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KOCHI: Released on February 27, 1970, Olavum Theeravum is considered as the first film to have introduced an art-house new Indian cinema aesthetics to Kerala. Independently produced by P.A. Backer, who later turned director, under the banner of Charuchithra, the film was directed by P.N. Menon. Breaking with Malayalam cinema’s studio and stage bound conventions; excellent cinematography by Mankada Ravi Varma was the high point of this film. He was awarded the Kerala State film award for best cinematography. The film was completely shot at outdoor locations. Art direction by S. Konnanat and editing by Ravi also stood out.
The film was based on a short story by M.T. Vasudevan Nair of the same title, published in an anthology of short stories in 1957. The classic script and unusual dialogue style evoking the local accents of Nilambur, in Malappuram, was impressively written by MT. Olavum Theeravumwas adjudged the best feature film and MT the best script writer at the Kerala State film awards that year. The tragic realism in this art-house movie, which was also a commercial hit, later became a definitive formula for a whole generation of Malayalam directors, including P.A. Backer.
Madhu, Nellikkodu Bhaskaran, Jose Prakash, Usha Nandini and Philomina essayed prominent roles. Noted stage actor Pariyanampatta Kunjunni Namboodirippad appeared in a guest role. Music composed by M.S. Baburaj followed the folk tradition of Maappilapattu.
Timber traders Bapputty (Madhu) and Abdu (Nellikkodu Bhaskaran) are friends. Ashamed of his mother Beevathu’s (Philomina) immoral life after his father’s death, Abdu runs away from his native village Vazhakkadavu and is engaged in timber trading. Abdu never returns to his home after that. On the way to the trading centre after loading timber from the forest Abdu falls ill and dies on the way. Bapputty reaches Beevathu’s hut with Abdu’s dead body. Bapputty takes pity on the family and decides to support them.
Here, Bapputty falls in love with Abdu’s only sister Nabeesa (Usha Nandini) who also hates her mother’s way of life but is helpless. Bapputty takes a decision to make enough money, marry Nabeesa and live happily. He leaves the village to distant timber depots to realise this dream.
Meanwhile, a rich trader Kunjali (Jose Prakash) who was away from his native village for a long time now returns. His sees Nabeesa and makes advances. Beevathu, who only thinks of making money, encourages Nabeesa to befriend Kunjali, but she avoids going anywhere near him. She keeps waiting for Bapputty to return and take her away. One day, with Beevathu’s support Kunjali molests Nabeesa. On that fateful day Bapputty reaches the village and is heartbroken at the happenings. But the kind-hearted Bapputty who loved Nabeesa sincerely, affirms his decision to marry her. Nabeesa refuses and pleads with him to leave her. The film ends with Nabeesa’s suicide and Bapputty staring at her swollen corpse washed ashore as he leaves the village.
Madhu and Philomina excelled in their roles. In fact, Beevathu is considered as one of the best performances of Philomina, which fetched her a State award for the second best actress of the year.
The songs written by P. Bhaskaran and set to tune by Baburaj were haunting. Kavililulla marivillinu…(P.Leela), Idaykkonnu chirichum…(S.Janaki), Manimaran thannathu…(K.J. Yesudas-Machattu Vasanthi) and a traditional Mappila song Oyye enikkundu…(C.A. Aboobacker) were very popular.
Will be remembered: As a film that won State awards for best feature film, best cinematography (Mankada Ravi Varma), script (M.T. Vasudevan Nair) and second best actress (Philomina). And also for its haunting music.