Udaya Studios, established by producer-director Kunchacko, introduced several heroines from other South Indian languages to Malayalam cinema. He even changed their names, Rajashree became Gracy in Bharya (1962), Sharada became Rahel in Inapravukal (1965), and Rushyendramani of early Telugu cinema was introduced as Sree Ramani in Palaattu Koman(1962). In 1965, Kunchacko introduced A.B. Shanthi ( Vennira Adai Nirmala in Tamil) as Ushakumari in Kaattu Thulasi , which was released on July 9, 1965. Following the success of the film Ushakumari became a busy star in Malayalam.
Directed by M. Krishnan Nair, and shot at Udaya Studios, the film had dialogues by Thoppil Bhasi for a story developed by the Udaya team. Ghost stories were a trend in 1960s. Hindi films likeBees Saal Baad (1962), Woh Kaun Thi , Kohra(1964) were all films of this genre and did well in Kerala. The success of these ‘musical hits’ must have prompted Kunchacko to produce a Malayalam film of this kind.
Popular artistes like Sathyan, Kottarakkara Sreedharan Nair and Adoor Bhasi starred in the film besides the two new faces Sharada (Rahel in title cards) and Ushakumari. Sharada was introduced to Malayalam cinema through Inapravukal released in April the same year. Music by M.S. Baburaj was the highpoint of the film.
The story revolves around a tea estate in the mountain slopes of Kerala. Shekhara Pillai (Kottarakkara Sreedharan Nair) is a planter. His son Chandran (Sathyan), who returns to the tea estates after his higher studies, falls in love with an estate labourer Thulasi (Ushakumari). Shekhara Pillai is against this as he wants his son to marry an educated girl from a rich family. But Chandran is firm and makes it clear that he will marry only Thulasi. A myna gifted to Chandran by Thulasi is first killed by Shekhara Pillai as an indication of his protest against his son’s love affair.
Chandran leaves the estate on a business tour. Taking the advantage of the situation, Shekhara Pillai engages his goons to kill Thulasi. The helpless girl is pushed off a mountain top. News spreads about Thulasi’s ‘accidental death’. But Thulasi was lucky.
She falls on to a haystack and escapes without injuries. The tribals who find her, takes her to their colony.
Chandran returns and hears the shocking news. He loses his mental balance. Shekhara Pillai conducts the marriage of Chandran with Lalitha (Sharada).
Lalitha nurses Chandran as advised by the doctors. Every night Thulasi, accompanied by her pet dog, comes to the estate to see Chandran. People believe that this is Thulasi’s ghost.
Lalitha is determined to unfold the mystery behind all this.
She succeeds and comes to know of the circumstances that led to Thulasi’s ‘disappearance.’ Lalitha brings Thulasi to Pillai’s estate bungalow. Chandran is stunned see his beloved alive.
Chandran dies of a heart attack. Thulasi, who believed that she was the cause of Chandran’s death, commits suicide by jumping down from the mountain top. Lalitha’s attempt to save her fails.
All the songs written by Vayalar Rama Varma and tuned by Baburaj became hits. Songs likeSooryakaanthi sooryakaanthi …(S. Janaki), Gangayaar ozhukunna naattil … (P. Susheela), Thulasi Thulasi vili kelkoo …(P.B. Sreenivas), Velli chilanka aninjum kondoru … (K.J. Yesudas-Jikki), andMaina maina manjadikkili …(Yesudas- Jikki) are still remembered.
Will be remembered: As the debut Malayalam film of Ushakumari and for the excellent music, especially the classic S. Janaki song Sooryakaanthi, sooryakaanthi …