Monday, July 20, 2015

Cheenavala (1975)

When love prevailsPrem Nazir and Jayabharathi in a still from ‘Cheenavala’
When love prevailsPrem Nazir and Jayabharathi in a still from ‘Cheenavala’
Cheenavala , released on December 24, 1975, was Udaya Studio’s Christmas gift for the Malayali audience. A huge box office hit, the story pivots around the life of fishermen living on the banks of Vembanad Lake who depend on Cheenavala or Chinese fishing nets for their livelihood.
Shot at Udaya Studios, the film was produced and directed by M. Kunchacko for XL Productions. The story, dialogues and script by Sarangapani were complimented by breathtaking cinematography by Balu Mahendra. The film was edited by T.R. Shekhar and M.K. Arjunan scored the music.
Prem Nazir, Thikkurissi Sukumaran Nair, Sankaradi, Adoor Bhasi, Jayabharathi, Meena, and KPAC Lalitha played important roles in the film.
Rana (Thikkurissi Sukumaran Nair), Konthi (Sankaradi) and Pappu (Adoor Bhasi) are fishermen living on the banks of Vembanad and jointly involved in fishing using the Cheenavala. They dream of educating and bringing up their children as doctors and engineers. Rana strikes fortune and soon becomes a millionaire. Konthi and his wife Manikkya (KPAC Lalitha) wanted their son Pushkaran (Prem Nazir) to marry Pappu’s daughter Pennaal (Jayabharathi). Pappu and his wife Paru (Meena) were only happy for this alliance as Pennaal and Pushkaran knew each other from childhood.

After his school education, Pushkaran studies photography. Rana’s son Prathapachandran (K.P. Ummer) becomes attracted to Pennaal and expresses his desire to marry her. Rana’s wealth and position bring about a change in Pappu and Paru. They break the word given to Konthi regarding the marriage of their children and decide to give Pennaal’s hand in marriage to Prathapachandran.
To keep Pushkaran away from the village Prathapachandran sends him to the forests in Wayanad asking him to shoot pictures of the wildlife there. He sends his man Pachan (Janardhanan) as an escort with orders to kill Pushkaran.

The tribals in Wayanad inform Pushkaran about a pregnant tigress on the mountain slopes. Pushkaran decides to shoot this rare scene and climbs a tree for a good vantage point. Prathapachandran, who reaches Wayanad, climbs a nearby hilltop to keep a watch on Pushkaran. Meanwhile, Pachan has second thoughts and becomes friends with Pushkaran. Now, rather unexpectedly a tiger jumps on Pushkaran. He engages the animal in a brave fight. Prathapachandran switches on his camera and shoots the scene instead of aiming his pistol at the tiger and trying to save Pushkaran. The tiger drags Pushkaran into the depths of the jungle.

Prathapachandran spreads the news of Pushkaran’s death. He sells the rare visual of Pushkaran’s fight with the tiger to channels for an exorbitant price. On seeing this film Pennaal suffers a mental breakdown. Everyone believes Pushkaran to be killed by the tiger. Arrangements for Prathapachandran’s marriage with Pennaal are made. On the day of the wedding Pushkaran reaches the venue with Pachan, much to the surprise of all gathered there. Pushkaran had managed to escape from the tiger and was taken care of by the tribals. He reached there on hearing the news of Pennaal’s marriage. The film ends on a happy note with the wedding of Pennaal and Pushkaran.

Balu Mahendra’s brilliant cinematography turned the film into a visual treat. Prem Nazir and Jayabharathi were at their romantic best. The comic track involving Kuthiravattom Pappu, Kunjan and Pattom Sadan created moments of laughter.

Vayalar Rama Varma’s lyrics and Arjunan’s tunes made the film a musical hit. Songs like Thalir valayo thamara valayo … (K.J. Yesudas), Poonthurayil Arayande … (P. Susheela), Kanyadanam ….(Yesudas-B.Vasantha) and Aazhimukhathu … (Yesudas) turned huge hits.
Will be remembered : For its cinematography and for the music, especially for the song Thalir valayo …

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Kannur Deluxe (1969)

Adoor Bhasi and Prem Nazir in Kannur Deluxe
Special Arrangement
Adoor Bhasi and Prem Nazir in Kannur Deluxe

‘This time it is solely intended to entertain you for two and half hours’, is what the title cards of the Malayalam film Kannur Deluxe, released on May 16, 1969, said. And this box office hit proved to be just that.
Produced by T.E. Vasudevan under the banner of Jayamaruthi, and directed by A.B. Raj, the film was shot at Vahini, Arunachalam, and Newton Studios. Popular director I.V. Sasi worked as assistant director, SL Puram Sadanandan wrote the dialogues for the story written by T.E. Vasudevan under the pseudonym V. Devan.
The story pivots on a theft that occurs in a bus and it is said that the modus operandi adopted to apprehend the thief was based on a real incident that took place at Cherthala in Alappuzha district.
AVM’s romantic Hindi film Chori Chori (1956) starring Raj Kapoor and Nargis was derived from Frank Capra’s Hollywood film It Happened One Night (1934). A trendsetter, a major part of the film was shot in a public transport bus. Not only romantic films like Chori Chori, but crime and suspense thrillers like the Tamil film Madras to Pondicherry (1966) were successful Road Movies. Kannur Deluxe falls under this genre.
Most of the scenes in Kannur Deluxe were shot inside the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) bus called Kannur Deluxe, a service that was started in 1967 and is still on.
Editing by T R Sreenivasalu, cinematography by T.N. Krishnankutty, and music by V. Dakshinamoorthy were the highpoints of the film.
Prem Nazir, K.P. Ummer, G.K. Pillai, N. Govindankutty, Adoor Bhasi, Kottayam Chellappan, Nellikodu Bhaskaran, Sheela etc. played significant roles.
Jayasree (Sheela) runs away from her home to avoid getting married to an old man. In Thiruvananthapuram she is harassed by some city wastrels and seeks refuge in K.B. Pillai’s (G K Pillai) house. Pillai, a businessman, takes pity on her and appoints her in his office. His son Venugopal (K.P. Ummer) takes a liking for her.
Pillai sends Jayasree to Kozhikode with two bundles of currency notes worth Rs. 25,000 rupees to be paid to his partners KBS Nair (Govindankutty) and Abdul Kader (Abbas) as part of the profit share. One of the bundles comprised counterfeit currency notes. She is instructed to hand over the money to Abdul Kader at the Kozhikode bus stand. Jayasree travels by Kannur Deluxe.
On the way, she finds that the bag containing the money is replaced by a similar bag. When alerted, the Conductor (Nellikodu Bhaskaran) finds one passenger missing. He immediately takes the driver’s seat, reverses, changes the destination board to Thiruvananthapuram and speeds in that direction.
Gopalakrishnan (Jose Prakash), who had stolen Jayasree’s bag, gets into the bus without knowing that it is the same bus from where he had alighted and is arrested by the police at Kayamkulam. The police find the fake currency, but cleverly hands over the entire money to Jayasree.
A mentally challenged Namboodiri (Prem Nazir) and his escort Chandu (Adoor Bhasi) get into the bus from Kayamkulam. The bus reaches Kozhikode. But Abdul Kader does not come to collect the money. Jayasree goes to KBS Nair’s office. On the way she is attacked by Dineshan (Kottayam Chellappan) who has been sent by Nair to track her. Namboodiri and Chandu come to her rescue. K.B. Pillai reaches Nair’s office at Kozhikode. The police also reach the office to arrest Jayasree.
And now for the climax. Namboodiri and Chandu reveal their true identities. They are police officers deputed to investigate cases related to fake currency and Jayasree is an officer from the Central Intelligence Department. KBS Nair, K.B. Pillai and Abdul Kader are arrested.
Prem Nazir and Adoor Bhasi were impressive, while Sankaradi as Kamath, the Konkani speaking Brahmin, stood out in a cameo role.
Songs written by Sreekumaran Thampi and set to music by Dakshinamoorthy based on Carnatic ragas turned timeless hits. Songs like Thaippooya kavadiyattam… (K.J. Yesudas) based on Mohanam,Marakkaan kazhiyumo…(Kamukara Purushothaman) in Neelambari, the Kalyani-based Ethra chirichalum… (Yesudas) and Thulli odum pulli maane… (P.Jayachandran) in Sarasangi are still popular. Some of the other songs in the film like Varumallo raavil… (S. Janaki), Kannundaayathu ninne kaanaan… (P.B. Sreenivas-P.Leela) and the Qawwali En muhabath enthoru… (Yesudas-Sreenivas-Janaki) also became hugely popular.
Will be remembered: As a good entertainer and probably the first Road Movie in Malayalam. And for its lovely songs.