V. Shantaram’s classic bilingual filmAadmi/Manoos (1939- Hindi/Marathi) deals with the issue of sex workers, its morality and social acceptance. Considered as one of the best social movies ever made, it was a commercial success too. Hindi films like Sadhna (1958) andDarpan (1970) also focussed on this issue. Early Malayalam films like Kanchana (1952) had the issue as a sub plot and Agniputhri (1967) pivoted around the life of a sex worker.
I. V. Sasi, one of the most popular directors, known for his experimental projects, attempted to focus on the theme of sex workers, one which most mainstream directors were scared to get into.
Avalude Ravukal, released on March 3, 1978, told the story of a sex worker. The story, script and dialogues were written by A. Sherif. Seema was introduced in a lead role for the first time in this movie. The film was produced by M.P. Ramachandran under the banner of Murali Movies. Cinematography was by Vipindas and editing by K. Narayanan. The music composed by A.T. Ummer was the highlight of the film. Dubbed versions of this film Her Nights (Hindi) and Avalin Iravukal (Tamil) also were successes at the box office.
The story pivots around Raji (Seema), a young sex worker, and three young men, two college students Babu (Ravikumar) who has a soft corner for her, Jayan (Sukumaran) and a school teacher Chandran (Soman).
Raji loses her parents early in life leaving the responsibility of bringing up her younger brother Sudhakaran (Master Raghu) on her shoulders. Circumstances force her to a life of a sex worker. She begins living with a slum dweller (Meena) with a cycle-rickshaw driver Damu (Kutiravattom Pappu) working as her ‘agent.’
Babu who stayed in a nearby hostel takes a fancy to Raji and she begins to visit him almost regularly. Babu’s friend Jayan, a drunkard, attempts to approach Raji but is prevented by Babu. News spreads about Babu’s relationship with Raji. Sudhakaran is a regular visitor to his teacher Chandran’s room. One day a beggar steals Chandran’s wrist watch through an open window. Sudhakaran is arrested by the police. He is beaten up by the cops. Sudhakaran dies after his release from police custody. The real thief is arrested and Chandran repents for what he had done. But Raji refuses to pardon him and rejects the support offered by him.
Karunakaran (Bahadur) decides to conduct the marriage of his son Babu with Radha (Usha Rani), daughter of Damodaran (Sankaradi) and brother of his wife Lakshmi (Kaviyoor Ponnamma). Karunakaran, accompanied by Damodaran and Radha, reach Babu’s hostel and are shocked to see Raji in his room. They came to know about Babu’s relations with Raji. Radha gets married to another man.
Jayan dies of liver related complications. On his death bed he advises Babu not to abandon Raji whose love for him is pure, though ‘impure’ in the eyes of the society. Raji gets gang raped but Chandran’s timely help saves her life.
Lakshmi comes to the town to meet Babu and Raji. She takes pity on Raji when she comes to know about her past and the circumstances that led her to become a sex worker. Lakshmi accepts her as her daughter-in-law and takes her home.
Seema impressed with her intelligent acting. The film had an adults only certification due to the subject and few suggestive scenes. Kuthiravattom Pappu and Bahadur deviated from their susual comic roles and excelled in the serious character roles.
Three songs written by Bichu Thirumala and composed by A.T. Ummer became super hits. The background score by Guna Singh was excellent. One of the songs, Ragendu kiranangal oli veeshiyilla…. (S. Janaki) was a direct copy of Rajesh Roshan’s composition Pal bhar mein ye kya ho gaya… (Latha Mangeshkar for the Hindi film Swami, 1977) . This was a rare instance where the copy became as popular as the original. The other songs Unni araareero… (Janaki) and Antharindriya daahangal… (K.J. Yesudas) also became very popular.
Will be remembered: As a social movie with a strong message; as Seema’s first film in a lead role and for its excellent music.