The Hindi film Kismet (1943), produced by Bombay Talkies and directed by Gyan Mukherji was the first successful Indian film to cast a popular hero in a ‘negative’ role. The unusual success of this social film prompted producers and directors in the South to adapt screen stories with such ‘negative characters’ in pivotal roles. In Tamil, the Sivaji Ganeshan-starrer films Thirumbippaar (1953) and Andha Naal (1954) are examples. Both these films were huge hits. M.G. Ramachandran was cast in a negative role in the Tamil film Panakkari (1951), the film flopped. N. T. Rama Rao donned the role of Ravana in the Telugu mythological blockbuster Seetharama Kalyanam (1961). In the Telugu films Devatha (1941) and Swargaseema (1945), the superstar of early Telugu cinema, Chittoor V. Nagiah was cast in pivotal negative roles. And in the all-time Tamil hit Manthrikumari (1950) the negative character played by S. A. Natarajan became as popular as that of the hero played by MGR.
The success of such movies prompted Malayalam film producers to join the bandwagon. In Neela Productions’ Jailpully (1957) Prem Nazir was cast in a negative role. Sathyan did a similar role in Bharya (1962) and Adyakiranangal (1964).
Nizhalattam, released on July, 31, 1970, cast Prem Nazir, the eternal romantic hero of Malayalam cinema, as a ruthless villain. The film was a huge hit.
Apart from scripting and writing dialogues for films based on his published literary works, popular novelist and short story writer M. T. Vasudevan Nair wrote scripts and dialogues for stories developed by him specifically for films. Nagarame Nandi (1967) was the first in the series. Nizhalattam was another.
Produced by Hari Pothan for Supriya Films the film was shot at AVM Studios. One of the best directorial ventures of A. Vincent, the cinematography of this black and white classic was by A.Venkit and Surya Prakash. The music composed by G. Devarajan was highlight of the film.
This was the debut film of Sudheer. Nilambur Balan, Jose Prakash, Balan K. Nair, Govindankutty, Parur Bharathan, Devika, etc. acted in guest roles.
Karunakaran (Thikkurissi), a rich businessman has brought up his sons Raveendran (Prem Nazir) and Haridas (Sudheer) under strict control and discipline. His wife (Kaviyoor Ponnamma) always pretended to be seriously ill as a sort of protest against her husband’s relationship with his concubine (Devika). Unable to bear Karunakaran’s inhuman behaviour Haridas leaves home.
Karunakaran expires and Raveendran takes charge of his father’s business and vast assets. Addicted to wine and women Raveendran leads a vagrant life. He marries Santha (Sheela), daughter of a poor school teacher. Raveendran threatens Haridas who returns and manages to keep him under this thumb. Raveendran’s friends assemble in his home for parties and very often his home is virtually converted to a bar. Raveendran even attempts to molest Madhavi (Bhanumathi) the servant of the house. Unable to tolerate the misdeeds of his brother, Haridas leaves home along with his mother. Madhavi gives them shelter in her house.
Raveendran’s business goes bust and he loses all his wealth. He becomes bankrupt and even attempts to ‘sell’ his wife Santha to Chettiar (Nilambur Balan), one of his creditors. In her attempt to save herself from Chettiar, Santha falls down from the terrace of a building and dies. Raveendran is thrown out on the streets. The film points a finger at the evils of an unethical life.
Prem Nazir excelled in his negative role. The film dispensed with hilarious scenes. Kaviyoor Ponnamma and Sheela also impressed.
The songs written by Vayalar Rama Varma and composed by Devarajan became hits. Swargaputhri navarathri… (K. J. Yesudas), Yakshaganam muzhangi…. (P. Susheela), and Devadasi alla njaan… (L. R. Easwari) were the most popular of them. The other hits include Chillaattam parakkumee…. (P. Madhuri), Dhaliya pookkale chumbichu… (Susheela) and Indrajalakkara… (Easwari).
Will be remembered: As the debut film of Sudheer; as an unusual film with Prem Nazir in a negative role and for the excellent music, especially for the song Swargaputhri navarathri….