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.