Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Aniyathi (1955)

Prem Nazir, T. K. Balachandran, T. N. Gopinathan Nair, Kottarakkara Sreedharan Nair, S. P. Pillai, T. S. Muthiah. Miss Kumari, Kumari Thankam, etc.

Social films focusing on brotherhood and the sacrifices of brothers and sisters has been a favourite subject of Indian cinema. Mehboob Khan’s Bahen (1941), New Theatres’ My Sister (1944) are examples of such movies. This trend emerged in the 1950s with Hindi films like Bhai Behan (1950), Bhai ka Pyar (1951) etc. In the South Sivaji Ganesan’s debut movie Parasakthi (1952) and the MGR-starrer En Thankai (1952) also followed this theme. En Thankai was remade in Hindi as Chhoti Behan (1959), in Telugu as Na Chellalu (1953) and in Oriya as Punarmilan (1977). And all these films were hits.

The unusual success of such films prompted P. Subramaniam to produce the Malayalam film Aniyathi that told the story of a sister and her sacrifices. Released in 1955, on Christmas Eve, the film went to become a huge hit. Produced under the banner of Neela Productions and directed by M. Krishnan Nair, the film was shot at Merryland Studios. The script and dialogues were by T. N. Gopinathan Nair.
Shekhara Pillai (T. N. Gopinathan Nair), once a rich landlord, now depends heavily on his son Appu (Prem Nazir), who is employed in Bangalore, to take care of the family. Appu’s sister Ammini (Miss Kumari) is a college student and his father is plagued by ill health. Appu loses his eyesight and returns home. Ammini hides this fact from Pillai.

On his journey back home Appu meets Pachu Kurup (Kottarakara) who worked in Burma but had now returned home. His brother Bhargavan (Muthiah) runs a restaurant, which is fully financed by his brother Kurup. Soon, Kurup takes possession of the restaurant throwing Bhargavan and his wife out.
Kurup’s evil eye falls on Ammini. When Shekhara Pillai comes to know that his son Appu is blind, he dies heart-broken. Pillai’s house is confiscated. Appu and Ammini move to a small hut. Ammini is forced to sell flowers and garlands for a living. Appu accompanies her. One day Babu (T. K. Balachandran), a police constable, saves Appu from being run over. He falls in love with Ammini.
Kurup befriends Appu and supports him financially. He then spreads scandals about Babu and Ammini and Appu believes them. Babu proposes marriage to Ammini. She tells him that he will have to wait till her brother regains his eyesight. Babu suspects Ammini when he comes to know about Kurup’s frequent visits to her house. One night Kurup attempts to molest Ammini. Babu reaches in time to save her. He comes to know of Kurup’s evil designs and misunderstandings are cleared. Appu regains his eyesight; Babu weds Ammini. There is sub-plot to this film involving Jayanthi (Kumari Thankam), Ammini’s college mate, and SP (S. P. Pillai). Jayanthi is mentally challenged. Doctors suggest that a marriage will help her get over this. She gets married to SP. This leads to some hilarious comic scenes.
Prem Nazir and Miss Kumari impressed. This was one of those rare occasions where Prem Nazir was not paired with a heroine.

The songs written by Thirunainarkurichi Madhavan Nair were set to tune by Brother Lakshmanan. Poomara kombathu … (P. Leela), Kochu kuttathi …(Santha P. Nair), Bahu bahu sukhamam … (Cochin Abdul Khader) became quite popular. Ananda nandakumara … (Kamukara Purushotaman- Leela) based on Yamuna Kalyani raga and Paahi sakala janani … (Leela-Rajalakshmi) based on Gauda Malhar are perhaps the earliest semi-classical film songs in Malayalam. Paadedi paadedi penne … (Santha P. Nair) is considered as the first parody in Malayalam cinema. It was a parody of some of the Hindi film hits of the time.

Will be remembered : As a successful social film; for its music, especially the classical-based songs and for the first ever parody song in Malayalam cinema.


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Thurakkaatha Vaathil (1970)

Prem Nazir, Madhu, Ramankutty, Bahadur, Nellikkodu Bhaskaran, Ragini, Jayabharathi , Philomina

Popular playwright K.T. Mohammed is renowned for his scripts and dialogues written for social movies, especially with a Muslim background. Kandam Becha Coattu (1961) and Moodupadam (1963) are examples. Thurakkatha Vathil, which released on August 15, 1970, won the National Award for the best feature film on national integration. One of K.T. Mohammed’s best-known scripts, this sentimental movie was part of a growing trend in 1970s Malayalam cinema. The hero sacrificing his happiness to fulfil his obligations towards his family. The film was a box office hit, too. Music composed by K. Raghavan (K. Raghunath in the title cards) was excellent.

Directed by P. Bhaskaran the film was shot at Prakash Studios. Cinematography was by Benjamin and editing by K. Narayanan and Neelakantan jointly was commendable.

Popular actors of the time, Prem Nazir, Madhu, Bahadur, Ragini, Jayabharathi and Philomina handled the major roles.

Bappu (Prem Nazir) struggles to bring up his family consisting of his mother Beepathumma (Philomina) and younger sister Nabeesa (Jayabharathi). Bappu is in love with Sulekha (Ragini), daughter of his neighbour Alikkutty Master (Ramankutty). Bappu’s life ambitions are getting his sister Nabeesa married off and then marry Sulekha. To fulfil his dreams, Bappu leaves to Madras to earn money.

Bappu starts a hosiery business in the city, where he meets Vasu (Madhu), who was roaming the streets without food or shelter. Bappu befriends Vasu and gives him refuge in his house. Bappu considers Vasu as his intimate friend Narayanankutty (Bahadur) in the village. He decides to visit his native village during the festival to make arrangements for Nabeesa’s marriage. But fate was cruel. Bappu meets with an accident and gets severely injured. After a few days, he dies. Before his death, Bappu requests Vasu to go to the village and marry off Nabeesa and take care of his mother. Vasu promises his beloved friend to take Bappu’s responsibilities. Vasu reaches the village and fulfils his promise. He makes arrangements for Nabeesa’s marriage. That is when religious fundamentalists raise their eyebrows on a young Hindu man staying in a Muslim house. But Beepathumma and Nabeesa consider Vasu as Bappu. Everybody in the village is made to believe that Bappu will reach the village on the day of Nabeesa’s wedding. Bappu’s absence causes disappointment, but Vasu conducts Nabeesa’s wedding. It is only after the wedding that Vasu reveals the truth about Bappu. Only Sulekha remains, with a broken heart. Vasu and Sulekha dont marry as she cannot not think of a life with anybody else but Bappu. Sulekha closes the doors of her heart forever. The name of the film, Thurakkatha Vathil , is derived from this idea. Thus, the social drama ends on a tragic note.

Philomina excelled in her performance and she won the State Award for the best supporting actress of the year. Ragini, too, impressed the audience by her natural style of acting.

Five songs written by P. Bhaskaran were set to tune by K. Raghavan. ‘ Naalikerathinte Naattilenikkoru ...’ (Yesudas), the song that induces nostalgia, was an instant hit. ‘ Kadakkannin muna kondu …’ (Janaki, Renuka), ‘ Manassinullil mayakkam kollum …’ (Janaki), had the flavour of typical “Mappila songs”. Other hits include ‘ Paarvanenduvin Dehamadakki… ’ (Yesudas) and ‘ Navayuga Prakashame …’ (Yesudas).

Will be remembered: For winning the National Award for the best film on National Integration in 1970 (Second Malayalam film to win this prestigious award under the category, the first being Janmabhoomi – 1967). As a good social movie and for its excellent music. And earning the best supporting actress award for Philomina

Friday, July 5, 2013

Aathmaarppanam (1956)

Prem Nazir, Thikkurissi Sukumaran Nair, Kottarakka Sreedharan Nair, S. P. Pillai, B. S. Saroja etc.

Mythology was the favourite theme of Indian cinema in the 1950s. Fantasy and adventure were the other sure-shot success themes. In the South MGR-starrers like Manthrikumari , Marutha Naattu Ilavarasi (1950), Sarvadhikari ,Marmayogi (1951) and Sivaji Ganesan starrers like Manohara (1954) are perfect examples of such films. In such adventurous tales the story is usually of the hero who fights against the tyrannical regime of kings, ministers, and brings peace and harmony. In most of these films, the hero or the heroine falls in love with the son or daughter of the tyrant ruler.
Amiya Chakravarthy’s block buster Hindi filmBadal (1951) also followed a similar formula. The Malayalam version, Desha Bhaktan (1952) was also a huge hit.

Athmarpanam , released on March 23, 1956, was a blend of sequences borrowed from the Hindi and Tamil mentioned above. Shot at Merryland Studios and produced under the banner of Filmco Productions, the film was directed by G. R. Rao. K. P. Kottarakkara wrote the script and dialogues. The dances choreographed by the renowned dance director Sohanlal and performed by Kusalakumari and Meenakshi from Bombay was highlight of this film. Like it happened to a similar film Kerala Kesari (1951), this film failed at the box office. Some of the songs composed by V. Dakshinamoorthy and brilliant acting by Thikkurissi were perhaps the only saving grace.
Ugravarma (Thikkurissi), the king of Kalpakapuram, declares himself as God. The atheist king forces the innocent people to worship him. The people suffer and pine for freedom. Those who raise their voice against the king are put to the sword. The people’s saviour, a strange person who introduces himself as Vijayan, appears proclaiming that ‘freedom of thought and worship is the birthright of the citizens.’ The king orders the army chief Vikraman (Prem Nazir) to capture Vijayan. But Vijayan escapes. The people assemble under the leadership of Vijayan to revolt against the autocratic rule of the king.
Nalini (B. S. Saroja), the daughter of Prathaparudran (Kottarakkara) who executes the king’s orders in the kingdom, falls in love with Vikraman, though she is against the cruelty of her father and the king. She rallies behind the people who fight against the king’s tyranny. Nalini tries to persuade her lover to withdraw from his attempts to capture Vijayan and to save the lives of the innocent people.
News spreads that Nalini is in love with Vijayan and that they meet secretly. The king issues orders to arrest her. Nalini is arrested by Vikraman. The king orders the execution of Vikraman for not being able to capture Vijayan. Vikraman is saved by Vijayan and Nalini is set free. Vijayan usurps power from Ugravarman and establishes peace and harmony in the kingdom.

Now comes the climax. Vijayan is none other than Nalini in disguise. Vikraman and Nalini get married bringing the film to a happy end.

Out of the eight songs written by Abhayadev and composed by Dakshinamoorthy, some of them became hits. The duet Anandavalli nee thanne alle … (A. M. Raja-P.Leela), which was a copy of the C. Ramachandra composition Gaya andhera huva ujaara … ( Subah Ka Thara -1954) sung by Talat Mohammed and Latha Mangeshkar became a huge hit.

A devotional number Hare muraare … (Raja, Jikki and chorus) was a copy of Hemant Kumar’s Jai Jagadeesh Hare … for the Hindi film Anand Math ( 1952 ). The other hits include Vaadaathe nilkkane … (Leela), Puthu varsham vannallo …(Raja and chorus), and Maanju povan maathramaayen …

Will be remembered : As an adventure film from the early years of Malayalam cinema. For the music, especially for the duet Anadavalli nee thanne alle …

Asuravithu (1968)

Prem Nazir, P J Antony, Sankaradi, Govindankutty, Sarada, Kaviyoor Ponnamma, Santha Devi

Some of the short stories and novels written by M. T. Vasudevan Nair (MT) focus on life in feudal Kerala. Murappennu (1965) directed by A. Vincent and P. Bhaskaran’s Iruttinte Atmavu(1967) were two such films. And both did well at the box office.
The political melodrama, Asuravithu , was based on a novel with the same title by MT, which was first published in 1962. The novel was a best seller with several reprints. Though the film was not a huge hit, it is often considered the last of MT’s trilogy – the other two being Murappennu andIruttinte Atmavu .
V. Shantaram’s bilingual film Padosi (Hindi)/Shejari (Marathi) released in 1941 was probably the first Indian film that addressed communal harmony. Hindu-Muslim unity was its theme.

Ramu Kariat’s Moodupadam (1963) was the first Malayalam film that looked at this issue.
In Asuravithu the author focuses on a communally charged situation. It trained the spotlight on the Hindu and Muslim communities in feudal Kerala.

Produced by Madhavankutty under the banner of Manoj Pictures, the film was directed by A. Vincent. The script and dialogues were by the novelist himself. The dialect popular in villages on the banks of the Bharathapuzha River was effectively used in the film. The film was shot at Vauhini and Satya studios, while some of the outdoor scenes were visualised on the banks of Bharathapuzha. Edited by G. Venkitaraman, cinematography was by G.Venkit. The music composed by K. Raghavan made use of the folk tunes in the Malabar region.

Popular artistes like Prem Nazir, P. J. Antony, Sankaradi, N. Govindankutty, Sarada, Kaviyoor Ponnamma, Shanta Devi etc. played important roles in the film. Kalamandalam Kalyanikkutty Amma also played a cameo in the film.

The story is set in Kizhakkummuri, a remote village in Kerala where agriculture is the main source of livelihood. Govindakutty (Prem Nazir), a simple, young man struggles hard to look after his family which include his widowed elder sister Kunjootty (Kaviyoor Ponnamma).
The situation turns bad when his elder brother Kumaran (Govindankutty) mortgages the agricultural land of the family to raise money for his needs. Govindankutty’s friend is Kunjarakkar (P. J. Antony), a Muslim, who is very secular in his thoughts and deeds, is considered a rebel by his community.

Govindankutty’s elder sister Madhavi (Shanta Devi) is married to Shekharan Nair (Sankaradi), a rich landlord in the village. This man is a fanatic and leads a relentless campaign against the Muslims. The poor and innocent villagers from both communities fall prey to such evil machinations and often leading to clashes. Govindankutty and Kunjarakkar try to dissuade people from rioting. Shekharan Nair is unhappy about Govindankutty’s friendship with Kunjarakkar.

A distant relative, Meenakshi (Sarada), who stays in Shekharan Nair’s house, is treated like a servant there. Govindankutty marries Meenakshi, Shekharan Nair takes the initiative for their marriage. On the first night itself, Govindankutty comes to know from Meenakshi that she is pregnant and that Shekharan Nair’s son is responsible.

Govindankutty rushes to Shekharan Nair’s house and beats up Nair’s son. Nair engages his men to take revenge on Govindankutty. To escape from Nair’s men Govindankutty converts to Islam hoping that this community will support him, in particular his friend Kunjarakkar. But Kunjarakkar disowns him.
A group of fanatics attack Govindankutty. To escape their wrath he jumps into the river. The villagers return thinking that Govindankutty is dead. But he escapes and finds refuge in a neighbouring village, he becomes an alcoholic.

Kizhakkummuri is hit by cholera. The dreadful epidemic snatches human lives. The villagers struggle to remove the corpses. Govindankutty (now Abdulla) reaches the village and helps in this horrible work. In the pile of corpses he finds the dead body of his wife Meenakshi. Her child is saved. Govindankutty cremates the body of his wife and leaves the village with the child. His destination is a place where there are no Hindus or Muslims, only human beings!

Prem Nazir and P. J. Antony impressed the audience with their natural style of acting. The film dispensed with the usual comedy scenes.

Six songs written by P. Bhaskaran were set to tune by K. Raghavan. The songs with a definitive folk touch, like ‘Kunnathoru kaavundu…’ (C. O. Anto- P.Leela) and ‘Pakal avaninnu marayumbol…’ (K.Raghavan) became very popular. Other hits include ‘Arimulla valli …’ (P. Jayachandran), ‘Njaanitha thirichethi…’ (Jayachandran- Renuka) etc.

Will be remembered: As a social film that focused on communal harmony and for its good music.

Iruttinte Aathmaavu (1967)

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Sarada and Muthiah in a scene from the film Iruttinde Athmavu
Sarada and Muthiah in a scene from the film Iruttinde Athmavu
M. T. Vasudevan Nair, novelist and scenarist, popularly known as MT, contributed to the renewal of a literary tradition initiated by Thakazhy Sivasankara Pillai, Vaikom Mohammed Basheer and Uroob in the 1950s. In most of his novels and short stories, he addresses the tensions, incarnated by a central character, between traditional family structures in the declining feudal system and economic development. MT ambivalently presented the melodrama of feudal nostalgia and his writings had a major influence on Malayalam cinema of the 1970s.

Murappennu (1965) was the first film based on his literary work. MT himself wrote the script and dialogues for most of the film versions of his novels and short stories.

Iruttinte Atmavu, released on March 2, 1967, was film version of a short story of the same title first published in 1957 in a collection of short stories. The book was a best seller and this particular story was widely appreciated.

Produced by Mohammed Kassim under the banner of Sony Pictures and directed by P. Bhaskaran, the film was a runaway hit and also won the National award for the best film for social integration.
The film had cinematography by E. N. Balakrishnan, it was edited jointly by Venkitaraman and Das and some memorable music by M. S. Baburaj.

The story pivots around Velayudhan (Prem Nazir) a mentally challenged member of an ancient joint family. It was believed that Velayudhan’s insanity symbolised the curse that led to the decline of the family. Velayudhan’s mother Parukutty Amma (Santha Devi) resorted to rituals and local mendicants to treat her son without success. Velayudhan has a good relationship with Ammukutty (Sarada), daughter of his uncle Gopalan Nair (P. J. Antony) and his future bride according to the tradition.
Madhavan Nair (Thikkurissi), another uncle of Velayudhan, who stays in Singapore, comes home with his family. The marriage proposal of Madhavan Nair’s daughter fails when the bridegroom’s family come to know about Velayudhan’s illness. Achuthan Nair (Sankaradi) is appointed to take care of Velayudhan. The joint family depended heavily on Madhavan Nair and hence nobody uttered a word when Velayudhan is locked up in a room and treated cruelly.

After Parukutty Amma’s death Velayudhan’s condition turned from bad to worse. Madhavan Nair’s son Rajan (Muthiah) begins to woo Ammukutty and one day he is beaten up by Velayudhan when he attempts to molest Ammukutty. Following this incident Velayudhan is chained and locked up in an abandoned room in the house.

Rajan keeps harassing Ammukutty and the poor girl is blamed for trying to entice the rich Rajan. Out of shame, Gopalan Nair leaves the house with his daughter. Ammukutty’s marriage is fixed with an old widower. Velayudhan manages to break out of the room and rushes to the marriage venue. On seeing him Ammukutty screams, ‘Mad man’! Velayudhan is crestfallen for he never expected this from his beloved Ammukutty. He returns, acknowledges defeat, agrees to be defined as mad. The film ends with Velayudhan’s painful yell, “Chain me, I’m mad.”

The film is considered as one of the best social movies in Malayalam. The character Velayudhan was a real challenge for Prem Nazir, who was always dubbed the romantic hero. And he came up with an exceptional performance.

The music composed by Baburaj for the four songs written by P. Bhaskaran was melodious. All of them were sung by S. Janaki. Vaakachaarthu kazhinjoru devanthe…and Eeeran uduthu kondu… were instant hits. The other hits include Iru kanneer thullikal… and Ambaadi Kannanu mambazham

Will be remembered: As a good social movie; as one that won the National Award, for its good music and an exceptional performance of Prem Nazir

Daaham (1965)

Satyan, K P Ummer, Bahadur, Muthukulam Raghavan Pillai, Sheela, Kaviyoor Ponnamma , Master Shaji etc

Raman, an amateur playwright who was popularly known by his pen name ‘Bilahari’ wrote several social dramas in Tamil. Some of his popular stage plays were filmed in Tamil, for exampleAlamaram was adapted on the screen as Kasturi Tilakam and the same play was filmed in Malayalam as Almaram (1969).

A successful script writer also, he wrote the script and dialogues for the Tamil film Paaladai (1967) directed by Bhimsingh. Tamil film Aalayam(1967) based on his play Nenje Nee Vazhga won the Tamil Nadu State award and the National Award in some categories.

Probably the Malayalam film Daaham released in 1965 might be the first venture of the successful playwright in cinema.

Directed by K. S. Sethumadhavan, Daaham was not a commercial success. Some film critics consider the film one of the best directorial ventures of Sethumadhavan. A novel theme in Malayalam cinema, the social melodrama keeps the suspense till the end. Muthukulam Raghavan Pillai and B. K. Pottekkat jointly wrote the dialogues for the film based on the story written by Bilahari.

Produced by M. P. Anand and P. Rangaraj under the banner of Thirumugam Pictures, the film was shot in a short period of 21 days at Venus Studios.

A major portion of the film was based in a hospital. Music, composed by Devarajan, was a highpoint of the film.

Popular artistes like Satyan, K P Ummer, Kaviyoor Ponnamma, Sheela were among those who acted in the film.

Daaham tells of the redemption of Jayarajan (Satyan), a simple man who was kind towards not just to the people around him, but to every living creature around him. He never harmed any one in word or deed.
One day Jayarajan happens to see his wife, whom he loved more than his own life, in the arms of her paramour. In a fit of fury and jealousy, Jayarajan kills his young wife and her lover. Jayarajan surrenders to the police and is imprisoned for seven years.

While in jail Jayarajan falls seriously ill and is admitted to the hospital for an operation. The other patients in the hospital keep away from the cruel convict who killed his wife and another man.
Jayarajan swears to himself that once he is released from prison he would kill the family members of his wife’s lover because of whom everyone hates him.

A school teacher Lakshmi’s (Kaviyoor Ponnamma) ,a widow, teenaged son Ravi (Master Shaji) is admitted to the same hospital where Jayarajan is admitted. Ravi is suffering from blood cancer.
Lakshmi and Ravi are very kind towards Jayarajan and they shower all their love and affection on him. Jayarajan’s surgery is successful and Ravi is also better. It is now time to bid goodbye.
While packing Ravi’s bag, Jayarajan happens to see the photo of his wife’s secret lover in it. Jayarajan comes to know from Lakshmi that it is the photo of her husband. Jayarajan is thunderstruck.
He reveals the truth to Lakshmi, that it was her husband he killed. In a fit of unbearable grief and emotional setback, Lakshmi leaves with Ravi.

After getting a hold over her emotions Lakshmi returns almost immediately to the hospital to meet Jayarajan. But Lakshmi is late, Jayarajan dies of a massive heart attack.

And here, deviating from the usual ending of such family dramas, the film’s story does not allow a new nuclear family to be formed in the end.

There is another romantic but strange sub-plot also involving a rich patient Sukumaran (K. P. Ummer) and a nurse Latha (Sheela). Admitted to the hospital for treatment for a fracture, Sukumaran takes a fancy to a beautiful nurse Lata, misunderstanding her love and care for him.

Later he comes to know that Latha is the wife of the doctor (Vijayan) who treated him and he corrects himself.

The film also had an impressive, and different, comic track. Songs written by Vayalar Rama Varma and tuned by Devarajan became hits.

The romantic duet ‘Ekantha Kamuka Nin Vazhitharayil….” (A. M. Raja, P. Suseela) was an instant hit. Other hits include ‘Kizhakku Kizhakku Kizhakkan Kaattile…. “(Renuka), ‘Vedana, Vedana…..’ (Yesudas) and ‘Padachavan Undengil….’ (C. O. Anto)

Why remembered: For the music, especially the romantic duet ‘Ekantha kamuka….’

Agnipareeksha (1967)

Sathyan, Prem Nazir, K. P. Ummer, G. K. Pillai,T. S. Muthiah, Adoor Bhasi, Sheela, Sarada etc.

‘Gurudev’ Rabindranath Tagore’s contribution to Indian literature was immense. Some of his works were filmed in various Indian languages. Bengali cinema drew heavily on Tagore’s stories and music, especially directors like Satyajit Ray, Madhu Bose, Tapan Sinha, Naresh Mitra etc. The bilingual film Nauka Dubi (Bengali)/ Milan
(Hindi) produced by Bombay Talkies in 1947, directed by Nitin Bose, was based on the Bengali novel Nauka Dubi written by Tagore in 1916. Ramanand Sagar’s Hindi film Ghunghat (1960) was remake of the same story and was a hit. In 1968, the same story was filmed in Malayalam asAgnipareeksha and this too turned a hit. In 2011, the story was remade in Bengali as Nauka Dubi . Directed by Rituparno Ghosh, the Hindi version of this film, Kashma Kash and English version, The Boat Wreck , also did well at the box office.

Agnipareeksha was produced by Mohammed Azeem under the banner of Deepak Combines and was directed by M Krishnan Nair. A multi-starrer, the film had Sathyan, Prem Nazir, K. P. Ummer, G. K. Pillai, T. S. Muthiah, Adoor Bhasi, Sarada, Sheela in key roles. The dialogues were by Thoppil Bhasi.
Doctor Mohan (Sathyan) who comes to attend the marriage of his friend Gopalan’s (K. P. Ummer) sister Hemalatha (Sarada) decides to marry the bride after the bridegroom, an epileptic patient, faints on the auspicious occasion. Mohan does this to save his friend’s sister from disgrace. Mohan marries her when Hemalatha is unconscious following the shock of the unexpected incident. Mohan travels back to his home town with his bride.

Ramesh (Prem Nazir), who is in love with Hema (Sheela) is coaxed by his father to marry another girl whom he has never seen. Ramesh marries the girl not even bothering to take a serious look at her. He travels with his wife on the same train in which Mohan and Hemalatha return after their wedding. An accident occurs; several passengers lose their lives and many seriously injured.

Ramesh is hospitalised. When he opens his eyes he sees a girl dressed in bridal attire taking care of him. He assumes this to be the girl whom he had married, when in fact the girl was Hemalatha. To add to the confusion Hemalatha believed that Ramesh was the man who had married her, for when the wedding took place she was unconscious and had not seen his face of the man.

Later Ramesh came to know that Hemalatha was not his wife, but was unable to reveal the fact because he thought the girl may not be able to withstand another emotional shock. Ramesh writes a letter to his lover Hema explaining the story of his marriage and the train accident. Hemalatha happens to read the letter and comes to know that Ramesh is not her husband. She leaves him and reaches a nursing home where she is treated by Mohan though she does not know this. She is appointed as a servant by Mohan, who also does not know that Hemalatha is the girl he had married.

Now the untying of the knots. Hema is admitted to Mohan’s nursing home. Ramesh reaches the nursing home in search of Hema. Gopalan is admitted to Mohan’s newly opened eye hospital for treatment. From Gopalan, Hemalatha comes to know that Mohan is her husband. Hema realises the situation that forced Ramesh into marrying another girl who had died in the train accident. The couples, Hemalatha and Mohan; Ramesh and Hema unite.

The songs written by Vayalar Rama Varma and tuned by Devarajan, like Kairali Kairali kavya Kairali …, (P. Susheela- B. Vasantha), Muthu vaaraan poyavare …. (K. J. Yesudas), Urangi kidanna hrudayame … (Yesudas) and Thinkalum kathiroliyum …. (Susheela) turned hits.

Will be remembered: As a successful Malayalam adaptation of Rabindranath Tagore’s novel and for its excellent music.

CID (1965)

S. P. Pillai and Kumari Thankam in a scene from the film
Special ArrangementS. P. Pillai and Kumari Thankam in a scene from the film
Crime and suspense have been favourite subjects of Indian cinema. Stars in roles of CID (Criminal Investigation Department) officers were very popular quite early in Indian cinema. Ashok Kumar, Devanand, Dharmendra, Jeetendra, Joy Mukherji, Biswajit in Hindi; MGR, Sivaji Ganeshan, Krishna, Jayshankar, Rajkumar, Shobhan Babu in South Indian films are just some names who made CID roles memorable.

The silent film ‘Detective Kumar' (1928), directed by Athawale, was the first ‘detective film' in Indian cinema. The Hindi-Marathi bilingual film ‘Geetha' (1940) is considered the first sound film in the suspense-thriller genre. The Tamil film ‘Digambarasamiyar' (1950) was the first in this category from the South, while ‘Avakashi' (1954), produced by Neela Productions, in which, incidentally, the hero was not a CID officer, was the first of this kind in Malayalam.

‘CID' that had popular star Prem Nazir in the lead role was a huge hit. In fact, Prem Nazir went on to play such characters in several films and even had a film titled ‘CID Nazir' (1971).

‘CID' was the debut film of director M. Krishnan Nair.

Sudhakaran Nair (Prem Nazir), a CID officer is assigned with the tough and adventurous task of suppressing a gang of thieves. Rudrapalan (Muttathara Soman) is the chief of the gang and he gets support from Vallabhan (Kottarakkara). Vallabhan is the estate manager of Mukunda Menon, a rich planter (Jose Prakash). Vallabhan's wicked eye is on the wealth of Menon and his only daughter Vasanthi (Miss Kumari), a college student in a faraway town. Vallabhan kills Mukunda Menon and the crime is falsely framed on the gang of thieves.

On her train journey back home Vasanthi meets Sudhakaran and falls in love with him. Vallabhan influences Pankajam (Adoor Pankajam), the servant of Menon and makes her tell Vasanthi that her father wanted her to marry Vallabhan. Vasanthi decides to sacrifice her love for Sudhakaran and fulfil her father's last wish.

The investigation of Menon's murder is assigned to Sudhakaran. Rudrapalan's adopted daughter Valsala (Kumari Thankam) and her aide Pichu (S. P. Pillai) are arrested by the police while attempting to cheat people. Rudrapalan's men decide to target Sudhakaran and reach Vasanthi's house in search of him. Vasanthi, who runs away at the sight of the thieves reaches Vallabhan's house. Here she is shocked to see her faithful servant Pankajam. Vasanthi realises the true character of Vallabhan.

Vallabhan attempts to kill Pankajam, but she escapes. She informs Sudhakaran about the murder of Menon. In the meanwhile, Valsala and Pichu escape from the police custody with the support of Vallabhan and his men. Valsala falls in love with Vallabhan.

Vasanthi is kidnapped and brought to Rudrapalan's camp. Sudhakaran follows them. ‘Orderly Vava' (S. P. Pillai, in his second role), assistant to Sudhakaran, enters the secret camp in the guise of Pichu. Vallabhan kills Valsala and Rudrapalan when he comes to know that they are plotting against him. Vallabhan and the thieves are arrested. Vasanthi marries Sudhakaran.

The film had nine songs written by Thirunainarkurichi Madhavan Nair and tuned by Brother Lakshmanan. ‘Kaimuthal vediyathe…,' ‘Nillu nillu chollu chollu…' (P. B. Sreenivas ), ‘Kaanum kanninu punyam nalkum…,' ‘Kaananam veendum thalirthu…' (P. Leela), ‘Kaliyallayee kalyana bhavana…,' (Kamukara Purushotaman- Leela), ‘Varuvin varuvin …' (Sarojini) were the most popular.
Will be remembered: As the debut film of M. Krishnan Nair. And as the first Malayalam film in the ‘detective' genre.

Priya (1970)

Jayabharathy, Veeran and others in a scene from the film 'Priya'
Jayabharathy, Veeran and others in a scene from the film 'Priya'
Pre-marital sex and prostitution, as serious social issues, were subjects for literature and cinema from early times. In Indian cinema, B. N. Reddy's Telugu classic ‘Devatha' (1941) is widely considered the first that discussed these issues. ‘Thirumbippaar' (1951), the Tamil film produced and directed by T. R. Sundaram, also focused on this subject. ‘Priya' (Malayalam- 1970) focused on the evils of prostitution and pointed a finger at the circumstances that force a woman into this shameful profession.
The film was based on the Malayalam novel ‘Thevidissi' by C. Radhakrishnan. The script and dialogues were written by the novelist. An earlier Malayalam film ‘Nagarame Nanni' (1967) also followed a similar storyline.
‘Priya' marked the debut of noted actor Madhu as director. This art-house film won critical acclaim for its realistic treatment of the subject and for its amazing cinematography. Most of the film was shot on locations in Bombay. Four cinematographers - U Rajagopal, Benjamin, Ramachandra and L. C. Kapoor – made the film a visual experience. Editing was by Hrishikesh Mukherji and his work won him the Kerala State award that year. The film also won the State award for the second best film. This was also the debut Malayalam film of playback singer Mahendra Kapoor. M. S. Baburaj's music was another high point of the film.
Madhu attempted a change of image by casting himself in a negative role. Bengali actress Lilly Chakravarthy played the lead female role and this was the only film that she worked in. The other popular stars who acted in the film were Adoor Bhasi, Veeran, and Jayabharathi.
Gopan (Madhu) an executive in an advertising company in Bombay is absconding leaving his wife Devi (Jayabharathi) back in Kerala. Gopan's friend, Bhasi (Adoor Bhasi), is sent to Bombay to locate the whereabouts of Gopan. The whole story is narrated in a flashback from the point Bhasi attempts to trace Gopan.
In Bombay, Gopan, a libertine, joins an advertising company. Here he flirts with his office typist Thulasi (Lilly Chakravarthy). Gopan abandons Thulasi when he knows that she is pregnant. Thulasi is forced into prostitution. She rechristens herself as Priya and gives birth to a child.
On one of Gopan's visits to a brothel he happens to meet Priya. In an inebriated state he fails to recognise his ‘old typist'. Priya entices Gopan into her room. In the room she kills him by tearing him into pieces with her teeth and poisoned nails. This was her way of taking revenge. The brothel house men try to bury Gopan's body discreetly. But Bhasi's probe reveals the whole story leading to this brutal act. Thulasi is sent to jail. Disillusioned, Devi accepts the care of Thulasi's child.
Deviating from the usual comic roles Adoor Bhasi excelled in his pivotal character role. Lilly Chakravarthy and Madhu also came up with impressive performances.
Six songs written by Yusuf Ali Kecheri were set to tune by Baburaj. ‘Kannonnu thurakkoo…' ( S. Janaki-P. Leela), ‘Kanninu kannaya Kanna…' (Latha), ‘Vinnile kaavil pularumbol…' (Janaki), ‘Aadanumariyam…' (Janaki), ‘Mookamam adharam…' (Mahendra Kapoor), and ‘Kanneeraloru puzhayundaakki….' (Janaki) became very popular.
Will be remembered: As the first directorial venture of actor Madhu, as the Malayalam debut of Mahendra Kapoor, the only Malayalam film of actress Lilly Chakravarthy and for bagging two state awards in 1970 for best editing (Hrishikesh Mukherji) and second best film of the year.

Aswamedham (1967)

Sathyan, Sheela and Prem Nazir in a scene from the film Aswamedham
Sathyan, Sheela and Prem Nazir in a scene from the film Aswamedham

Indian cinema owes much to theatre. The first sound film produced in India, ‘Aalam Aara' (1931) was screen adaptation of a popular Parsi play of the same title authored by Joseph David. In the South, the Tamil film ‘Kaalava' (1932), based on the play ‘Kaalavarishi,' authored by Pammal Sambandham Mudhaliyaar was the first similar attempt.
Several plays by Thoppil Bhasi were successfully adapted for the screen. ‘Aswamedham' (1962) was one written by him and staged by KPAC.
‘Aswamedham' attempted to break the taboos associated with leprosy. This play was made into a film by Supriya Pictures. Producer Hari Pothen went through a lot of problems like delay of release. But the film became a hit.
There was confusion even during the production. The director, A. Vincent and the producer disagreed on the choice of the hero. Hari Pothen was not in favour of casting Sathyan, while Vincent insisted on having him in the lead role. There were other problems like disagreement over the remuneration to be paid to Sathyan, getting rights from KPAC etc. But all this was resolved and once the film was released quickly forgotten.
The leprosy sanatorium at Nooranad was the main location. This was the first Malayalam film that focused on how the society spreads false information on a disease like leprosy.
Sarojam (Sheela), the daughter of Kesava Swamy (P. J. Antony) is in love with Mohan (Prem Nazir). Their marriage is called off when Sarojam contracts leprosy. Sarojam is admitted to the sanatorium. Doctor Thomas, (Sathyan) takes up the responsibility of treating her. Within six months Sarojam is cured and discharged from the sanatorium. Sarojam reaches home. Preparations for the marriage of her younger sister Sarala (Indira Thampi) with a friend of Sadanandan (Madhu), Sarojam's brother is on. But no one in the family believes that her disease has been cured.
Sarojam is asked to leave the house. The family fear that Sarala's marriage would be called off once the bridegroom's family comes to know about Sarojam's disease. Sarojam approaches Mohan hoping that he would accept her. But he refuses to believe that she is cured. The attitude of the society towards leprosy makes her change her mind. She joins the sanatorium and dedicates her life to the service of the patients.
The songs written by Vayalar Rama Varma and set to tune by G. Devarajan became hits. The songs set to definite ragas, ‘Ezhu sundara raathrikal…' (Mohanam), ‘Udayagiri chuvannu…' (Khamas), ‘Karutha chakravala …' (Suddha Saveri), all by P. Susheela, ‘Oridathu jananam oridathu maranam…' (K. J. Yesudas-Natabhairavi) and the ‘pulluvan paattu' ‘Thekkumkoor adiyathi…' sung by B.Vasantha are still fresh.
Will be remembered: As a film with a strong moral that was conveyed effectively. Also for its songs.

Jwala (1969)

Prem Nazir, Kottarakkara Sreedharan Nair, Adoor Bhasi, Manavalan Joseph, Kaduvakkulam Antony, Sarada, Sheela, Aranmula Ponnamma, Pankajavalli etc.

Impersonation in crime and murder investigation was a technique adopted in thrillers both in fiction and on screen. Hindi films like Shakti Samanta’s China Town (1962), a box office hit of 1960s, was one such film that followed this trend. This was picked up in the South too. Puthiya Paravai (Tamil-1964) produced by Sivaji Ganesan was inspired by the British film Chase a Crooked Shadow (1958) directed by Michael Anderson. It was the unusual success of the Bengali movieShesh Anka (1963) based on this same movie that prompted Sivaji Ganesan to go for a Tamil remake.

The Malayalam film Jwala released on August 26, 1969, produced by Kunchacko under the banner of XL Productions also followed the crime investigation technique adapted in these films. Directed by M. Krishnan Nair and shot at Udaya Studios, the film stood out for its brilliant music composed by G. Devarajan. The dialogues were by S. L. Puram Sadanandan for the story by Kanam E. J.
Saraswathi Amma (Aranmula Ponnamma) and Bhavani Amma (Pankajavalli) are neighbours. Saraswathi Amma’s son Ravi (Prem Nazir) is in love with Bhavani Amma’s daughter Rajamma (Sheela) and their marriage is fixed. But the marriage does not take place. The reason was that Saraswathi Amma’s spendthrift husband had borrowed a huge amount of money before his death and their property was confiscated a day before the wedding. Bhavani Amma refuses to marry her daughter to Ravi.
Saraswathi Amma, for the sake of family honour, gets Ravi married to Kunjomana (Sarada), her brother Neelakantan Pillai's (Kottarakkara Sreedharan Nair) daughter on the same date. Disappointed and depressed, Rajamma refuses to accede to Bhavani Amma’s request to accept other marriage proposals. Saraswathi Amma dies. Before her death she files a case against the confiscation of the family property. The court decides in her favour.

Bhavani Amma repents on her deeds. Kunjomana gives birth to a child. Bhavani Amma now pretends to be a well-wisher of Ravi’s family. Ravi and Kunjomana blindly believe her. Bhavani Amma accompanies Ravi and Kunjomana on their journey to Guruvayoor. Kunjomana dies in an accident. Rajamma now takes care of Ravi’s child and soon the old lovers get married.

Kunjomana's ghost appears before Ravi and Rajamma on the first night itself. The apparition continues to haunt them. The village astrologer says that the ghost has come to see her child. To get rid of the ghost, Bhavani Amma plans to kill the child and engages a man for it. The child is kidnapped. Suspicious over the behaviour of his mother-in-law, Ravi decides to investigate the kidnapping and Kunjomana's death. The investigation unfolds the story behind the death of Kunjomana and the case of the missing child. Bhavani pushes Kunjomana from a hilltop when Ravi was not around. Neelakanta Pillai, who was suspicious about the death of his daughter, reveals that the ghost was none other than his younger daughter, who resembles her sister and was pretending to be a ghost. The film ends happily with the news that the child is safe.

Sarada impressed in the double role. Also striking were the comic interludes involving Kaduvakkulam Antony and Manavalan Joseph.

Five songs written by Vayalar Rama Varma and set to music by Devarajan turned instant hits.Kudamullappoovinum Malayalippenninum… (K.J.Yesudas-B.Vasantha), Jwala jwala njan oru dukhajwala… (P. Susheela), Vadhu varanmare…, (the happy version sung by Susheela and the sad one by Vasantha) and Tharakappoovanam arinjilla…(Yesudas- Susheela) have stood the test of time.

Will be remembered: As a successful crime-suspense thriller and for its excellent music.

Ammu (1965)

Sathyan, Madhu, Ambika, Prem Nawaz, Adoor Bhasi,Sukumari etc.

Chavittikuzhacha Mannu , a stage play written by Pulaakkattu Achutha Warrier, popularly known as P.A.Warrier in 1958, won the award for the best drama at the All Kerala Drama Festival held the same year at Trichur. The play was staged successfully at all the main centres in Kerala and various parts of the country. In 1965, it was made into a film titled Ammu by M. Kesavan under the banner of Vasanthi Chithra. Warrier wrote the script and dialogues for the film. But the film was a ‘poor’ performer at the box office. The box office failure of screen versions of successful stage plays was not new.

The screen versions of exceptionally successful plays like Puthiya Akasam Puthiya Bhoomi(1962) and Atom Bomb (1964) are examples. The change in the title of the drama for its film version is attributed as a reason, to some extent, for the failure by some film critics.

The emotional family drama was reminiscent of Norwegian playwright Henrik Isben’s social dramas. Directed by N. N. Pisharady, the film was shot at Venus and Prakash Studios. Some of the songs tuned by M. S. Baburaj became hits.

A multi-starrer, Ammu had popular artistes like Sathyan, Madhu, Prem Nawaz, Adoor Bhasi, Ambika and Sukumari acting in it .

Shekharan (Sathyan) lives in a remote village in Kerala with his brother Bhasi (Madhu) and sister Sarada (Sujatha). The peaceful family atmosphere is thrown out of gear with the entry of Achumman (Adoor Bhasi), a distant relative of the family.

Bhasi and Sarada who loved Shekharan’s wife Ammu (Ambika) as a mother now turn against her because of the tricks played by Achumman.

Soon after, Shekharan leaves the family with his wife and daughter Thankam (Baby Saru) and they take refuge in Ammu’s house.

But ill fate follows Ammu to her home. Kalyani Amma (P. K. Saraswathi) is not happy with her elder daughter Ammu who is married to a poor farmer. Kalyani Amma is fond of her younger daughter Saroja (Sukumari) who is married to a rich man. Her brother Appu (Prem Nawaz) also supports their mother. Quite helpless, Ammu continues at her home facing all humiliation.

Though her father Sankunni Nair (Premji) loves Ammu and her family, he was helpless before his wife. Shekharan is humiliated by Kalyani Amma in public during the marriage of her youngest daughter. This forces Shekaran to leave his in-law’s home with his wife and daughter.

The split between Shekharan and Bhasi results in partition of family assets. Shekharan moves to his portion of the land and builds his home there. With the support of other farmers in the village, Shekharan becomes a very successful farmer.

He succeeds in developing irrigation facilities of agricultural land in the village. By this time Bhasi had become a drunkard in the company of the wicked Achumman and loses all his wealth.
Sankunni Nair is unable to bear the separation of his beloved daughter Ammu and grand daughter Thankam. On a rainy and stormy night, he leaves home to meet his grand daughter.

Kalyani Amma repents for her cruelty towards Ammu. Bhasi, repenting his actions, also reaches Shekharan’s house. Shekharan and Ammu receive all of them happily, and the family drama reaches a happy ending.

Sathyan and Ambika impressed the audience with their natural acting. Deviating from his comic roles, Adoor Bhasi performed the villainous character quite impressively.
Eight songs written by Yusuf Ali Kechery were composed by Baburaj. Thedunnathaare ee shoonyathayil …. (S. Janaki) was an instant hit. Other hits include, Mayakkara manivarna … (P. Leela),Ambili mama va va …. (P.Susheela), Konji konji paattu paadum ….. (K. P. Udayabhanu, Janaki), andAattinakkare aalin kombile ... (Thankam).

Will be remembered: For some of the songs, especially for Thedunnathaare ee Shoonyathayil …. (Janaki) and as a good family drama.