Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Thacholi Othenan

T. K. Pareekutty who produced successful social movies like “Neelakkuyil” (1954), ‘Rarichan Enna Pouran' (1956), ‘Moodupadam' (1963) etc. which focused on some social issues came up with an adventurous film, based on ‘vadakkan paattu', ballads of North Kerala in 1964. Produced under the banner of Chandratara Productions, the film was directed by S. S. Rajan.

The tremendous success of the first ‘vadakkan paattu' movie ‘Unniyarcha' (1961) must have prompted the producer to come up with a film with a similar theme.

Shot at Vauhini Studios, Madras, the sword fight and wrestling scenes in the film were shot at Kerala Bhargava Kalari Centre under the direct supervision of expert teachers. The film was released on January 31, 1964. As a new advertisement technique, wall calendars with stills from the film were distributed widely weeks before the release of the film. Popular artists like Sathyan, P. J. Antony, Kottayam Chellappan, Ambika, Sukumari etc. were cast in important roles. Apart from acting, Adoor Bhasi worked as assistant director for the film. The music composed by M. S. Baburaj was excellent. The film was a huge hit and also went on to win the National Award for the best Malayalam film in the regional films category in 1964.

Thacholi Othenan (Sathyan) was born into the royal family of Manikoth Kovilakom in Malabar. Othenan was trained in ‘kalarippayattu', the ancient martial art form of Kerala, from a very young age. He grew up to become an extraordinarily brave and skilled warrior. A dispute on the performance of a ritual led to a fight between the local ‘kalarippayattu' teacher, Kathiroor Gurukkal (P. J. Antony) and Othenan in which the Gurukkal was defeated. 

Beautiful Kunki (Ambika) falls in love with Othenan, but the brave warrior is in love with Kunhikanni (Devaki), princess of Kadathanadu. In fact, Kunki was falsely portrayed as an ugly woman by Ambu (Adoor Bhasi), servant of Gurukkal, which becomes one reason for Othenan to reject her marriage proposal.

Meanwhile, Othenan happens to meet Kunki on his way to meet Kunhikanni. Othenan falls in love with her at first sight and leads to their marriage. Othenan is supported in all this by his companion, Chaappan (Kunhandy). 

Othenan's sister Unniyarcha (Sukumari) falls in love with Payyanadan Chindan (Kottayam Chellappan). Disputes over rights on family properties leads to a fight between Othenan and Chindan, which Othenan wins. 

Othenan conducts the festival at Lokanar Temple to celebrate the occasion and offers to donate an elephant to the temple. In the meantime Kunhikanni is kidnapped by Gurukkal's men. Othenan frees Kunhikanni. On his expedition in search of an elephant, Othenan is attacked by Gurukkal's men.
Timely intervention of his wife Kunki and son Kunhambadi (Master Prasad) saves Othenan's life. Gurukkal himself comes to fight and is killed by Othenan. But Gurukkal's men fire at Othenan, killing him.

All the songs, written by P.Bhaskaran and composed by Baburaj, turned timeless hits. ‘Anjanakkannezhuthi...' (S. Janaki), ‘Appam venam ada venam...,' (P. Leela-Santha P. Nair), ‘Kanni nilavathu ...' (Leela), ‘Kottum njaan kettilla...' (Leela & chorus), ‘Nallola painkili...' (Leela & chorus), ‘Naavulla veenayanu...' (K. P. Udayabhanu), ‘Ezhimala kaadukalil...' (Leela & chorus) all went on to become treasured melodies. 

Will be remembered: As a national award winning film, for its excellent music and one of the best films in the popular ‘vadakkan paattu' genre.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Poochakkanni (1966)

PSYCHOLOGICAL DRAMAPublicity material of the film Poochakkanni
PSYCHOLOGICAL DRAMA - Publicity material of the film Poochakkanni

Though psychological thrillers were common in various Indian language cinema, family dramas with a psychological theme were rare. After the success of his social movies like ‘School Master' (1964) and ‘Chettathi' (1965) , renowned Kannada director Puttanna Kanagal (S. R. Puttanna in Malayalam) came up with the first psychological-social film in Malayalam, ‘Poochakkanni' (1966). The film was a huge hit.

Films with this combination of themes were made in Tamil, like ‘Amara Deepam' (1956), ‘Asai Mukam' (1960), ‘Naan Vanangum Deivam' (1953), ‘Kai Kodutha Deivam' (1964) etc. The success of these films might have prompted producer V.Arunachalam to put his money into ‘Poochakkanni.' This film had a novel theme, a morbid fear of cats or ailurophobia.
Thikkurissi Sukumaran Nair, Prem Nazir, Vijaya Nirmala, Ambika, Meena donned important roles. Kalavathi, who was seen in minor roles till then was cast into a key role and came up with an impressive performance.

Sreedharan Nair (Thikkurissi), a bank officer, remarries after the death of his first wife Gowri (Ambika). He did this as he wanted someone to look after his eight-year-old daughter Geetha.
Their neighbour, Meena considered Geetha as her own daughter. Meena's son, Murali was almost the same age of Geetha. Nair's second wife Vanaja (Kalavathi) disliked Geetha. The girl was ill treated by her step-mother. Geetha's only consolation was Meena. But Meena gets a job transfer and leaves. Geetha feels lost and lonely.

One way Vanaja used to frighten Geetha was by using her green, cat-like eyes. This has a disastrous effect on Geetha.

Time and years roll on. Now Geetha (Vijaya Nirmala) has grown up but her behaviour and actions remain that of an eight-year-old. Nair tries everything including religious rituals to help his daughter recover from this shocking mental state.

Meena returns with her grown-up son Murali (Prem Nazir) who is a doctor now. Under Murali's treatment Geetha begins to show improvement. She finally recovers from her psychic ailment. Vanaja repents for her cruel actions. She even prises out her ‘cat eyes' that had caused so much fear and anguish for Geetha. Murali weds Geetha bringing the film to a happy ending
Vijaya Nirmala excelled in her role of the psychic patient. Kalavathi as ‘Poochakkanni' (cat-eyed woman) also impressed.

Seven songs, written by Vayalar Rama Varma and set to tune by M. S. Baburaj were instant hits. ‘Geethey hrudayasakhi Geethey…' ( P. B. Sreenivas), ‘Kakka kondu kadalmannu kondu…' ( Sreenivas- B. Vasantha) and ‘Mural Murali…' (P. Susheela) were the most popular. Other hits included, “Maramaaya maramokke…' ( S. Janaki and chorus), ‘Kurinji poovey…' (L. R.Easwari), and ‘Pandoru rajyathoru…' (Janaki).
Will be remembered: As the first psychological film in Malayalam and for its excellent music.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Kumarasambhavam (1969)

Banner : Neela Productions
Producer/Director : P Subramaniam
Dialogues : Nagavally
Lyrics : Vayalar, ONV
Music - Devarajan 

Starcast: Gemini Ganeshan, Thikkurissi, Kottarakkara, T K Balachandran, Kundara Bhasi, Padmini. Aranmula Ponnamma, Pankajavalli, Sri Vidya, Rajasree, T R Omana etc

Mythological films on Lord Subramanya were made in South Indian languages, particularly in Tamil, from the beginning of sound films. Most of such films told the story of his marriage with Valli, a tribal girl. Probably ‘Sree Skanda Leela' (Tamil-1938) was the first film that told on the screen the legend behind his birth and his mission. ‘Kandhan Karunai' (1967), one of the best mythological Tamil films directed by A. P. Nagarajan, told the story of the birth of Subramanya. A huge hit the film introduced actress Sridevi, who was cast in the childhood role of Lord Subramanya. 

Probably, the success of ‘Kandhan Karunai' must have prompted P. Subramaniam to produce the Malayalam film ‘Kumarasambhavam' (1969) that adapted sequences from the Tamil film. The film went on to become a huge box office hit. Shot in Eastman colour at Merry Land Studios, the film had cinematography by U. Rajagopal and editing by Gopalakrishnan. Dialogues were by Nagavalli R. S. Kurup and dances choreographed by eminent dance masters like Guru Gopinath, Thankappan and Parthasarathi. The film was also a musical hit that had some excellent compositions by G. Devarajan. When the Kerala State Awards were instituted in 1969 this film had the honour of being judged the best feature film.
This was Sridevi's debut Malayalam film. Popular artistes like Gemini Ganeshan, Thikkurissi Sukumaran Nair, Kottarakkara Sreedharan Nair, T. K. Balachandran, Padmini, Aranmula Ponnamma, Pankajavalli also starred in the film. 

The film is said to be based on Kalidasa's epic poem ‘Kumarasambhavam.” But the story deviates from this poem by bringing in some stories glorifying the deity. The film was released on December 25, 1969.
Himavan and his wife (Thikkurissi and Aranmula Ponnamma) are worried about the marriage of their daughter Parvathi (Padmini) who is firm on her decision to marry none other than Lord Siva (Gemini Ganeshan). Lord Siva had vowed never to marry and was meditating following the death of his consort Sati (also played by Padmini). This was because of Siva's enmity with Sati's father Daksha (Kottarakkara). Sati is reborn as Parvathi with a mission to give birth to Siva's son who would kill the powerful demon Tharakasura (Kundara Bhasi) who was now in control of heaven and the gods. Narada (T. K. Balachandran) advises Parvathi to worship Lord Siva and win his love. By her penance and determined efforts Parvathi manages to win the love of Siva. Their marriage takes place. Parvathi gives birth to Subramanya (Sridevi) who grows up and duly kills Tharakasura. 

Deviating from the epic poem, the film included some sequences related to Lord Subramanya, like his meeting with Avvayyar (T. R. Omana), quarrel with Ganapathi, etc.
Padmini excelled in the roles of Sati and Parvathi. Also impressive were Sridevi, Gemini Ganeshan and Pankajavalliessayed the role of Daksha's wife impressively. 

The songs written by Vayalar Rama Varma and ONV Kurup were set to tune by Devarajan. Most of them were based on classical ragas, like ‘Priyasakhi Gangey…' (Madhuri) in Suddha Dhanyasi, ‘Satya Siva soundaryangal…' (K. J. Yesudas) in Kalyani, and the dance number ‘Maya natana…' (P. Leela and Radha-Jayalakshmi) set in Khamas. The other hits include ‘Indukalamouli….' (Madhuri), ‘Nalla Haimavatha…' (P. Susheela and chorus), and a ragamalika, ‘Saravana poykayil…' (Kamukara Purushotaman). 

Will be remembered:As the first film to win Kerala State award in the feature film category, as the debut Malayalam film of Sridevi and for the excellent music.