‘Ninamaninja Kaalpaadukal,' released in 1963, is considered as the first ‘war film' in Malayalam. War and the war field were subjects for Indian cinema right from its early days. T. R Sundaram's ‘Burma Rani' and K Subrahmaniam's ‘Maanasamrakshanam' were two Tamil war films released in 1944.
V. Shantaram's classic Hindi film ‘Dr. Kotnis Ki Amar Kahani' (1946) was also set in the backdrop of a war field.
The Sivaji Ganesan starrer ‘Raktha Thilakam' (Tamil-1963) had the 1962 India-China conflict as its plot.
These war films were all huge box office hits.
‘Ninamaninja Kaalpaadukal' was based on the novel of the same title by K. E. Mathai, popularly known as ‘Paarappurath' who had workd in military service for two decades.
Published in 1955, the novel was a hit. The story of the novel is supposed to have resembled the author's life closely.
Most of the action for this film was shot on specially created sets. Produced by K. V. Bhavadas, N. K. Karunakaran Pillai and K. Parasuraman Nair, under the banner of Navaratna Productions, the film was directed by N. N. Pisharady.
Camera by U. Rajagopal and editing by G.Venkitaraman were commendable. The dialogues by the novelist himself and music by M. S. Baburaj were the film's high points.
The film won the President's Silver Medal for the Best Feature Films (Regional Languages). Prem Nazir, P. J. Antony, Kambissery Karunakaran, Ambika, and Sheela were some of the stars who played important roles in the film. This was actor Madhu's second film but was released before his first, ‘Moodupadam' (1963).
A melodrama about neighbours and childhood sweethearts, the story pivots around two Christian families in a remote Kerala village.
Thankachan (Prem Nazir) is in love with Thankamma (Ambika), daughter of Koshy (Kambissery), a teacher. Thankachan joins the Army after the responsibility of his family falls on his shoulders following the death of his father.
In the meantime, rumours are spread about Thankamma and her relationship with the village moneylender.
Thankachan who comes on leave is shocked to hear this. Broken hearted, he goes back to duty forgoing his sanctioned leave.
Wounded on the battlefield, Thankachan is admitted to the military hospital. Here, a kind-hearted nurse advises him that Thankamma might after all be innocent and that the accusations could be false. Thankachan returns to the village.
But Fate takes a cruel turn. After the death of her mother Thankamma has taken refuge in one of her relatives' houses.
She is forced to marry the village butcher who is a drunkard (P. J. Antony).
Thankachan returns to the warfront. His intimate friend Stephen (Madhu) dies in his arms. Before his death Stephen requests Thankachan to marry his sister Ammini (Sheela). Thankachan fulfils his friend's dying wish.
Immediately after the wedding Thankachan gets orders from the military headquarters to report for duty. The film ends with this scene.
The film was a near-faithful portrayal of life in military camps. In fact, some of the scenes were shot at locations on the border.
Prem Nazir excelled in his role, which was again a deviation from his usual romantic roles. Ambika also came up with an impressive performance.
The songs written by P. Bhaskaran were set to tune by Baburaj. ‘Maamalakalkkappurathu…' (P. B. Sreenivas), ‘Anuraga natakathin…'
(K. P. Udayabhanu), ‘Padinjare manathulloru …' (Sreenivas-Leela) were the most popular songs from the film.
The other hits included ‘Kanya thanaya…' (Leela-Punitha), ‘Iniyaare therayunnu…' (Leela), ‘Bharatha medini pottivalarthiya…' (Sreenivas & chorus).
Will be remembered: As the first war movie in Malayalam, as the winner of the President's silver medal in 1963 and for its excellent music.