The concept of the anti-hero became a trend in Indian cinema with the unusual success of the Hindi film Kismet (1943) produced by Bombay Talkies. Ashok Kumar played a pickpocket in the film which was probably inspired by John Cromwell’s Algiers (1938). Premapaasam (Tamil, 1956), Bhale Ramudu (Telugu, 1956) and Kanaka Chilanka (Malayalam, 1966) were remakes of Kismet. Similar films with the anti-hero concept followed in various languages. O. P. Ralhan’sPhool Aur Patthar (1966) with Dharmendra in the lead, and its Tamil remake Oli Vilakku (1968) with MGR as the anti-hero were huge hits.
After nearly a decade the same story was remade in Malayalam as Puthiya Velicham, which was released on October 12, 1979. The unusual success of this action-packed film has been attributed to Jayan’s performance in the negative role.
Produced by Subramaniam Kumar for Sastha Productions, the film was directed by Sreekumaran Thampi, who also wrote the script, dialogues and lyrics. The colour film was shot at Vahini, Arunachalam, Prakash and Balaji Gardens. Cinematography by N.A. Thara, editing by Narayanan and music by Salil Chaudhary were commendable.
Jayan, Jose Prakash, Sankaradi, Jagathi Sreekumar, Sreevidya, Jayabharathi and Meena played significant roles in the film.
The story focussed on widow remarriage pivoting around the life of a thief. Circumstances force Venu (Jayan) to turn into a criminal. He falls prey to a blackmailer, Johnson (Jose Prakash) who uses his hotel as a cover for all his fraudulent activities. Venu is in love with Lilly (Jayabharathi) a dancer in this hotel.
Venu then meets Lakshmi (Sreevidya) in a mansion which he breaks into. A widow, Lakshmi has been locked up inside the mansion by her husband’s parents. Suffering from typhoid, Lakshmi is looked after by Venu. Timely medical care saves her life and she leaves the mansion.
Lakshmi’s in-laws, Panicker (Sankaradi) and Maheswari (Meena) return from Madras and find that their house has been looted. Lakshmi is accused of the crime. She is beaten up and her brother-in-law Balan (Vijay Raj) attempts to molest her. Venu reaches in time to save Lakshmi. And when she is thrown out of the house Venu gives her refuge. Lakshmi succeeds in reforming Venu. He begins to work as a labourer and promises Lakshmi that he would never go back to his criminal ways.
In his attempt to save a young girl from fire Venu sustains severe burn injuries. Lakshmi’s loving care brings him back to full health.
Now, Johnson sets a trap to bring Venu back to his fold. He sends his men to Lakshmi with the false news that Venu is injured in an accident. Lakshmi rushes to meet Venu but is accosted by Johsnon who attempts to rape her. She is saved by the timely intervention of Lilly. In the ensuing fight, Lilly is shot dead by Johnson. The police appear on the scene and arrest Johnson. The film ends with the marriage of Venu and Lakshmi.
The film made full use of Jayan’s macho image putting him through numerous fight sequences. Sreevidya also did well in her role.
Deviating from his usual character roles, Thikkurissi Sukumaran Nair as Lohithaksha Bhagavathar did full justice to his comic role. Jagathy Sreekumar as a pick pocket, ‘Parippuvada’ Kuttappan, Sreelatha as his lover and Poojappura Ravi as a doctor created moments of laughter.
The songs written by Sreekumaran Thampi and set to tune by Salil Chaudhary became hits. Most of them were repetitions of his Bengali film and non film tunes. Jhil jhil jhil chilampanangi…. (P.Jayachandran-P. Susheela) was a direct copy of the tune that he used for the Bengali film Pasher Bari (1953). Other songs like Aaraattu kadavil… (Jayachandran), Aaraaro swapnajalakam… (Ambili),Manasse nin ponnambalam…. (S. Janaki), Poovirinjallo athil… (K.J. Yesudas) turned very popular.
Will be remembered: A a good entertainer with a message on widow re-marriage; for Jayan’s performance and for its songs.