Stories and legends behind the temples in India have been a staple source of themes for Indian cinema, especially in the South. Films on famous temples such as the Meenakshi temple at Madurai, Muruga temple at Pazhani, Balaji temple at Thirupathi, Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala, Sreekrishna temple at Guruvayoor etc were box office hits. Films were produced repeatedly on most of these temples. Malayalam film Devi Kanyakumari, released on August 30, 1974, was probably the only one produced exclusively on the presiding deity of the temple located in Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu. A huge hit at the box office, its Tamil dubbed version was also successful.
Produced and directed by P. Subramaniam under the banner of “Neela Productions”, the film was shot in colour at Merryland Studios and in locations surrounding the Kanyakumari temple. Dialogues written by Nagavalli R. S. Kurup impressed the audience. Cinematography by U. Rajagopal with Masthan and editing by Gopalakrishnan were commendable. Dances choreographed by Thankappan were a highlight of the film. Music composed by Devarajan became popular.
Popular artists from Tamil/Telugu/Malayalam cinema like Gemini Ganeshan, Kantha Rao (as Vishnu), P. K. Abraham, Thikkurissi Sukumaran Nair, Sathar , T. K. Balachandran, Rajasree, Santhi, Adoor Bhavani and Kaviyoor Ponnamma acted in the film. Vinodini, who acted in early Malayalam films as child actress, was cast as the heroine—as the Goddess Devi Kanyakumari.
The legends about the temple and some miracles played by the Goddess in the lives of her devotees are presented as flash back to the traditional folk art “Villadichaan Paattu” (a form of musical discourse) performed by the team led by S. P. Pillai and Kedamangalam Sadanandan.
The legend behind the Kanyakumari Devi temple dates back to the Dwapara Yuga in the vedic age in Hindu scriptures when Sree Krishna was born. The well known story of Kamsa’s (Thikkurissi Sukumaran Nair) campaign to kill his nephew Sree Krishna, his slayer according to the prophecy, is narrated in brief. Kamsa comes to the prison to kill the child born to his sister Devaki (Rajasree) and Vasudeva (Gemini Ganeshan). However, Krishna was replaced by the girl born to Yashoda. When Kamsa attempted to kill the girl, who was incarnation of Parvathi Devi, she escapes from his fist and disappears. The girl grows up to be Kanyakumari (Vinodini) whose mission was slaying of the demon Banasura (P. K. Abraham) who conquered the heavens and who could be killed only by an adolescent girl by virtue of a boon. Kanyakumari chooses the coastal area at the southern end of India (Kanyakumari town) as her abode.
Kanyakumari has immense devotion towards Lord Siva and their marriage was fixed. Lord Siva’s marriage procession started from Sucheendram but the marriage did not take place since the bridegroom could not reach the wedding venue in time due to the trick played by Narada (T. K. Balachandran). Banasura proposes to marry Kanyakumari, but is rejected by her. The furious demon is slaughtered by Kanyakumari in the ensuing fight. Kanyakumari takes an oath never to marry and to remain a kanya (virgin) and she reigns as the presiding deity of the temple at Kanyakumari (town named in her honour), blessing her devotees.
Miracles played by the goddess in the lives of her devotees follow the story of the formation of the temple. The episode of Kanyakumari rescuing her devotee (Kaviyoor Ponnamma) who got locked up in the temple unknowingly and feeding her was impressive. The goddess blessed her devotee Dasan Pillai (S. P. Pillai) to conduct the marriage of his daughter by giving ornaments promised as dowry. The fisherman (Vanchiyoor Madhavan Nair) whose family used to provide the rope for hoisting the flag during temple festival was saved by Kanyakumari when he got into a whirlpool in the sea while fishing.
Vinodini (daughter of dance master Guru Gopinath) impressed the audience by her fine acting and dances. Probably this was her only film as the heroine. The natural beauty of Kanyakumari was captured by the expert camera work and was an attraction of the film.
Songs written by Vayalar Rama Varma and set to tune by Devarajan became timeless hits. Instant hits were “Sucheendranatha Swayamvaramangalya ….”, “Kanna, Aalilakkanna ….” (both by Madhuri), and “ Sakthimayam Sivasakthimayam ….”(Yesudas). Other hits include “ Neelambujakshimaare ….” (Suseela Chorus), “ Devi Kanyakumari ….” (Yesudas, chorus).
Being the only film that exclusively focused on Kanyakumari temple.
For the music, especially for “ Sucheendranatha ….” and “ Kanna, Aalilakanna ….” (by Madhuri)