Popular Tamil actress Devika was introduced to Malayalam cinema through Kaattupookkal , released on March 9, 1965. The film was produced and directed by K Thankappan, the popular South Indian dance director for Giri Movies. Jayanthi and Sujatha were the other actresses introduced through this film. Noted novelist Ponkunnam Varkey wrote script and dialogues for a story developed by the crew of Giri Movies.
Madhu, Thikkurissi Sukumaran Nair, Kottayam Chellappan, O.Madhavan, Adoor Bhasi, Adoor Pankajam, Philomina were some of those who essayed important roles.
Doctor Johny (Madhu) qualifies for a scholarship for higher studies abroad. His mother Theyyamma (Philomina) decides to conduct his marriage with Mary (Jayanthi), the elder daughter of Lonachan (O.Madhavan). Their betrothal takes place. Before the wedding Theyyamma comes to know that Mary is not Lonachan’s own daughter, but an orphan brought up by him. His own daughter is the younger one, Annie (Devika). Johny’s marriage with Mary is cancelled. Mary commits suicide out of shame and disappointment. The mental shock makes Lonachan sick and bedridden. Annie goes to the nearby town to attend an interview for a job. Lonachan dies when Annie was out of town.
Annie stayed at a convent where she meets an inmate Venu (Master Suresh). She takes pity for this disabled boy and takes him home with her. Annie becomes amma (mother) for him. She starts an orphanage in her house and called it Kaattupookkal . Annie’s uncle Thomachan (Thikkurissi Sukumaran Nair) tries to marry off Annie with Thommikunju (Manavalan Joseph). But Annie refuses. Thomachan has an illicit relationship with Annamma (Sujatha), a servant in the orphanage and she becomes pregnant. Thomachan disowns her and Annamma leaves the place.
Johny returns home. He supports Annie’s orphanage. They fall in love. Once, while travelling together their car meets with an accident. Annie loses her eyesight. Johny takes her to Madras for a surgery. The operation is successful. At the hospital Annie meets Annamma. Annamma dies after giving birth to a child. Annie and Johny return home with Annamma’s new born baby.
Thomachan spreads rumours about Johny and Annie even saying that the child is theirs. Theyyamma curses Annie for spoiling the life of her son. Unable to withstand the false charges against her Annie commits suicide. Annamma’s brother (Nellikodu Bhaskaran) unfolds Thommachan’s cruelty. The film ends with the scene that shows Venu, accompanied by Johny, paying homage to Annie at her tomb.
The songs written by ONV Kurup were set to tune by Devarajan. Some of them like Manikya veenayumaayen… (K.J. Yesudas), Athappo chithirappooo … (P.Susheela), Deepam kaattuka neelaakasamey … (Susheela, Gomathi, L.R. Anjali), Kaattupookkal njangal …(P.Leela-chorus) andPuzhavakkil pullanimettil … (G. Devarajan, Leela, Anjali and chorus) are still popular.
Will be remembered : As the debut Malayalam film of Devika, Jayanthi and Sujatha, as the first film produced and directed by K. Thankappan, and for the music, especially for the memorable songMaanikya veenayumaayen …
The first film on a temple in Kerala was made in Tamil, K. Subramaniam’sAnanthasayanam (1942) that told the story of Lord Padmanabha, the presiding deity of the famous Padmanabhaswami Temple, in the erstwhile Travancore.
Sreeramulu Naidu’s Sabarimala Ayyappan (1961) was the first Malayalam film on the famous hill temple probably the first in the language on a Kerala temple. Producer and director P. Subramaniam, popular for his big-budget mythological films, some of them on the stories of temples, went on to make films in this genre like Sree Guruvayoorappan (1972) and Devi Kanyakumari (1974).
Swami Ayyappan, released on August 17, 1975, was produced by Subramaniam Religious Trust and shot at Merryland Studios and around the Sabarimala Temple. Directed by P Subramaniam, the dialogues were by Sreekumaran Thampi.
The film went on to win State awards in various categories like Best Cinematography (Masthan), Best Lyricist (Vayalar Rama Varma), Best Child Actor (Master Raghu) and Best Film with Popular Appeal and Aesthetic Value.
Subramaniam donated the proceeds from this super-hit film to the development of Sabarimala and to improve the facilities for pilgrims there.
Produced simultaneously in Malayalam and Tamil, popular stars from both languages were included in the star cast. Master Shekhar, Gemini Ganeshan, AVM Rajan, K. Balaji, V.K. Ramaswami, Manohar and others from Tamil, Thikkurissi Sukumaran Nair, P.K. Abraham, Hari, S.P. Pillai, Bahadur, Sreevidya, Unni Mary, Rani Chandra and others from Malayalam were part of this film.
The film was later dubbed in to other South Indian languages.
The myth behind the Sabarimala Temple is narrated to pilgrims assembled to witness theMakaravilakku by a devotee (Kedamangalam Sadanandan). The popular stories are shown in a flashback. Manikantan’s birth, adoption by the king of Pandalam, slaying of the demoness Mahishi by Manikantan, expedition to the jungle to get tiger’s milk to treat his mother, are all narrated with effective use of special effects.
Master Shekhar impressed in his role as Manikantan (Lord Ayyappa). Gemini Ganeshan (King of Pandalam), Sreevidya (Queen), P.K. Abraham (crooked minister), Balaji (Vavar), Thikkurissi (Manikantan’s Guru), Hari (Narada), AVM Rajan (Lord Shiva), Unni Mary (Mahishi), Lakshmi (Mohini) did justice to their roles.
The film opens with a song sequence with a visual of the pilgrims trekking the hills to the Sabarimala Temple.
After narrating the myths the film goes on to record some of the miracles that happened in the lives of some devotees.
The old and weak Sanku Pillai (S.P. Pillai) who is helped by a divine power to climb the mountain and complete his pilgrimage, Prabhakaran (Raghavan), a military officer, who, on his way home to begin his pilgrimage to the temple, is saved from a road accident, a little girl (Baby Sumathi), who, while travelling with her father (Vanchiyoor Madhavan Nair), to the temple is saved from a poisonous snake, the atheist Sankaralingam Mudaliyar (V.K. Ramaswami) of Madurai who is cured of his stomach ailment by the sacred ash from the temple are some of the side stories that make up the film.
A musical hit, the songs tuned by G. Devarajan turned huge hits.
Lyrics were by Vayalar Rama Varma and Sreekumaran Thampi. Harivarasanam…. (K.J. Yesudas) written by Kambakkudi Kulathoor Sreenivasa Iyer, composed in Madhyamavathi by Devarajan for this film, has now become part of the regular temple routine. This version is today sung when the temple is closed for the day. Paalazhi kadanjeduthoru….(P. Madhuri), Thedi varum kannukalil… (Ambili),Mannilum vinnilum… (Yesudas-Chorus), Kailasa shailadi natha,…(Sreekanth- P. Leela),Sabarimalayil thanka sooryodayam… (Yesudas), Swami saranam…(P. Jayachandran-Chorus) and the comic number Thummiyal therikkunna… (Jayachandran-Chorus) are all popular even today.
Will be remembered: As a good mythological film, for the many State awards the film won, and for the music.