V. Shantaram produced the classic film ‘Shejari' (Marathi)/ ‘Padosi' (Hindi) in 1941, both based on this subject. The story was written by the noted Marathi author Vishram Bedekar. ‘Koottukar' adapted the story of Shantaram's classic film with some changes.
Produced by A. K. Balasubramaniam under the banner of Saravanabhava the Malayalam adaptation failed to impress.
The Shantaram film was screened at the Canadian National Film Exhibition at Toronto in 1947 and also went on to win honours at various film festivals.
A multi-starrer, the film had Sathyan, Prem Nazir, Thikkurissi, Kottarakkara, S. P. Pillai, Manavalan Joseph, Ambika, Sheela, Aranmula Ponnamma among others.
The film was directed by Sasikumar, dialogues by P. J. Antony and music by M. S. Baburaj.
Raman Nair (Thikkurissi) and Mammootty (Kottarakkara) are close friends. Mammootty has lost a leg in a coal mine accident. The two families are very close, a perfect example of communal harmony.
Rahim (Prem Nazir) and Kadeeja (Ambika), the children of Mammootty are brought up by Kaathamma (Aranmula Ponnamma), wife of Raman Nair. And for Mammootty, a widower, Gopi (Sathyan) Raman Nair's son is like his own son.
Gopi is in love with Radha (Sheela), daughter of the village doctor (S. P. Pillai). He gets a job in the coal mine and leaves the village. The wicked Haji (Manavalan Joseph) attempts to molest Kadeeja, but Gopi intervenes in the nick of time and saves her. Haji spreads a false news that there is an illicit relationship between Gopi and Kadeeja. This causes a rift between the two families.
Rahim also gets a job in the coal mine. Here he has to face the rude behaviour of Gopi, his friend and now his superior officer. Rahim decides to take revenge and one night reaches Gopi's quarters armed with a knife. Here Rahim overhears Gopi requesting his superiors to promote Rahim. Rahim realises the true love of Gopi and they unite.
Kadeeja's marriage is fixed. Haji sets fire to Mammootty's house. Raman Nair jumps into the fire to save his friend Mammootty and both of them lose their lives. The film ends with the funeral scene of the two true friends.
Thikkurissi and Kottarakara excelled in their roles. But it did not match that of Gajanan Jagirdar and Mazhar Khan in the Hindi/Marathi film. Again the climax scene was one of the main attractions of the Shantaram classic. The two friends lose their lives when the dam in the village breaks. The fire in the Malayalam film failed to create that impact.
The six songs in the film were written by Vayalar Rama Varma and set to tune by Baburaj. The songs like ‘Asatho Ma sathgamaya…. Oru jaathi oru matham…' (K. J. Yesudas), and the duet ‘Kurumozhi mullappoo…' (Yesudas- S. Janaki) went on to become big hits. The other popular numbers include ‘Kannaadi koottile…' (P. Susheela), ‘No vacancy, no vacancy…' (Yesudas), ‘Nizhalukale nizhalukale…' (Yesudas), and ‘Veettilinnale vadakku ninnu…' (P Leela and chorus).
Will be remembered: As the first Malayalam film that focussed on the theme of communal harmony. Also for some of its memorable songs by Vayalar Rama Varma and M. S. Baburaj.