November 9, 2012 marked the 100th birth anniversary of Sathyan, one of the most popular and versatile actors of Malayalam cinema who died in 1971. His first released film wasAthmasakhi (1952). But Sathyan faced the camera for the first time in an unreleased filmThyagaseema .
The shooting of this film began in 1951. And it was the acting talent of Sathyan in this film that paved the way for a role in Athmasakhi , which incidentally is his second film.
Sathyanesan Nadar, a police officer, was passionate about acting. He was impressive in some of the amateur stage plays in which he acted. The young police officer now hoped to make it to the world of cinema.
‘Kaumudi’ Balakrishnan, a good orator, writer and leader of the Revolutionary Socialist Party was Sathyanesan’s neighbour while he was working in Thiruvananthapuram. Balakrishnan was the son of C. Kesavan, Chief Minister of the erstwhile Travancore-Kochi. The ‘Kaumudi’ publication, of which he was the editor, was very popular those days. Sathyanesan’s initiation into cinema was through the help of Balakrishnan.
K. M. K. Menon, who produced the Malayalam film Chandrika (1950) wanted to produce and direct a film. ‘Kaumudi’ Balakrishnan’s novels like Niramillatha Mazhavillu , Kalayalavu Oru Varsham ,Madhuvidhu Premam etc. were best sellers of that time. He was chosen to write the story, script and dialogues for the film, which was named Thyagaseema .
Sathyanesan shortened his name as Sathyan andmanaged to get permission from the Kerala Police to act in this film. He was assigned the hero’s role.
Prem Nazir, then known by his original name Abdul Khader, also played an important role inThyagaseema . Bharathi, who later married the producer K. M. K. Menon, and Sethulakshmi, who came from Madras, essayed the female roles. The others who acted in this unreleased film were Sree Narayana Pillai, C. I. Parameswaran Pillai, and the renowned novelist G. Vivekanandan who was then working as a compounder in a Government Hospital. Others like N. P. Chellappan Nair, P. K. Vikraman Nair, who later became popular in Malayalam films were also included in the list of actors for this film. However, they could not work in this film as they were Government officials and there were restrictions against them taking up other assignments.
Bharathi was paired with Sathyan. Incidentally, Bharathi’s son Ravikumar, also came up as a hero in the 70s. Dancer Indirabai Thankachi, who was a dance teacher for the Travancore Royal Family, featured in a dance sequence.
P. Bhaskaran who wrote the songs for Chandrika , (Bhaskaran’s debut film), and music director P. S. Divakar were contracted for the music.
Shooting started in a small, tiled house at Sasthamangalam in Thiruvananthapuram. In March 1952 the ministry headed by C. Kesavan fell. The political changes that followed created a lot of problems for Sathyan. The then Deputy Superintendent of Police, Mary Arputham, objected to Sathyan acting in the film. The actor resigned from his job. The other Government officials who had signed for the film also had to withdraw. As a result of such unforeseen contingencies, the producer decided to drop theThyagaseema project.
In 1952 P. Subramaniam established Neela Productions. He happened to see the rushes ofThyagaseema and was impressed by Sathyan’s performance. Subramaniam invited Sathyan to act as hero in his first film Athmasakhi (1952). The film was released in August, 1952 and was a huge hit. There was no looking back for the great actor. No footage of Thyagaseema or the songs, if they were recorded, are available now.