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 …