Valarthumrugangal, released on May 29, 1981, was based on a short story of the same title written by M.T. Vasudevan Nair which was first published in December, 1954. The story also won an award in a national-level competition conducted the magazine where it was published. In an interview the author had stated that the story was written after watching a circus show at Palakkad and understanding the hardships faced by the artistes. The film portrays the bitter side of life in a circus camp. Humans are just valarthumrugangal or pet animals, treated worse than the animals in a circus.
Produced by K.C. Joy for Priyadarshini Movies, and directed by Hariharan, the script, dialogues and songs were by M.T. Vasudevan Nair. Mention also should be made of Mehli Irani’s cinematography and editing by G. Venkitaraman.
Circus was the main theme of many earlier films like S.S. Vasan’s Tamil-Hindi bilingualChandralekha (1948), P.Bhaskaran’s Malayalam film Nair Pidicha Pulivaal (1958), and Raj Kapoor’s Mera Naam Joker (1970). But none of these films trained the camera on the lives of the circus artistes. Probably, Valarthumrugangalwas first film to do this.
Thikkurissi Sukumaran Nair, popular Tamil actor Nagesh, K.P. Ummer, Sukumaran, Ratheesh, Nandita Bose, Madhavi played important roles in the film. The music composed by M.B. Sreenivasan was impressive.
Kumaran (Balan K. Nair) the owner of a circus company was virtually thrown to the streets when his company was destroyed in a cyclone while performing in Nasik. He now earns a living by performing on the streets. Grand Malabar Circus, owned by Madhavan (Thikkurissi Sukumaran Nair), who once worked with Kumaran in a circus company, sets up camp in the city where Kumaran now performs. Some members of Kumaran’s group, Nanu (Nagesh), Lakshmi (Nandita Bose), Janu (Madhavi) and Chandran (Ratheesh) join Grand Malabar Circus.
Janu and Chandran were children when they joined the Circus company. Lakshmi was degraded as a “helper” when she crossed her youth. Janu became an efficient trapeze artist and became the “Star” of the Circus Company. Madhavan’s nephew Gopi (K P Ummer) takes charge of the Circus Company when Madhavan leaves to the native place. Lakshmi dies of prolonged illness and lack of proper medical care. Kumaran and Nanu leaves the Circus Company unable to withstand the discrimination and humiliation by the management.
One day Gopi attempts to molest Janu . Chandran saves Janu and Gopi is beaten by him severely. Chandran is dismissed from the job and he leaves the Company. Chandran who was in love with Janu invites her to accompany him, but she stays back.
The newly joined Bike rider Bhaskaran (Sukumaran) is fascinated by Janu and slowly she falls in love with him. He raises voice against exploitation of the artists in the Company and fights for better work conditions. But the fate was cruel. Bhaskaran dies in a simulated accident while performing “Jeep Jump” in the Circus show . Janu becomes “helpless” , nobody to support her, protect her . Unable to resist, she surrenders to Gopi’s desires. Chandran comes back to take her with him. Janu who is “spoiled” now, refuses to go with Chandran who was once her sincere lover. Janu loses her mental balance. She falls down from the trapeze while performing the show and breaks her arm . Janu who was once the “Star” performer of the Circus Company is now degraded as “Helper” since she is unable to perform. Janu leaves the Circus Company. She joins the ‘Street Circus “ that Kumaran and Nanu were performing in the streets.
Madhavi, Balan K Nair and Nagesh excelled in their roles. Madhavi won the Kerala State Film award for the best supporting actress. The film dispensed with usual hilarious comedy scenes. The bleak melodrama failed at the box office.
This is one and the only film for which M T Vasudevan Nair wrote songs. M B Sreeenivasan composed music. “Kaakkaalan Kaliyachan…. “ (Yesudas) and “ Shubha Rathri Shubha Rathri….. “ (Yesudas) became popular. Other hits include “ OrumuriKannadiyilonnu…. “ (Janaki) and “ Karmathin Paathakal… “ (Yesudas).
A realistic story of the life in a circus camp.
One and the only film for which M T Vasudevan Nair wrote songs.
Kerala State Film Award for the best supporting actress (Madhavi).