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 .