Monday, May 31, 2010

Anarkali (1966)

Love story Prem Nazir and K R Vijaya in the film, Anarkali

Produced and directed by M. Kunchacko under the banner of X L Productions, ‘Anarkali' was the Malayalam version of the much filmed 16th century Mughal romance of Prince Salim and his love for the slave girl Anarkali.

This story was made as a silent movie in 1928 under the title ‘Loves of a Mughal Prince'. Directed by the legendary Bengali actor and director Charu Roy, jointly with Prafulla Roy, the film was a box office hit. The same year R. S. Choudhary came up with another silent version of the love story ‘Anarkali' or ‘Monument of Tears.' In 1935 R. S. Choudhary came up with a talkie ‘Anarkali' (Hindi) with the glamour girl of the time Ruby Myers (screen name Sulochana) in the female lead.

In 1953 Filmstan produced the Hindi film ‘Anarkali,' directed by Nandlal Jaswantlal with Pradeep Kumar and Bina Rai in the lead roles. This version became a model for the future versions of the love story in various languages. Music composed by C. Ramachandra was excellent and the film created new records. The first South Indian language version ‘Anarkali' was made in 1955 simultaneously in Telugu and Tamil by Vedantam Raghaviah. With the romantic pair Nageswara Rao and Anjali Devi in the lead roles, the film was a musical hit with some beautiful music score by Adi Narayana Rao.

‘Mughal E Azam' (1960), the classic, mega budget Hindi film produced and directed by K. Asif is considered as the best film version of this immortal love story. The artists who performed the main characters immortalised the historical personalities, Prithviraj Kapoor as Emperor Akbar, Dilip Kumar as Prince Salim, Madhubala as Anarkali and Durga Khote as Empress Jodha Bai.

This film was originally produced in black and white with a few dance sequences in colour. The music composed by Naushad is widely considered to be his best.

A blend of history and imagination, the majestic love story was first retold in literature by the renowned Urdu writer Imtiaz Ali Taj in his play ‘Anarkali' (1922). This successful play forms the base for the screen versions.

In Malayalam, the love story was staged as musical operas in 1930s and 1940s. The musical opera ‘Anarkali' or ‘Ashrukudeeram' authored by Swami Brahmavrathan in 1926 was staged by Kairali Nadana Kala Samithi.' Legendary stage artistes like Sebastian Kunju Kunju Bhagavathar, Vaikom Vasudesvan Nair, Oachira Velukkutty etc. had acted in this. Another successful stage version of the love story authored by K. K. Velayudhan Pillai, ‘Anarkali' or ‘Bashpa Mandapam' also became very popular. The stage versions of the love story became so popular that the names of the characters were suffixed to their original names like ‘Akbar' Shankara Pillai, ‘Anarkali' Vasudev etc.

The Malayalam film ‘Anarkali' (1966) was a copy of the 1953 Hindi version produced by Filmstan. Script and dialogues were by the noted novelist Vaikom Chandrasekharan Nair. Popular stars of the time like Sathyan, Prem Nazir, Thikkurissi, Kottarakkara, K. R. Vijaya etc. handled the main roles. But they paled in comparison to the performances of the earlier Hindi and Tamil versions. The music by M. S. Baburaj was superb. The film was shot at Udaya Studios but the palaces and other sets created there failed to give the film the much-needed ‘historical touch'.

The earlier Hindi and Tamil versions were partly shot at original historical This adversely affected the quality of the Malayalam film. The impact of the stage plays and other language screen versions of the love story had not faded out of the Malayali psyche and hence the Malayalam film failed to impress.

Prince Salim (Prem Nazir), son of Akbar (Satyan) falls in love with Anarkali (K R Vijaya). Akbar forbids Salim to prolong this affair as he wanted his son to marry a Rajput princess and thereby strengthen communal harmony.

But Salim becomes blind in his love for Anarkali leading to a struggle between father and his adamant son. It also turns into a conflict between public duty and personal desire.

All the attempts of Akbar and Minister Man Singh (Thikkurissi) to separate the lovers fail. Salim and Anarkali are irresistibly drawn towards each other and are soon deeply in love. Salim even leads a campaign against his father. In the ensuing war Salim is defeated and sentenced to death. Empress Jodha Bai (Ambika) begs to her husband Akbar for the life of her son. But the dutiful emperor does not accede to her request. Anarkali is sentenced to be buried alive. Salim escapes from the jail and rushes to save Anarkali from the punishment. But before he reaches the burial ground, Anarkali's punishment is executed.

The storyline of the various versions of the classic love story had variations, particularly the climax. In most of the screen versions Anarkali succumbs to death, being buried alive. But in K. Asif's ‘Mughal E Azam', the slave girl is saved by Akbar unknown to the world. In N. T. Rama Rao's Telugu version, both the lovers are forgiven by the emperor. In the Malayalam film, the usual ending of the story is adapted.

The needless comic sub-plot that was totally disconnected with the main theme and diluted the poignancy of the emotional love story. Adoor Bhasi, S. P. Pillai, Alummoodan and others created a show that was similar to what they had done in other films earlier.

Playback singer K. J. Yesudas acted in a minor role, as the legendary singer Tansen. Music director L. P. R. Varma also did a role in the film. Interestingly P. B. Sreenivas sang for Yesudas in a song sequence, probably the only instance where another singer has sung for him in a film.

The 10 songs written by Vayalar Rama Varma were tuned by Baburaj. The songs had an Hindustani flavour. Most of the songs became instant hits. The romantic duet ‘Nadikalil sundari Yamuna...' (Yesudas- B. Vasantha) is noted for the new style, where the female voice only hums in accompaniment. The haunting solo ‘Ezhu chirakulla theru....' (P. Susheela), the classical-based number ‘Sapta swara sudha sagarame...' (P. B. Sreenivas-M. Balamuralikrishna), ‘Maadhalappoove maadhalappoove...' (Susheela), ‘Chakravarthikumara nin premasamrajyam....' (L. R. Easwari), ‘Pranayaganam paaduvaanai...' (Susheela) were the other hits from the film.

Will be remembered: For the excellent music and some memorable songs.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Aashadeepam (1953)

BILINGUAL HITA scene from ‘Ashadeepam'

The grand success of the film ‘Amma' produced by T E Vasudevan in 1952 in Malayalam and Tamil simultaneously encouraged him to produce ‘Ashadeepam'. Like his earlier film, this one was also simultaneously produced in Tamil under the title ‘Ashaimakan'. Both the Malayalam and Tamil versions were released on the same day, September 18, 1953.

The main characters in both the language versions were performed by almost the same artistes, Satyan, Gemini Ganeshan (as R Ganeshan in the title cards), T. S. Baliah, Padmini, B. S. Saroja, and Girija. ‘Ashadeepam' was the Malayalam debut of Gemini Ganeshan, the romantic hero of Tamil cinema, who played a negative role in this film. Music director V. Dakshinamoorthy also acted in a minor role, that of a school teacher in the film.

The story of the film was a repetition of the social movies released earlier. The script and dialogues were written by the noted Malayalam novelist Ponkunnam Varkey. And the dialogues for the Tamil version were written by a Tamil scholar, Nagercoil Padmanabhan.

The film was shot at Vauhini Studios, Madras. The dances choreographed by K. R. Kumar were one of the main attractions of the film. A special dance performed by Padmini and her group turned a topic of discussion. A rotating multi-storied, expensive set was designed for the dance sequence. Rajagopal, Adhi.M. Irani and Venkittaraman, three noted technicians of the time, handled the camera. Editing was by M S Mani, and this was his debut film.

The South Indian film version of the Sarathchandra Chatterji's immortal love story, ‘Devadas' (Tamil/Telugu) directed by Vedantam Raghaviah and starring Nageswara Rao and Savithri was released just a week before the release of ‘Ashadeepam'. ‘Devadas' was running to packed audiences in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. In spite of this ‘Ashadeepam' and ‘Ashaimakan' did well at the box office.

Panikkar (T. N. Gopinathan Nair), the wealthy landlord and his widowed sister Lakshmi Amma (Aranmula Ponnamma), live in the same town. Panikkar's son Shekhar (Gemini Ganeshan) is a city wastrel, one who is after wine, women and gambling. The company of Vikraman (T. S. Baliah) and a dancer Jayanthi (Padmini) only helps to make matters worse. They plays all sort of dirty tricks and loot Shekhar's wealth.

Lakshmi Amma struggles hard to bring up her children Chandran (Satyan) and Shantha (B. S. Saroja). Her wealthy brother and his wife Bhanu Amma (Pankajavalli) in no way help Lakshmi Amma. After completing his college studies, Chandran wanted to study Law and approaches Panikkar for financial help. Bhanu Amma insults him and sends him back empty handed. Chandran borrows money from his friends and leaves the town to study.

Bhanu Amma thinks that married life may change the character of her son Shekhar and with the help of her faithful servant Pankan (K. Ramaswami) go around searching for a match. But they find that no parents are prepared to give their daughters in marriage to a vagabond like Shekhar. Bhanu Amma plans to conduct the marriage of Shekhar with Shanta. A helpless Lakshmi Amma accedes to the request from her brother. Chandran rushes home when he comes to know about the secret plans of the marriage, but he fails to reach before the wedding.

Marriage does not change the character or Shekhar's way of life. All his wealth is manipulated and controlled by Jayanthi and Vikraman. Shantha is ill treated at her husband's house. She gives birth to a child, her health deteriorates and is falsely accused of having tuberculosis.

Chandran returns home after completing his studies. He brings Shanta back home. Chandran falls in love with Sarala (Girija), the daughter of the local postmaster. On the day of his wedding with Sarala, the palatial house of Panikkar, ‘Kamalalayam' is attached by the court after people who had loaned huge amounts to Shekhar had moved the court. Chandran gives shelter to Bhanu Amma in his house. Shekhar who realises the true nature of Jayanthi and Vikraman and their hidden agenda quarrels with them. In the ensuing fight Vikraman is killed. Vikraman's men murder Bhanu Amma. Shekhar is sentenced to seven years imprisonment.

A reformed Shekhar confesses before his wife Shantha and Chandran. Shantha forgives her husband and tells him she will wait for him to come back, giving Shekhar a flame of hope - Ashadeepam.

All the actors came out with impressive performances. Gemini Ganeshan in a negative role, and Padmini as a vamp were good in roles that were a total deviation from their usual roles. The film dispensed with comedy scenes.

The 10 songs written by P Bhaskaran were tuned by Dakshinamoorthy. Some of the songs became instant hits. The classical based numbers, ‘Saranam mayilvahana…' (M. L. Vasantha Kumari) and ‘Jananai jayikka nee Malayalamey... (Vasanthakumari and P. Leela) became very popular. A lullaby sung by Leela, ‘Kanmani vaa vaa vo...' was a direct copy of the popular Lata Mangeshkar number ‘Dheere se aaja re...' from the Hindi film ‘Albela' (1951). The Malayalam copy of the Hindi tune composed by C. Ramachandra was also a hit. Another song, ‘Gramathin hridayam..' is considered as one of Jikki's best in Malayalam. The romantic duet, ‘Pandhalittu mele vaanam vishalmaai...' (A. M. Raja-Leela), and ‘Poo veno pudu pookkal veno...' (Leela), and the dance number featuring the lovely sets specially designed for the song sequence ‘Veeshi ponvala…' were other songs that went on to become popular.

Will be remembered: As the debut Malaylam film of Gemini Ganeshan and for the excellent music.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Laila Majnu (1962)

Prem Nazir, Satyan, Thikkurissi, T. S. Muthiah, Adoor Bhasi, L. Vijayalakshmi, Chandni, Kodungalloor Ammini Amma.

Love story retold Prem Nazir and L. Vijayalakshmi in a scene from the film

Laila Majnu', produced under the banner of Kerala Pictures in 1962 was the Malayalam version of the classic Sufi legend filmed extensively in Hindi and other South Indian languages. The immortal love story was filmed twice during the Silent Cinema era itself, in 1922 and 1927. The silent film produced by Excelsior Pictures in 1927 under the direction of Manilal Joshi with Zubeida, Vakil and Shehzadi in the lead roles was a box office hit.

During the very first year 1931, when Indian cinema began to talk, the eternal Persian love story had two screen versions in Hindi. The film produced by Krishnatone under the direction of K. Rathod did not perform well at the box office. Madan Theatres, which produced the silent version in 1922 came up with the talking film in 1931 with the singing sensations of the time, Master Nissar and Jahan Aara Kajjan in the lead roles.

The film directed by J.J.Madan created new records in collection at the box office. Music composed by Vrijlal Varma was excellent and the leading singing stars Master Nissar and Jahan Aara Kajjan became the centre of attraction in the cinema world.

In 1945 Hind Pictures came out with a Hindi version of the love story with Swarnalatha and Nazir in the lead roles. Again in 1953 All India Pictures produced another Hindi version with Shammi Kapoor and Nutan in the roles of the lovers. Both the films succeeded at the Box office.

In the South, the Telugu film produced by Bharani Pictures in 1949 under the direction of P.S.Ramakrishna Rao is considered the best version of the Sufi legend in South Indian cinema.

Superstars of that time, A Nageswara Rao and P. Bhanumathi played the roles of the lovers. The film was dubbed into Tamil and both the Telugu and Tamil versions were huge hits at the box office. The very next year, in 1950 Balaji Pictures came up with another Tamil version under the direction of F. Nagoor.

The leading pair of the time, the singing star T.R.Mahalingam and M.V. Rajamma played the main roles. The Tamil dubbed version of the Telugu film starring Nageswara Rao and Bhanumathi left far behind the original Tamil version of the love story.

All the Hindi and the South Indian language versions were produced under the same title, ‘Laila Majnu'. The story was filmed in Persian (1936), Pushtu (1940) languages also under the same title.

B.N.Konda Reddy, brother of the legendary producer and director B.N.Reddy who founded Vauhini Studios, produced the Malayalam version of the eternal Persian love story jointly with the renowned Malayalam lyricist and director P. Bhaskaran.

The fact that the most popular love story was repeatedly filmed in Hindi and other South Indian languages but was not filmed in Malayalam might have inspired Konda Reddy who was basically a cameraman to go for a version in the language. P.Bhaskaran who had good relations with the Vauhini Studios joined in the project as co -producer and also directed the film. The film was shot at Vauhini Studios and some of the scenes were shot in the deserts of Rajasthan. Probably this was the first Malayalam film to be shot at desert locations.

Jagathy N.K.Achary wrote the script and dialogues of the film. Art direction by the renowned artist P.N.Menon and choreography by C.Gopalakrishnan was impressive. Technically skilled crew at the Vauhini studios handled their assignments well. Editing was by Kripa Shankar, processing by P.M.Vijaya Raghavulu, costumes by P.Muthu etc. all led the film to tremendous success at the box office.

The presence of Prem Nazir, Satyan and Thikkurissi, Kottarakkara etc added star value to the film. ‘Laila Majunu' was released in February, 1962 . Tamil and Telugu actress L.Vijayalakshmi, who acted as heroine in the super hit Christian devotional Malayalam film, ‘Gnana Sundari' (1961) was very popular and familiar to the audience. L.Vijayalakshmi played Laila's role in the Malayalam film ‘Laila Majnu' and her performance as the dedicated lover who met with a tragic death along with her lover impressed the audience very much.

The songs written by P.Bhaskaran were set to tune by M.S.Baburaj. An Egyptian dancer, Laila, was invited to perform a dance number in the film which was an added attraction of the film. The familiarity of the quite often repeated story on the screen in various languages did not breed contempt in the audience and the film had a long run at all releasing centres.

Laila (Vijayalakshmi) , the daughter of the immensely rich and powerful landlord Sarvari (Thikkurissi) falls in love with her childhood chum Qais (Prem Nazir). All the attempts of Sarwari to separate the lovers fail. Qais is the son of an ordinaty Arab merchant Amir Ameeri (T S Muthiah) who earns his livelihood by selling animal skin and the horns of stags. Qais is accused of insanity by the crooked landlord Sarvari and he plays all nasty tricks to keep him away from his daughter. When all the attempts to separate the lovers fail, Sarvari shifts his residence to another city on the ouskirts of the holy town of Mecca secretly.

Unable to bear the separation from Laila, the desperate lover Qais wanders in the deserts like a lunatic. Laila meets Qais in the loneliness of the desert. Qais is beaten severely by Sarvari's men and is thrown out in the desert. Qais is stoned by the street children and his health deteriorates. Amir Ameeri finds his son in a very pathetic condition and he takes him to Sarvari's palace. Amir Ameeri falls at the feet of Sarvari and begs for his mercy and requests for the marriage of Laila with Qais. A kind father melts and Sarvari agrees to the marriage on condition that the court of scholars should approve Qais is not insane.

In the meantime Baqthum (Satyan), the Prince of Iraq happen to see beautiful Laila and he falls in love with her at first sight. Baqthum betrays his former lover Zarina (Chandni) to win Laila's love. Baqthum sends his messenger to Sarvari with the proposal for his marriage with Laila. Sarvari breaks his promise to give his daughter's hands in marriage to Qais and conducts Laila's marriage with the Prince Baqthum.

Broken hearted Qais is now a real lunatic. He wanders in the deserts in search of his beloved Laila. Eventually once Laila happen to meet her beloved Qais in the lonely deserts on her return from Iraq. The separated lovers meet in the deserts. Laila and Qais lose their lives in a sandstorm as if to unite in the other world.

Prem Nazir and Vijayalakshmi performed their roles in an impressive manner. Thikkurissi, Chandni, Kottarakkara, Adoor Bhasi, Bahadur, all performed the roles assigned to them quite appreciably. T.S.Muthiah's performance as the father of the hero is considered as his best after his super performance in the film ‘Paadatha Painkili' (1957). The hilarious comic scenes involving Adoor Bhasi, Bahadur etc, were just repetitions from earlier Malayalam films.

Music composed by M.S.Baburaj was one of the main attractions of the film. Some of the songs became instant hits. ‘Koottinilamkili Kunjaattakkili ....' (A.P. Komalam, P. Leela),

‘Thaarame Thaarame Ninnude Naatttilum....' (Udayabhanu), ‘Chudu Kanneeralen Jeevitha katha....' (Udayabhanu) stood the test of time and still remain favourites among the old film songs.

Other hits from the film include ‘Annathinum Panjamilla.....' (Mehboob, K.S. George, chorus ) , ‘Pavanurukki Pavanurukki....' (Udayabhanu, P Leela) etc.

The lyrics authored by P.Bhaskaran are considered as some of his best. And the film is graded as one of the best compositions of the talented music director M.S. Baburaj.

Will be remembered:

For the excellent music.