies of popular Hindi tunes. Other hits from the film include ‘Varumo en priya manasan…' (T. A. Lakshmi), and ‘Chudu chinthathan...' (Kalinga Rao-Mohan Kumari).

Will be remembered: Debut film of music director G. K. Venkatesh, playback singer T. A. Lakshmi and director T. Janakiram. And for the classical based song ‘Kalitha kalamaya Kailasavasa...'