Saturday, October 25, 2008

Neelakkuyil (1954)

AWARD-WINNING Sathyan and Prema in Neelakuyil

Neelakkuyil divides the history of Malayalam cinema and its music in the timeline of history. The film set the trend of realistic melodrama and brought the first National award (Presidents silver medal) to Malayalam cinema. The film was a musical hit. It also brought out the best from singers like Kozhikode Abdul Kader, Shantha P. Nair and Janamma David.

The story of Neelakuyil by Uroob that focussed on reformist literature was extended to a performance idiom using new generation stars like Sathyan, Miss Kumari and Prema. A.Vincent’s crisp camera brought out the beauty of black and white frames like never before. It remains one of the best of black and white films made in the language. The manner in which Vincent is amazing.

The pastoral tragedy tells the story of the love affair of a Harijan girl and an educated, high-caste school teacher. The script flays social evils like untouchability, feudalism, and injustice towards women through biting dialogues. The music was mainly based on folk tunes and all the songs had the smell of the soil. It included Mappilappattu, harvest song, a traditonal prayer, romantic melodies, all of which followed the folk traditions of the state.

The plot revolves around rustic life in a small village. Neeli (Miss Kumari), a Harijan peasant girl, falls in love with Sreedharan Nair (Sathyan), a school teacher. Neeli becomes pregnant. Sreedharan Nair refuses to marry Neeli fearing protest from society. Neeli becomes an outcaste. She is later found dead leaving behind her child. Sankaran Nair (P.Bhaskaran), the village postman adopts the child challenging the protests from the society. Sreedharan Nair marries Nalini (Prema), a member of an aristocratic family. Neeli’s son Mohan (Master Vipin) is brought up by the postman. The film ends with Sreedharan Nair and Nalini accepting the boy as their own child.

Sathyan and Miss Kumari excelled in their roles. The rustic slang used gave a realistic touch to the characters.

The film won the President’s silver medal in 1954. What makes this honour special is that Neelakuyil was a venture by relatively newcomers to his field. When the two other national award winning South Indian films were produced by established banners, directed by eminent directors, music composed by well known music directors and enacted by the matinee idols of that time, Neelakuyil was made by newly formed production house, directed by newcomers, music by a new composer and had relatively inexperienced actors.

There were nine songs in the film. Most of them were based on folk tunes. The music completely dispensed with the then prevailing trend of imitation of popular tunes. All the songs became super hits. ‘Ellarun chollanu ellarum chollanu...’ (Janamma David), ‘Kayalarikaathu vala erinjappol...’ (K.Raghavan) became most popular among the songs. Raghavan’s song is considered the first successful Mappila song in Malayalam cinema. A solo by Shantha P. Nair based on Bilahari Raga ‘Unarunaroo Unnikanna...’ is still one of the best devotional songs in the language. Compositions of Tyagaraja had found a place in Malayalam cinema before Neelakkuyil. But in this film there was a song based on a Tyagaraja composition - ‘Sarasa sama daana bheda... (Kaapi Narayani raga) . ‘Kadalasu vanchi aeri...’ a children’s song by Kozhikode Pushpa, ‘Maanennum vilikkilla...’ by Mehaboob), ‘Kuyilinie thedi...’ by Janamma David turned huge hits. Kozhikode Abdul Khader’s ‘Engine nee marakkum...’ in that typical K. L. Saigal style of singing still remains a much sought after melody. The simple lyrics by P. Bhaskaran and sensitive music by K. Raghavan made these songs immortal.

Will be remembered: As the first Malayalam film to win National recognition. As the debut of Ramu Kariat, P. Bhaskaran, actress Prema, Master Vipin (now popular cinematographer Vipin Mohan), music director K. Raghavan and many others who worked in the project. The film is also the first individual effort of cinematographer Vincent. And, of course, for the lovely songs.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Achan (1952)

THUMPING HIT B. S. Saroja and Prem Nazir in ‘Achan’

This film is one of the early hits produced by Kunchacko and the first produced under the banner of XL Productions, which went on to create several box office hits in sixties and seventies. Released on Christmas Eve the film ran to packed houses at all the centres for many weeks.

The film focussed on a father’s unreserved love and affection for his children. The major success of the film paved way for its Tamil version, ‘Thanthai (1953) and Telugu version ‘Thanri’ (1953). Both the dubbed versions were huge hits. The story of the film proceeds through several strange twists and turns which was a common feature of the South Indian films of that time. The film included all the factors of an entertainer, melodrama, romance, dances, comic scenes etc. There were stage dramas, ‘kathaprasangam’ dances and melodious songs. The dialogues penned by Thikkurissi Sukumaran Nair were precise. Unlike dialogues of the time, which were usually lengthy, those in this film were an exception.

The story revolved around a family. Chandran (Prem Nazir) and Balan (Gopinath) are showered love and affection by their father (Thikkurissi) and stepmother (Jayasree). But Chandran does not realise the value of this and grows into a bad boy. The fancy he takes to a street girl in his childhood transforms into a love affair later.

The girl Usha (B.S.Saroja) works as an artiste in a drama troupe owned by Nanukuttan (Sesbastian Kunjukunju Bhagavathar). Chandran marries Usha much against the wish of his father. He goes on to lead an extravagant life, gets into the company of a city rogue Mathu (S.P.Pillai) and his group.

Chandran’s father, very considerate, accepts his son despite his wild escapades and misdeeds. But Chandran still does not realise the value of his father’s affection. He demands his share of the ancestral property and his father accedes to this demand.

A drama troupe set up by Chandran flops and he all the money he put into it goes down the drain. To recover from this setback, Chandran contests in the Assembly elections but fails here too. Bankrupt Chandran becomes desperate. Meanwhile, Usha gives birth to a baby boy. But all these changes in life do not transform Chandran or his attitude towards his father. He even becomes suspicious of Usha and leaves home with his son.

This proves to be the turning point. Chandran struggles to bring up his son. He now realises the worth of his father, his love and of course value of money. He returns home and falls at the feet of his father. The father, who never carried any sort of hatred for his son accepts him.

Thikkurissi’s outstanding performance was one of the highpoints of the film. This was the only film in which veteran actor Sesbastian Kunjukunju Bhagavatahar did a comic role.

There were 17 songs in the film. Some of the songs became super hits. The most popular of them was ‘Ambili ammava thirinju nin anpinodonnu chollu ...’ sung by Thiruvananthapuram V. Lakshmi. This remains the only solo rendered by her. Later on she was heard as part of the chorus in several films. The other hits include ‘Naame mudhalali namakkini...,’ ‘Madhuram madhuramee jeevitham...’ (P. Leela), ‘Madhumasa chandrikayay...’ (A.M.Raja, P.Leela). A kathaprasangam by Pankajavalli, which also became very popular. Will be remembered: As one of the major box office hits of early Malayalam cinema. It will be remembered as the debut of Boban Kunchacko, the maiden venture of XL Productions, and first film of Thiruvananthapuram V. Lakshmi.