Monday, December 20, 2010

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Remakes from Hindi

Malayalam Movie                               Hindi Equivalent

Vivahitha                                                    Gumraah  (Sunil Dutt, Mala Sinha)
Brahmachari                                               Ek Naari Ek Brahmachari
Deepam                                                     Main Tulsi Tere Aangan Ki
Ragam                                                       Anuraag
Maattoli                                                     Dushman (Rajesh Khanna, Mumtaz)
Anjali                                                        Satyakaam
Laava                                                       Jis Desh Mein Ganga Bahthi hai   (Raj Kapoor, Padmini)
Bheekara Nimishangal                                 36 Ghante
Archana Teacher                                        Kora Kagaz
Vanadevatha                                              Madhumathi
Sneham                                                    Dosthi
Anupallavi                                                  Pathi Pathni aur woh
John Jaffer Janardhan                                 Amar Akbar Antony
Puthiya velicham                                       Phool Aur Patthar   (Meena kumari, Dharmendra)
Thuranna Jail                                            Do Ankhen Barah Haath  (Shantaram, sandhya)
Angam                                                     Zindagi
Bandham                                                 Seetha aur Geetha
Himam                                                    Yadon Ki Baaraat
Ivide Thudangunnu                                    Meri Adaalat
Jeevitham                                                Avataar
Odaruthammava Aalariyaam                     Chashme Baddhoor
Ee sabdham innathe sabdham                  Aaj ki aawaz
Jeevante jeevan                                        Boxer
Pathamudayam                                       Kalicharan
Ayalvasi oru daridravasi                            Khatta Meetha
Ninnishtam Ennishtam                              Sunayana
Chekkaranoru chilla                                   Saheb
Suprabhatham                                          Andaaz  (Shammi Kapoor, Hema Malini)
Ee Kaikalil                                               Majboor
Mindapoochakku Kalyanam                      Chit chor

Creative Side of Priyadarsan - Poochakkoru Mukkuthi

But most of his creations as some of may know, are lose adaptations of hollywood movies. It is none other than Priyadarshan.

MAKING OF POOCHAKKORU MOOKKUTHI (The fans of Priyan pardon me, but this is a fact. I have not come across any pin pointing on this film in line with my findings. If somebody know, please favour me with feed back. And also, if ever you get chance to watch these movies, please).

Poochakkoru Mookkuthi can be considered as combination of two tamil films (at least 90 % of the film) except for the climax.

The tamil fims - Rajarani (1956) directed by A Bhimsingh + En Manaivi (1942) directed by Sunder Rao Nadkarni.

The sequences involving the mistaken identity of Menaka, confusion created regard to the relation between Nedumudi Venu and Menaka, Sukumari suspecting Nedumudi Venu, etc
This sequence is just a copy of the situation in Raja Rani. Padmini playing role corresponding to that of Menaka, N S Krishnan playing that of Neumudi Venu, and T A Madhuram that of Sukumari. Sivaji Ganeshan playing the role corresponding to Mohanlal.

Coincidences are welcome, and in English literature we call it accidental incidences. But can some one imagine a scene, in which Sukumari suspects, and thinks that she caught hsesr husband red handed has a predecessor scene ? Yes there is. In Raja Rani - T A Madhuram comes to the Balcony of her house to just clear her comb after combing the hair and discard the fallen hair to the garden, then she finds Padmini hiding behind the bushes, a dove on her head, and N S Krishnan enters the bushes to pick up his walking stick which by mistake he throws to the bushes.

Hope now you got the point. A ditto scene is there in our Priyans film also. Involving Sukumari ( T A Madhuram), Menaka (Padmini), Nedumudi Venu (NS Krishnan) and Mohanlal (Sivaji).

The story line also somewhat same. Padmini being mistaken to be the rich lady T A Madhuram.

And such scene from En Manaivi also copied. That is in the climax scenes involving Soman etc. In the film En Manaivi I remember Sarangapani, Padma etc were the stars.

Adoor Bhasi's First Movie

I think Thiramala was his first film.  The songs book of the film clearly show that he acted in the role of a shopkeeper I am attaching a copy of the page showing these details.

Amma - I dont have the songs book completely, only few pages.  I dont think he has acted in Amma.  I will look into the matter and inform

And it was in Mudiyanaya Puthran that he got a commendable role.

Curios in Malayalam Cinema

1. HIndi film "Dunia Naa Maane " (1937) - Kunku in Marathi. produced by Prabhat films under the direction of V Shantaram remain a classic. The film had no background music. Only natural sounds. And for the songs also - the singing stars htting cups together, beating on the floor with stick etc to give orchestral effect to the song. And for two songs, the heroine playing a gramaphone record of instrumental music as background for the singing. A Great film, I believe it is in this film that a full length English song was sung (by Shanta Apte.

A poem by Longfellow - Psalm of life.
"In the worlds great field of battle....... as I remember).

In Malayalam film "Kodiyettam" also, I understand only natural sounds are there. No orchestral background music for the film.

2. In Padunna Puzha, the comedy King of yesteryears, Adoor Bhasi acted in the role of Mother, daughter and son (I have not seen this film, read so somewhere which I noted down)

3. The genius writer, director of Malayalam cinema Padmarajan - he dubbed for the Phayalvaan in the film "Oridathoru Phayalvaan". He lent his voice to Prathap Pothen also in the film "Novembarinte Nashtam"

4. This is my observation, and not mentioned anywhere, I have not come across at least so far. In the Malayalam film "Aana Valarthiya Vaanambaadi", I doubt - It was Adoor Pankajam who lent her voice to the Tamil actress C K Saraswathi (acting as Shanti's mother) and Aranmula Ponnamma that lent voice to S D Subbalakshmi (Hero Sreeram's mother. SD Subbalakshmi is the stepmother of dancer Padma Subramaniam, )

5. Jyothi Venkatachalam, who was Governor of Kerala acted in the Malayalam film in a guest role - "Bharya Oru Manthri"

6. Film stars act as original film stars in films. Mammootty, Mohanlal etc have acted in some films, for example Mammootty in the film "No.20 Madras Mail" as film star Mammooty.
I think, it was Satyan who acted in such a role for the first time in Malayalam. In Chathurangam he acted as Satyan, who comes for a college day celebration in the film.

Remakes from other languages (than Tamil)

Yakshaipparu   - Henna Hooli (Kannada)
Abhimanam -  Bharya Bhartulu (Telugu)
Appooppan  - Thaatha Mandulu (Telugsu)
Pakarathinu Pakaram -  Prathighatana (Telugu)
Paavappettaval Devata (Nagiah, Kumari, Suryakumari etc) 1941 ***

*** One who have seen the classic Telugu movie, will not forgive the Malayalam producer for the Malayalam remake - a bore film. The classic Telugu has the singing star V Nagian (In malayalam Satyan), Kumari (Kamaladevi in Mal.), Vidhubala (T Suryakumari ) Sadhna (Bezvada Rajaratnam), Seshamamba (Aranmula Ponnamma)

The Telugu film directed by B N Reddy remains a classic. Malayalam film just boring, Horrible so to say to watch.

Dignified Imitations

Whatever may be the act, it becomes dignified when one  approve it is are true to himself.

Imitation - The film music followed the way from the beginning.  And some consider it shameful, yes shameful it is.  To inherit somebody's property.  But, when you admit that you have snatched it from somebody, at least you are true to yourselves.  But one denies it and claims to be his own.  Yes this is what happened in the case of the imitation from Thenmavin Kombath

The imitation of the Pankaj Mullick melody - Piya Milan ko aana .... from Kapal Kundala.

Do you know, this tune was imitated in Tamil , upto my knowledge three times.

1.  Ashok Kumar 1941.  M K Thyagaraja Bhagavathar and T V Kumudini sang in the tune of Piya Milan ko aana....  The Tamil duet - "Ullam Kavarumen Paavaai..."

2.  Same year, 1941 in the Tamil film "Sanyasi"  T S Jayal sang a comedy song, "Koyyapazham Vaangaleyo...." in the same tune. 

3.  In the tamil film of 1941 itself, "Seetha Jananam" also, P G Venkateshan (who is popularly known as  Tamil Saigal) sang a song in the same tune.  I dont remember the lyrics, I have got the gramphone records of these songs.

The difference with our Malayalam composer and the composers/singer of the tamil imitations is that, the singers and the composers openly, and with some pride, said that they imitated the Pankaj Mulllick number in Tamil. 

Friday, December 10, 2010

Notable Movies from Literature

The following is a database MSI is building with the data provided by B Vijayakumar. This is an effort to collect the movies from literature

Click here for the MSI Literature Database

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

History of Playback Singing in South India - Some Thoughts

It could be said that Rukmini, Lakshmi's mother was in some way instrumental for the popularisation of playback singing in South Indian cinema.

Playback singing started in Indian cinema with Dhoop Chaon (Bhagyachakra in Bengali. Film simultaneously made in both languages).

That was in 1935.

In the south, playback singing for the first time happened quite accidentally, which was not preplanned. And the producer and director of south India, whose work in the cinema field remains unique, the great A V Meiyyappa Chettiar was the person behind the playback singing in South India.

At the legendary Prabhat Studios (now converted as National Film Archives and Film Institute, Pune) a film "Nanda Kumar" was being produced in Hindi and Tamil simultaneously. The legendary Durga Khote in Hindi, and T P Rajalakshmi as Yashoda. The great singing star T R Mahalingam acted as the child Krishna in the tamil version, and I hope this was his debut film also. The voice of the actress who took the role of Devaki, Chettiar is not of appreciable quality. Chettiar replaced her voice by a noted classical singer of that time, Lalitha Venkatraman who was settled in Bombay. This remain the first playback instance in South Indian cinema.

Probably the Hindi composer C Ramchandra might have sung the first male playback in South. C Ramchandra started his career in Tamil, composing music for the tamil film "Jayakkodi" in late 1930s. In the 1941 tamil film produced/directed by the Hindi actor/director Bhagwan,  "Vanamohini" C Ramchandra was the composer. He sang also under the nickname Chitalkar, playback to the hero M K Radha.

A glamour girl and singing star of the time Thavamani devi was the heroine. I have got few songs of the film - 78 rpms. Probably this was the first male playback in tamil/south india.

In the tamil film Sri Valli (1945) Rukmini acted in the heroines role, as Valli, the consort of Muruga. The singing star noted for his high pitch singing, T R Mahalingam was the hero. A V M Chettiar was very keen on the success/performance of his films. The feed back from the public, on the film, was not encouraging. It was felt that the singing of Rukmini did not match with that of Mahalingam. Music was governing factor in success of a film those days, and even to this day it is so. Chettiar withdrew the film from the theatres. Rukminis singing voice was replaced with the singing of P A Periyanayaki, a playback singer of the time. And the film went well. Rukmini took this as an insult and disgrace to her, and walked out of other films that she had entered contract with AVM. But chettiar did not mind it at all. And the success of Sri Valli became an inspiration for the other producers also to opt for playback singing for other singing stars also whose voice was not much impressive.

And this paved way for the heores with good looks, but NOT A GOOD VOICE, to play as heros in films. Before that the good looks was not the criteria to become a hero, it was Good voice that was important. Even singing stars of somewhat good voice like T R Rajakumari, G Varalakshmi, T R Ramachandran, etc also sang in the voices of Leela, Jikki, TMS etc etc.

A Note about PA Periyanayaki

A very gracious singer, voice somewhat resemble our P Madhuri.

Her most celebrated film was "Gnanasoundari" produced by Citadel in late 1940s.  I hope in 1947 or 48.  She sang playback for the heroine M V Rajamma, a singing star of early tamil/kannada cinema.  Again this is an example of playback singing getting popularity, a singing star singing in the voice of a playback singer.  All the songs sung by her in Gnanasoundari became super hits.  "Arul Tharum Deva mathave...", "Jeeviya Bhagyame...", "Vettunda kaikal..."  "Kanniye mamarithaye...."  etc etc.  She has acted in few films also, and I remember she acted in male role as Narada in an tamil film. 

Monday, December 6, 2010

Sreerama Pattabhishekam (1962)

Cast: Prem Nazir, Prem Navaz, Thikkurissi, G. K. Pillai, Kottarakkara Sreedharan Nair, Jos Prakash, Miss Kumari, Adoor Pankajam etc.

EPIC ADAPTATION Prem Navaz and Shanti from a scene from the film Sree Rama Pattabhishekam 
EPIC ADAPTATION Prem Navaz and Shanti from a scene from the film Sree Rama Pattabhishekam
‘Sree Rama Pattabhishekam,' released on October 11, 1962 was the second Malayalam film based on the ‘Ramayana', the first being ‘Seetha' (1960) produced by Udaya Studios. The film was produced and directed by P. Subramaniam under the banner of Neela Productions. Tales from ‘Ramayana' were performed on the stage from time immemorial and was a staple subject in all forms of Indian performing arts. Cinema was also fascinated by the epic.

The silent film ‘Lanka Dahan' produced and directed by Dada Saheb Phalke, the Father of Indian Cinema, in 1917 was the first Indian film based on the epic. Several silent films and sound films were produced based on Ramayana tales. The Hindi film ‘Rama Rajya (1943) produced and directed by Vijay Bhatt is considered as the best Indian film based on the epic. The film was a sequel to the Hindi film ‘Bharat Milap' (1942) produced and directed by him. ‘Sree Rama Pattabhishekam' closely followed the story line and the sequences of ‘Bharat Milap'.

‘Bharat Milap' as well as its Tamil dubbed version ‘Bharathan' (1950) was box office hits in Kerala also. The grand success of ‘Seetha' might have prompted P. Subramaniam to make another film on the epic with portions of the story not told in ‘Seetha.'
Both ‘Bharat Milap' and the Tamil film ‘Sampoorna Ramayanam' (1958) focussed on the character of Kaikeyi, step mother of Rama and one who was instrumental in banishing him to the forest. Durga Khote performed the role of Kaikeyi in the Hindi film, while G. Varalakshmi did this role in Tamil. Both of them left an indelible imprint on the audience with their sterling performance.
Almost all the popular stars of the time like Prem Nazir, Prem Navaz, Thikkurissi, G. K. Pillai, Kottarakkara, T. K. Balachandran, Jos Prakash, Miss Kumari, Adoor Pankajam, were part of ‘Sree Rama Pattabhishekam.'

Vasanthi , who had acted in Tamil films like ‘Maadappura' (1962) was cast in the role of Seetha. This was her first Malayalam film. The versatile Kaviyoor Ponnamma also made her film debut in this film. She played the role of Mandodari, the consort of Ravana.
The dialogues written by the noted playwright Nagavalli R. S. Kurup were impressive. Camera by Kannappa, coupled with special effects, brought to the screen flying images, magic arrows, etc. The film was edited by another debutant N. Gopalakrishnan. The dances were choreographed by Thankappan and performed by Padmini Priyadarshini, Sukumari and Shanthi. The music composed by Brother Lakshmanan was based on classical ragas, dispensing with the usual practice of imitating other language film tunes.
One of the scenes in the film won wide appreciation, even from the critics. This showed Ravana trying to justify his actions including the abduction of Seetha. Here the ten heads of Ravana speak, which revealed the imagination and cinematic skill of the director.

The duration of the film, full three hours, was too short to depict the story of Rama, from his birth to his coronation. The director attempted to string in important scenes through song sequences. 

The emotional and dramatic sequences like banishment of Rama to the forest, death of Dasharatha, wedding of Rama, encounter with Parasurama etc. were given prominence. A few scenes, like the parents of Sravan Kumar cursing Dasharatha, were shown as a flashback.
On the whole the film succeeded in showing the main events of the epic quite effectively. The film was a huge hit.

Prem Nazir played Rama, while his real life brother Prem Navaz was Lakshmana. Both of them came up with impressive performances. Thikkurissi as Dasharatha, T. K. Balachandran as Bharatha, G. K. Pillai as Vishwamithra, Jos Prakash as Sumanthra did justice to their characters, while Kottarakkara Sreedharan Nair was superb as Ravana. Miss Kumari excelled as Kaikeyi. Adoor Pankajam as Manthara and Kaviyoor Ponnamma as Mandodari impressed. But Vasanthi as Seetha was a flop. Not being very charming and comparing her to others before her who were captivating in the same role were reasons attributed to Vasanthi's failure. 

Comic scenes involving S. P. Pillai also failed to create a ripple of laughter.
There were 12 songs in the film penned by Thirunainarkurichi Madhavan Nair. The tunes composed by Brother Lakshmanan and some of them became big hits.
The romantic number ‘Chollu sakhi chollu sakhi...' (P. Susheela), the dance number ‘Mohini njaan Mohini njaan..' (S. Janaki), a solo ‘Pookkatha kaadukale…' by K. J. Yesudas and a duet by Kamukara Purushotaman and Susheela, ‘Parannu parannu pongum...' were the other popular songs. 

A few verses from the ancient Malayalam poetic work ‘Ramayanam - Irupathinalu Vruttham,' believed to be written by Thunjathu Ezhuthachan, like ‘Mamatharuni Seethe…' (Kamukara) were also included in the film.

Will be remembered: As the debut of Kaviyoor Ponnamma, editor N. Gopalakrishnan and the first Malayalam film of Vasanthi. And as one of the early Malayalam films based on ‘Ramayana'.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Tamil Movies made in Malayalam

Original TamilMalayalam Remake
Nalla Thankal 1935 Nalla Thanka 1950

Ethir Parathathu 1954
Nitya Kanyaka 1963 (Remade in Hindi as Sarada - 1957)

Hindi version with Rajkapoor and Meenakumari excelled. Nitya Kanyaka with Ragini and Satyan , was just an average film. The Tamil film with Sivaji and Padmini also was a huge hit at the box office.
Yaar Payyan 1957 Bhagya Mudra 1967

Chitthi 1966
Achante Bharya 1971 (Remade in Hindi as "Aurat" 1967)

The Malayalam version directed by Thikkurissi spoiled the spirit of the film and the story. In Tamil and Hindi, Padmini was the heroine. In Malayalam, her sister Ragini. Adoor Bhasi in Malayalam spoiled the film in the role of the husband of the heroine, whereas in Tamil the corresponding role played by M R Radha remain his best.

Neerkumizhi 1965
Aaradi Manninte Janmi 1972

Kuzhanthaiyum Deivamum 1965
Sethubandhanam 1974 (In Hindi as Do Kaliyan. 1968.)

Malayalam remake was not as successful as the Tamil and Hindi. Jamuna as heroine and G Varalakshmi as the villainous character excelled in their roles. Jayabharqthi and Sukumari in the corresponding roles - just average in the Malayalam remake.

Ponnukku Thanka manassu 1973
Bhoomidevi Pushpini aayi 1974

Miss Mary 1955
Miss Mary 1972 (In Hindi - Miss Mary, In telugu - Missamma)

An all time classic family comedy drama. The Tamil, Telugu as well as the Hindi films considered as classics. The Malayalam attempt could be treated as a mere waste, except for some songs. The music of all the three versions remain timeless.
In Hindi Meena Kumari, and in Tamil and Telugu Savithri performed the heroines roles. In Malayalam Jayabharathi.

Ramu 1966

Babumon 1975 (In Hindi - Door Gagan Ki Chaon Mein. 1964. The Hindi film is the original)

Tamil film is considered as the best, a box office hit, with excellent performances by Gemini Ganeshan, K R Vijaya. The Hindi flm with Kishorekumar and Supriya Choudhary failed to attract the audience. Malayalam attempt, may be below average at the box office.

Kalyana Parisu 1959
Sammanam 1975 ( In Hindi as "Nazrana" 1961)

All time classic in Tamil with Gemini Ganeshan, Sarojadevi and Vijayakumari, one of the best of director Sreedhar. Hindi with Rajkapoor, Vyjayanthimala, Usha Kiran was not as successful as the tamil. But the Malayalam remake the worst, Sasikumar's direction or the performance of the artists did not come up to comparatively fair level. The music of Hindi and Tamil became evergreen. Music wise also Malayalam did not come up.

Pettal Thaan Pillaiya 1966
Ashtami Rohini 1975 (Kunwara Baap - 1974 in Hindi.)

The Tamil original the best with MGR and Saroja devi. Hindi with Mehmood and Bharathi also did well at the box office. Malyalam remake just an average, or flop

Thayilla Pillai 1961
Pravaham 1975

The tamil film directed by L V Prasad, a family drama was just an average film with Muthukrishna, M V Rajamma, L Vijayalakshmi etc in the lead roles. The reason for this remake in Malayalam - directed by Sasikumar - might be the good story of the film. But the Malayalam film also could not create waves.

Kuzhanthaikkaka 1968
Omanakunju 1978 ("Nanha Farishta" in Hindi - 1969)

Again a waste film in Malayalam. The Tamil as well as the Hindi with Padmini in the lead role and a child artist did well at the box office.

Pukuntha Veedu 1972
Sindhu 1975

Sabash Meena 1958
Chirikkudukka 1976 (Dil Tera Diwana - 1962 in Hindi)

Tamil film remain the best, with Sivaji and Miss Malini in the lead roles. Music by T G Lingappa remain evergreen. Hindi film with Shammi Kapoor and Mala Sinha also succeeded at the box office. Malayalam film with Nazir and Vidhubala also did well, but not as the tamil or Hindi.

Annai 1962
Amma 1976

Malayalam film -no comparison with the original. The tamil film directed by Krishnan Panju remain one of the best performnces of the verstatile genius of Indian cinema, P Bhanumathi. What a stunning performance - she took the entire film on her shoulders. As a childless woman, even her eyes expresses her mental agony. And as the mother who is reluctant to share the love of her adopted son with the real mother, who happens to be her own sister, she presented a heart melting performance. Showcar Janaki as the real mother also shined. Singing in her own voice, she mesmerised the audience. A Malayalam remake could have been avoided.

Deerghasumangali 1974
Ayiram Janmangal 1976

Suryakanthi 1973
Priyamvada 1976

Panam Panthiyile 1961
Ozhukkinethire 1976

Pennai Nambungal 1973
Kuttavum Sikshayum 1976

Padithal Mattum Podhuma 1962
Kanyadanam 1976

Nenjil Oru Alayam 1962
Hridayam Oru Kshethram 1976 (Dil Ek Mandir - 1963 in Hindi)

Directors Sreedhars classic film produced within very short time. An all time classic in Tamil, Hindi. In Malayalam also the film was a success, a good movie with stunning performance of Sri Vidya. A low budget film in all the languages, hit the box office. The fact that the Hindi and Tamil films had long run in Kerala, did not affect the Malayalam film. In all the languages , musical hit. The performance by Meena Kumari in the Hindi version the best. In Tamil it was Devika (mother of present day actress Kanaka) who performed the role.

Iru Kodukal 1969
Mohavum Muktiyum 1977

One of the best of director K Balachander with Showcar Janaki and Jayanthi in the female lead, this female oriented films remake in Malayalam just flopped at the box office.

Bhagapirivinai 1959

Nirakudam 1977 (Khaandaan in Hindi - 1965)

The film succeeded in all the languages. Tamil with Sivaji and Saroja devi the best. HIndi with Sunil dutt and Nutan also became a huge hit.
Kamal Hassan s performance as the crippled young man who loves his elder brother more than his life remain one of the best of the versatile actor.

Pasamalar 1961
Santha Oru Devatha 1977 (Rakhi in Hindi. -1962 )

A mere waste in Malayalam. The Tamil film remain an all time hit with captivating performance of Sivaji, Gemini Ganeshan, Savithri. In Hindi Ashok Kumar, Pradeep Kumar and Wahida Rehman. The film which tells the story of dedicated love between a brother and sister, the Malayalam film failed in presenting the story in an impressive manner with Madhu and K R Vijaya in the lead role.
Karpakam 1963 Vishukkani 1977 ( Rishte Naatey in Hindi. 1965)

Good family drama - super hit in Tamil. With Gemini Ganeshan, K R Vijaya and Savithri in the pivotal roles, a musical hit too with all the songs of the film in the voice of P Suseela. The Malayalam fllm also became a super hit - with good music by Salil Choudhary. Performance wise the Malayalam film lacks behind the Tamil and Hindi films. It could be said that the music was the deciding factor in the success of the Malayalam version. In Hindi Rajkumar, Nutan and Jamuna. Nutan excelled in the role of the heroine. A Malayalam remake worth watching.

Engal Thanka Raja 1973
Ithanente Vazhi 1978

Chila Nerangalil Chila Manitharkal 1976

Chila Nerangalil Chila Manushyar 1977

Kannagi 1942
Kodungallooramma 1979 (Again remade in Tamil as Poompuhar)

In no way can be compared with the tamil original, except for the good music of the Malayalam film. The stunning performance of P Kannamba as Kannagi remains an icon of the heroine of the Tamil epic Chilappathikaram. K R Vijaya, by her looks or acting did not come up with a near comparison with the character. Music saved the film from immersing into obscurity.
Naanum Oru Penn 1963
Hridayathinte Nirangal 1979 (Main Bhi Ladki Hoon - in Hindi - 1964 )

A block buster in Tamil and Hindi. How dare P Subramaniam to produce such a hopeless film in Malayalam with a newcomer as the heroine.
The Malayam film flopped. Tamil film with S S Rajendran and Vijayakumari in the lead roles and Hindi film with Dharmendra and Meenakumari in the lead remain classics. The Malayalam film sunk into obscurity.

Alayamani 1962 Oru
Ragam Pala Taalam 1979 ( In Hindi as "Aadmi" 1968)

A Block buster in Tamil and the Hindi remake also became a classic of Dilip Kumar. The Malayalam remake flopped. Music of the Tamil film by Viswanathan Ramamoorthy and of the Hindi by Naushad also remain evergreen to this day. Music of the Malayalam film did not impress.

Mullum Malarum 1978
Venalil Oru Mazha 1979

Super hit Rajnikant movie in Tamil, the Malayalam remake also succeeded with Madhu, Srividya in the lead roles. Music of the Malayalam movie also became super hit, with novel songs like - Ayala porichathundu...

Kai kodutha Deivam 1964
Palunku Paathram 1970 ( I remember very much, Hindi remake also has come.
Dont remember now, have to locate)

Malayalam remake under the direction of Thikkurissi sunk without leaving a trace. Tamil film remains a all time hit with good story, good acting and music. Sivaji, Savithri in the lead roles. Touching story of a girl with immature and child like mind and character. Savithri excelled in the role.

Raja Parvai 1981
Nancy 1981

Avargal 1977
Sreeman Sreemathi 1981

The Malayalam remake, though was not that much successful at the box office, it was a good remake in Malayalam. Srividya excelled in her role as the courageous woman who fights agains the injustice towards her by her busband.

Kudiyiruntha Kovil 1968
Dhruvasangamam 1981

Remake of the super hit MGR movie which flopped at the box office

Engiruntho Vanthaal 1970
Amruthavahini 1976 (In Hindi the same year 1970 - Khilauna)

Tamil as well as the Hindi were block busters. And comparatively Hindi was more successful with good performances by Sanjeev Kumar and Mumtaz. In Tamil Sivaji and Jayalalitha. Malayalam flopped.

Ezhai Pedum Paadu 1950

Neethipeetham 1977 (An adaptation of Victor Hugo's novel "Les Miserables"-

And a novel of the same title as the film authored by
Sudhananda Bharathi)

The Tamil film remains a classic,though it did not create wonders at the box office. Good performance by Nagiah , Padmini etc and melodies by M L Vasanthakumari. The Malayalam film just an average film.

Major Chandrakant 1960

Karthavyam 1982

Good acting by Madhu and Jagathi. But the film failed at the box office.

Paalai Vana cholai 1981
Ithu Njangalude Katha 1982

One of the very successful remakes. The Malayalam remake succeeded like its original. Captivating performances by Suhasini in Tamil and by Santhi Krishna in Malayalam. Probably the best film of Santhi Krishna in Malayalam.

Vidiyum Vare Kaathiru 1981
Saram 1982

Chattam oru Iruttarai 1981
Maattuvin Chattangale 1982

Engal Vadhyar 1980
Guru Dakshina 1983

Nooravathu Naal 1984
Ayiram Kannukal 1986

Successful Malayalam remake of the box office hit of Vijayakant in Tamil. In Malayalam good acting by Mammootty and Shobana.
A good suspense thriller in Malayalam.

Savale Samali 1970
Randu Lokam 1977

Unsuccessful remake of the block buster Sivaji-Jayalalitha starrer Tamil film.

Poova Thalaiya 1969
Balapareekshanam 1978

Unsucessful remake of a commercial hit by K Balachander in Tamil. Performance of the action hero Jayashankar and the villainous role performed by the versatile genius and singing star of early tamil cinema, S Varalakshmi was the high point of the tamil movie. In Malayalam Raghavan and Sukumari failed to impress the audience by their corresponding roles.

Bhadrakali 1976
Pichippoo 1978

Galatta Kalyanam 1968
Snehikkan Samayamilla 1978

Kanavane Kan Kanda Deivam 1955
Nagamatathu Thampuratti 1982 (As Devta in HIndi - 1956)

Malayalam film also succeeded in collecting at the box office. But not like the Tamil original or the Hindi remake. With Anjali Devi, Lalitha and Gemini Ganeshan in the Tamil; and with Anjali Devi, Vyjayanthimala and Gemini Ganeshan in the Hindi, the film was one of the best fantasy tales ever produced in Tamil as well as Hindi. But the Malayalam remake did not rise up to that status. In Tamil as well as the Hindi, the vampish role of Lalitha and Vyjayanthimala respectively was main attraaction of the film. In Malayalam Unni Mary failed to impress the audience by the corresponding role. In Tamil as well as the Hindi, the films were musical hits

Monday, November 22, 2010

Chemmeen (1965)

Cast: Sathyan, Madhu, Sheela, Kottarakkara Sreedharan Nair, Adoor Bhavani, S. P. Pillai, Adoor Pankajam etc.

Cult Classic Sheela with Sathyan, left, and Madhu in the film Chemmeen
‘Chemmeen,' released in 1965, put Malayalam cinema on the national map. The film won the President's Gold Medal for the best film of the year. The film acquired cult status in the history of Malayalam cinema besides being the first South Indian film to win the coveted President's Gold Medal for the best film. The film was released commercially on August 19, 1966.

The film was based on a highly acclaimed Malayalam novel of the same title by the renowned novelist and Jnanapith winner Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai. First published in 1956, the novel won the award for the best literary work from Kendra Sahitya Academy in 1957 and was the first Malayalam novel to receive the national honour.

‘Chemmeen' was translated to more than 30 languages which include major Indian languages and foreign languages. The novel was accepted as part of the UNESCO collection of Representative Works - Indian series.

In 1965 Babu Ismail produced the film version of the novel under the banner of Kanmani Films. The story of ‘Chemmeen' is set in a fisherfolk community settled in the southern belt of the coastal area of the state. The highly emotional melodrama told the tragic love story set in the backdrop of a fishing village interlinked with some ancient beliefs that exists among the community.

The Hindi film ‘Nadiya Ke Paar' (1948) produced by Filmstan under the direction of Kishore Sahu, with Dilip Kumar and Kamini Kaushal in the lead roles, was probably the first Indian film that focussed on the life, customs, traditions and beliefs of the fishermen. The Malayalam film ‘Thirakalkkapuram,' was a sequel to ‘Chemmeen.' But this film failed badly at the box office.

‘Chemmeen' was a huge hit. It was one of the earliest colour films made in Malayalam. Besides the National award, the film won a Certificate of Merit at the Chicago Film Festival. The film was screened at the 2005 Brisbane International Film Festival as a part of the retrospective on 50 years of Malayalam Cinema.

The dialogues written by the popular playwright S. L. Puram Sadanandan closely followed the local parlance and slang of the fishermen community, as used by the novelist. Directed by Ramu Kariat, the film was canned by cameramen Marcus Bartley and U. Rajagopal. The editing was by Hrishikesh Mukherji. The superb musical score by Salil Choudhary was another major strength of the film. This was the debut Malayalam film of the composer. The film brought to Malayalam cinema playback singer Manna Dey.

The film included the top acting talents of Malayalam cinema like Sathyan, Madhu, Kottarakkara and Sheela. The theme of the film was based on a myth prevalent among the fishermen communities along oastal Kerala. The myth is about chastity. They believed that if a married fisherwoman loses her chastity while her husband is away at sea, ‘Kadalamma' or the sea goddess would consume him. This myth is perpetuated by the novelist in his novel through a tragic love story. This was adapted for the film quite impressively. Karuthamma (Sheela), the daughter of a fisherman Chembankunju (Kottarakkara) is in love with a fish trader, Pareekutty (Madhu). Chembankunju's only aim in life is to own a boat and net. Pareekutty finances Chembankunju to realise this dream. This is on a condition that the fish caught by Chembankunju will be sold only to him. Karuthamma's mother Chakki (Adoor Bhavani) comes to know about the love affair of her daughter with Pareekutty, who belongs to another religion and warns her to keep away from such a relationship. A fisherwoman has to lead a life within the boundaries of strict social traditions and an affair or marriage with a person of another religion will subject the entire community to the wrath of the sea.

Karuthamma sacrifices her love for Pareekutty and marries Palani (Sathyan), a young fisherman. Karuthamma accompanies her husband to his village. Karuthamma gives birth to a child and she has endeavoured to be a good wife and mother. But the scandal about her love affair with Pareekutty makes her family life unhappy. Although Palani accepts that Karuthamma's affair with Pareekutty did not break the barriers and slip into illegitimate relations, the village does not believe it and Palani is censured.

Chembankunju becomes more greedy and heartless. His dishonesty drives Pareekutty to bankruptcy. Chakki dies of illness and Chembankunju marries Paappikunju (C. R. Rajakumari). On the arrival of her stepmother, Panchami (Lata), Chembankunju's younger daughter leaves home and joins Karuthamma. Chembankunju's savings is manipulated by his second wife. The setbacks in life turns Chembankunju mad. Palani's friends ostracise him and refuse to take him with them for fishing.

One night Karuthamma and Pareekutty meet each other by a stroke of fate and their love is awakened. Palani is alone at the sea and baiting a shark. Caught in a huge whirlpool Palani is swallowed by the sea. The film ends with Pareekutty and Karuthamma found dead, holding their hands, their bodies washed ashore. At a distance lies a baited, dead shark.

The film was dubbed to major Indian languages. Timeless music created by the Vayalar-Salil Choudhary combination was a highpoint. All the four songs became super hits. It is said that Salil Choudhary composed the tunes first and lyrics added in. Manna Dey sang his first Malayalam song, ‘Maanasa mainey varoo...' which was an instant hit. The solo by K. J. Yesudas, ‘Kadalinakkre ponore...' was based on an improvised tune of a very popular Bengali folk song composed by Salil Choudhary ‘Hai hai ki hayrilam...' The chorus led by P. Leela and Yesudas, ‘Pennale pennale ...,' based on a folk tune also became very popular.

Will be remembered: As the first South Indian film to receive the President's Gold Medal. As the debut Malayalam film of music director Salil Choudhary and playback singer Manna Dey.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Kodungallooramma (1968)

Prem Nazir, S. P. Pillai, Adoor Bhasi, K. R. Vijaya, Jyothilakshmi etc

Epic story P. Kannamba as Kannagi in the Tamil version of the epic

The Malayalam film ‘Kodungallooramma' was an adaptation of the legend of Kannagi, a character from the Tamil-Jain epic and morality tale ‘Chilappathikaram' written by ancient Tamil poet Ilango Adigal during 1st century AD. The story is about the revenge of Kannagi against the injustice inflicted to her husband Kovalan by the ruler of the Pandya kingdom.

The legend of Kannagi was staged as musical operas throughout South India.

The first known musical opera based on the epic was ‘Kovalan Charitham' (1914) written by the Tamil poet and dramatist K. V. Udayara Pillai The musical opera was staged successfully throughout South India. This was perhaps the earliest Tamil musical opera to be staged in Kerala. The popular playwrights of Malayalam musical opera P. K. Velu Pillai and K. R. Neelakanta Pillai came up with Malayalam versions of this legend in 1921 and 1924 respectively. Both the stage plays were performed by prominent troupes very successfully.

In 1928 Guarantee Film Corporation produced a silent film ‘Kovalan,' directed by R. S. Prakash. This is probably the first film version of the ancient Tamil epic. The very next year General Pictures Corporation came up with a silent version of the story titled ‘Kovalan' or ‘The Fatal Anklet,' directed by A. Narayanan. The Tamil film produced by Imperial Film Corporation in 1933 with Leela and Narasimha Rao in the lead roles was the first sound film based on the epic story.

The Tamil film ‘Kannagi' (1942) produced by Jupiter Pictures and directed by R. S. Mani is considered as the best film adaptation of the epic. The performance of the singing star of early Tamil and Telugu cinema, Pasupaleti Kannamba as Kannagi remains her best and perhaps one of the best in the history of Tamil cinema. The character of Kannagi is figured in popular legends in Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka and was subjected to various mutations down the centuries in poetry and theatre. But as an icon, Kannagi came to be identified with P. Kannamba's image after the tremendous success of the 1942 film. Even some of the statues of Kannagi that adorn junctions and public places in Tamil Nadu seems to have been modelled on Kannamba. In 1964 Kannagi's story was remade in Tamil as ‘Poompuhar' with M. Karunanidhi's script and dialogues. However, the performance of Vijayakumari as Kannagi did not impress. The film flopped. The impressive dialogues written by Karunanidhi for the film is reflected in those written by Jagathi N. K. Achari for the Malayalam film ‘Kodungallooramma'. The film was directed by M. Kunchacko.
The story of the Malayalam film deviates from the Tamil epic ‘Chilappathikaram' and the various film and stage versions in certain aspects. In some of the film versions Kannagi is portrayed as the incarnation of goddess Parvathi who was made to descend to the earth following a curse by Lord Shiva. There is no such mention in the Malayalam film. Further, the Malayalam film co-relates the epic story with the history of the famous temple at Kodungalloor where the presiding deity is Bhagavathi. The special effects scenes in which the city of Madurai is set to fire failed to impress. The music composed by K. Raghavan (Raghunath in the title cards) was the highpoint of the film.

The film opens with a scene where devotees are seen worshipping the goddess at the famous Kodungalloor Bhagavathi Temple. The story of Kannagi follows as the flash back. Kovalan (Prem Nazir), the son of a wealthy merchant (Thikkurissi) of Kaverippoompattanam in the Chola kingdom marries Kannagi (K. R.Vijaya), a woman of legendary beauty. The young couple live happily until Kovalan meets a dancer Madhavi (Jyothilakshmi) and falls in love with her. In his infatuation for the dancer Kovalan forgets his wife and gradually spends all his wealth on Madhavi.

K. R. Vijaya as Kannagi in the Malayalam version

Kovalan becomes penniless and is expelled from Madhavi's house. Kannagi, the loyal wife, receives her husband. They leave their hometown and reach the neighbouring Pandya kingdom. The only asset left with them is Kannagi's anklets filled with precious stones. Kannagi offers to sell one of her anklets to help Kovalan start his business.

The anklet of the Pandya Queen is stolen. Kannagi's anklet, which Kovalan attempts to sell, is mistaken to be that of the Queen's. Kovalan is arrested and brought before the royal court. Kovalan is beheaded by royal command. Kannagi avenges herself by proving the king was mistaken. While the Queen's anklet was filled with pearls Kannagi's anklet was filled with rubies. The king and the queen die of remorse. Kannagi in her anger sets the entire Pandyan capital town of Madurai to fire. She leaves the Pandya kingdom and reaches the neighbouring Chera kingdom. King Chenkuttavan, of the Chera kingdom, worships Kannagi and builds a temple for her at Kodungalloor. The film ends with a scene showing Kannagi as the presiding deity in the temple.

The Kodungalloor episode in the legend of Kannagi, as shown in the Malayalam film, has no reference in the Tamil epic or in any historical document. It remains just an ancient belief. There is no similar reference in any of the earlier stage or screen versions of the epic.

K. R. Vijaya's performance as Kannagi was impressive, but of course, was no match to the classic performance of P. Kannamba. The comedy scenes involving Adoor Bhasi, S. P. Pillai, Adoor Pankajam etc. adversely affected the highly charged and sentimental theme of the film. And all these scenes were just repetitions from earlier films. The climax, where Madurai town is shown engulfed in flames was not effective. The film was released on November 22, 1968, to coincide with the annual Sabarimala pilgrimage season. Despite all this the film did not really click.

The seven songs written by Vayalar Rama Varma were set to music by K. Raghavan. All the songs turned hits. The romantic number "Manju bhashini ..' (K. J. Yesudas), the soulful solo ‘Bhadradeepam ...' (S. Janaki) and the group song led by M. Balamuralikrishna ‘Kodungallooramme ...' became very popular. The other hits include ‘Rithukanyakayude...' (P. Susheela), ‘Kaveri poompattanathil...' (Balamuralikrishna-Susheela ),
‘Udayasthamanangale...' (Yesudas) and ‘Narthaki nisha narthaki...' (Yesudas-P. Leela).
Will be remembered: As the Malayalam film on the history of the Kodungalloor temple. And for its timeless music.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Vanamala (1951)

'Vanamala' is considered the first ‘jungle movie' in Malayalam. Movies of this genre were hugely inspired by Tarzan created by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

The silent movie ‘King of Forest' (1926) produced by Royal Arts with Jilloo Bai and Udvadia in the lead roles was probably the first Indian movie in this genre. ‘Jungle Queen' (1936), ‘Jungle King' (1939), ‘Jungle Princess' (1942) etc. are some of the early Hindi films with similar plots. Most of these adventure movies did well at the box office. Stunt actors like John Cawas and ‘Fearless' Nadia were integral parts of such movies.

The Tamil film ‘Vanaraja Karzan' (1938) produced by Wadia Movietone jointly with Madras United Artists Corporation was the first ‘jungle movie' from the South. The film was a hit and remade in Hindi as ‘Jungle King.' John Cawas acted as hero in both the films. ‘Vanamohini' (1941) produced by South Indian United Artists Corporation,' directed by the Hindi comedian-producer Bhagawan was a runaway hit. The glamour girl of the time K. Thavamani Devi's performance was a highpoint. The Tamil film ‘Toofan Queen' (1940), though not strictly a ‘jungle film' had a story set in the backdrop of the forest.

The success of such film must have inspired the producers, V&C Productions, to make the Malayalam film ‘Vanamala.' The story of the film was written by its director, G. Viswanath. The dialogues were by the popular playwright Munshi Paramu Pillai. The lyrics by the eminent writer P. Kunjukrishna Menon and music was composed by P. S. Divakar.

‘Vanamala' had P. A. Thomas and debutant Neyyattinkara Komalam, who was cast in a Lady Tarzan kind of role. Stage artistes essayed the other important roles. The comic track that had S. P. Pillai was impressive. The film also had an elephant ‘Baby Lakshmi' and most of the billboards of the film featured this elephant.

The film was shot at Udaya Studios using sets. Only a few scenes were shot near Pechippara Dam, near Marthandam. Most of the scenes involving wild animals were lifted from foreign films.

The story of the film revolved around the Zamindar of ‘Vasantha Vilas' (Kandiyoor Parameswarankutty) and his daughter. The girl, named Mala, was born after many years of marriage. When Mala was born her father had a chain put on her neck with a locket engraved with her name. The Zamindar had once promised his Secretary Prasad (Muthukulam Karthikeyan Nair) that he would adopt his son Ashokan as his heir. But the birth of Mala changed the equations. Prasad engages his faithful servant Babu to kill Mala. But instead Babu abandons the girl in a forest.

Here Mala is looked after by a tribal couple and an elephant. They girl grows up as Nalini (Neyyattinkara Komalam). The elephant becomes her companion.

The zamindar shifts his residence to his Sivalokam estate on the outskirts of the forest. Prasad and his son Ashokan (P. A. Thomas) also accompany the Zamindar. Ashokan and Nalini meet each other in the forest and fall in love. Prasad recognises Nalini by the locket on her chain. He fears that if Nalini is left to live his son Ashokan would lose the right of inheritance. Prasad also comes to know that Ashokan and Nalini are in love. All his attempts to separate them are in vain. Prasad requests Ashokan to leave the estate but he stays in the forest in disguise.

Prasad makes an attempt to kill Nalini but is thwarted by Ashokan. In the melee that ensues Nalini stabs Prasad to death. Before he dies Prasad reveals to the Zamindar that Nalini is none other than his daughter Mala. The Zamindar gives his daughter's hand in marriage to Ashokan.

There were nine songs in the film. Most of them were copies of Hindi tunes. The solo by Jikki, ‘Thalli thalli haa ...' was a direct lift of the popular duet ‘Gore gore O baanke...' by Lata Mangeshkar and Ameerbai Karnataki from the Hindi film ‘Samadhi' (1950). And incidentally this was Jikki's first Malayalam film song. The other hits were, ‘Ullam thulli vilayodiyithu...' (Jikki), ‘Aho vidhiyo...', ‘Haa imbam kolka naam...' (by Jikki and Mehboob). .

Will be remembered: As the first ‘jungle movie' in Malayalam. As the debut film of Neyyattinkara Komalam, director G .Viswanath, lyricist P. Kunjukrishna Menon, singer Jikki and cameraman Arumugham.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Thulabharam (1968)

Sharada, Sheela, Prem Nazir, Madhu, Thikkurissi, Adoor Bhasi, Adoor Bhavani etc

Realistic telling A scene from the film which got Sharada the National Award for the best actor

The Malayalam stage play ‘Thulabharam,' written by Thoppil Bhasi in 1968 was a thundering hit. The unusual political drama that focussed on the blacklegging in trade unions and the villainous ways of the management of factories to suppress labour activities proved to be a successful recipe. The popular drama troupe, KPAC, staged the play throughout the country.

Supriya Films came with a screen version of this highly emotional drama the same year under the same title. And not surprisingly it became a huge hit.

Popular stars of the time like Prem Nazir, Madhu, Thikkurissi, Adoor Bhasi, Sharada, Sheela, Adoor Bhavani and others came up with stellar performances. The film also had some fine songs from the hit-duo Vayalar-Devarajan. The film won for Sharada the National film award for best actress. It was also adjudged the second best film of the year.

The film focussed on some of the undesirable features among political and trade unions, resultant labour issues. It portrayed a realistic picture of the working class that often falls prey to the evil of the Management-Trade Union disputes in factories.

The stage play adopted the Sanskrit drama style of ‘Vishkambam' wherein the story is told as a flashback. The film also starts with a court scene with the heroine narrating her hapless story. This was a deviation from the usual storytelling method.

The dialogues written by the dramatist himself for the film were impressive. The film is considered one of the best directorial venture of A. Vincent. Shot at AVM and Vikram Studios, the camera was handled by Bhaskar Rao and Venkitraman was the editor. The film stood out for its technical excellence.

Following the great success of the Malayalam film, the story was remade in Tamil, Telugu and Hindi with Sharada as the heroine in all the versions. In the Tamil version, titled ‘Thulabharam' she was paired with AVM Rajan, in Telugu with Shobhan Babu and in Hindi with Ajay Sahni. The Tamil version also was directed by Vincent and the other two language versions, ‘Manushulu Marali' (Telugu) and ‘Samaj Ko Badal Dalo' (Hindi) by Madhusudana Rao. All the versions closely followed the original script and dialogues written by Thoppil Bhasi. They also did well at the box office. Vijaya (Sharada) and Valsala (Sheela) are college mates and are close friends. Vijaya's father R .K. Menon (Thikkurissi) is a factory owner and Valsala's father Achuthan Nair (Adoor Bhasi) a leading advocate. Menon is swindled by his manager and loses ownership of the factory. He dies following a heart attack. Vijaya's beau Babu (Madhu) also abandons her. Achuthan Nair who was Menon's advocate also does not come to Vijaya's help. Ramu (Prem Nazir), a faithful labourer of the factory marries Vijaya. They lead a happy life despite all the hardships. Ramu is the leader of the labour union. In the meanwhile, Valsala enrols as a student of Law.

Years roll on. Vijaya is now mother of three children. Due to trade union disputes the factory is closed down and Ramu loses his job. He tries to get the factory re-opened with the support from the Government. One day Ramu is stabbed to death by the goons hired by the management. Vijaya and children are orphaned. The children also take to begging for a living. When Vijaya comes to know of this she punishes them.

People now begin to hound Vijaya. Rumours are spread about her morality. Even her mother-in-law turns against her. Poverty drives her son to steal a loaf of bread from a tea shop. The shop owner burns the face of the boy with a red hot ladle. Vijaya can take it no more. She decides to kill herself and her children. She feeds her children with poisoned food. The children die but Vijaya survives. The law proclaims Vijaya a murderer. She is taken to court. Here her friend Valsala, now Public Prosecutor, appears for the Government. The murder case is proved. Vijaya narrates her story to the court. The film ends with a question directed to the law and society at large about the terrible circumstances, the unbearable cruelty of the society that provokes a mother to kill her own children.

Sharada excelled as the struggling mother. Her stunning performance, especially in the climax, is often compared to that of Nargis in the classic ‘Mother India' (1957). Deviating from his usual romantic roles, Prem Nazir came up with a commendable performance as the trade union leader. Madhu, Sheela, Thikkurissi, Adoor Bhasi and the others also did justice to their roles.

The music was superb. All the six songs written by Vayalar and tuned by Devarajan became hits. ‘Kaattadichu kodum kaattadichu...' (K. J. Yesudas), the lullaby ‘Omanthingalin Onam...' (Yesudas-P. Susheela), the romantic number ‘Thottu thottilla... ‘ (Yesudas), the dance song ‘Bhoomidevi pushpiniyayi....' (Susheela-B.Vasantha), ‘Prabhata gopura vaathil ...' (Yesudas-Janaki) and ‘Nashtappeduvaan vilangukal…' (Jayachandran & chorus) are still popular.

Will be remembered: As the film that won National awards, second best feature film of the year and the Urvashi Award for best actress for Sharada. And for its timeless music.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

School Master (1964)

Thikkurissi Sukumaran Nair, Aranmula Ponnamma, Prem Nazir, T. S. Muthiah, Balaji, Ragini, Ambika, Kalpana etc.

A MORAL TALE Sivaji Ganeshan and Sowcar Janaki in a scene from the film.

Released in 1964, School Master focussed on undesirable practices of school managements. A successful social film it propagated integral morals and glorified the teacher-student relationship.

The story, on which a series of films were made, was originally written by popular Marathi poet, actor, scenarist and lyricist, Gajanan Digambar Madgulkar popularly known as G. D. Madgulkar. The first film version was Oon Paoos (1954) in Marathi. The film was a tremendous success and went on to become a landmark in Marathi cinema.

Popular Kannada film producer, actor, director and founder of ‘Padmini Pictures,' B. R. Panthulu came up with film versions of this story in various languages. In 1958 School Master (Kannada), Engal Kudumbam Perisu (Tamil) and Badi Pantulu (Telugu) were directed by him. In 1959 ALS Productions remade the story in Hindi as School Master, again directed by Panthulu. In 1973 once again the same story was filmed in Tamil.

All the film versions about an old school master and his noble attempt to transform the students of his native village were hits at the box office. B. R. Panthulu himself acted in the role of the central character of the school master and the popular Kannada-Tamil actress M. V. Rajamma as his wife in all the films except the 1973 Tamil version in which Gemini Ganeshan and Sowcar Janaki took the main roles.

Dialogues for the Malayalam film were written by noted novelist Ponkunnam Varkey. It closely followed the original script and dialogues written by Kanagal Prabhakara Shastry for the 1958 Kannada version as it was in the case of the other film versions of the story.

Popular stars of the time, like Prem Nazir, Balaji, Ragini, Ambika, Muthiah et. al. were roped in for the film. Thikkurissi Sukumaran Nair played the central character, the school master and Aranmula Ponnamma was cast in the role of his wife.

This film saw the Malayalam debut of popular Tamil actors Balaji, Sivaji Ganeshan and Sowcar Janaki. Vidhubala also began her film career in this film, as a child artiste.

The film was a huge hit. This despite the fact that both the 1958 Tamil version Engal Kudumbam Perisu and the 1959 Hindi version School Master also did extremely well in Kerala. The music composed by G. Devarajan was certainly the high point of the film.

Raman Pillai (Thikkurissi) is a committed headmaster of an upper primary school in a small village. The teacher and his wife (Aranmula Ponnamma) struggle hard to bring up and educate their sons Aniyan (Prem Nazir), Murali (Balaji) and daughter Vasanthi (Kalpana). He borrows money from private financiers and even pledges the house to raise money.

Sekharan Nair (T. S. Muthiah), the manager of the school is a crooked man. All his plans to manipulate the school activities and make money is defeated by the timely intervention of Raman Pillai. By his hard and dedicated work, Raman Pillai succeeds in upgrading the institution to a high school. But by that time, he reaches the age of retirement, and has to bid goodbye to his beloved school.

Murali and Aniyan get good jobs after their studies and they live separately in their houses with their wives. Raman Pillai conducts the marriage of his daughter Vasanthi. Now the poor school master is in abject penury and sadly his children abandon him. Creditors sue him and Raman Pillai's house is placed for auction by the court.

The school master and his wife are forced to seek shelter with their sons, the school master with one son and his wife with another.

The pangs of separation becomes too much for the aged couple to bear. They leave their shelter and wander in the streets in search of each other.

Johnny (Sivaji Ganeshan), an old student of Raman Pillai, finds his school master on the railway platform. Johnny, now a police officer, remembers with gratitude how his old teacher had led him through the right path during his school days. He buys his school master's house. Johnny and his wife (Sowcar Janaki) take Raman Pillai and his wife to the house. The school master is overwhelmed with joy when he realises that he can now live in his own house which he thought was lost forever.

Thikkurissi and Aranmula Ponnamma excelled in their roles. Prem Nazir, Balaji and Kannada actress Kalpana also came up with impressive performances. Ragini and Ambika, as the school master's daughters-in-law did justice to their small roles. A dance sequence featuring Baby Padmini went well with the audience.

Devarajan's music was simply out of the world. All the eight songs, written by Vayalar Rama Varma, turned chartbusters. The patriotic song, Jaya jaya jaya janmabhoomi… sung by K. J. Yesudas, P. Leela and A. P. Komala was the most popular of them. A children's song sung by M. S. Rajeswari, Kilukilukkum kilukilukkum... is widely considered as one of the best by the singer in Malayalam. The other hits include Paravakalai pirannirunnenkil... (P. Susheela), Ini ente inakkilikkenthu venam... (Yesudas-Susheela), Thamara kulakkadavil... (A. M. Raja-Susheela), the dance number Vaikom kayalil olam... (Yesudas-Leela), Zindabad zindabad... (A. P. Komala and chorus) and the haunting Niranja kannukalode... by P. B. Srinivas).

Will be remembered: As the debut film of director S. R. Puttanna and actress Vidhubala. As the first Malayalam film of Sivaji Ganeshan, Balaji, Sowcar Janaki and Kalpana. For its strong social message and for its excellent music.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Yachakan ( 1951 )

Aranmula Ponnamma in a scene from the film. Photo: Special Arrangement
Aranmula Ponnamma in a scene from the film. Photo: Special Arrangement
Yachakan' was the last Malayalam film released during the year 1951. The film reached the theatres during Onam but the storyline had nothing to do with the festival. It did have a few dance and song sequences related to Onam. The film bombed at the box office.
Produced by K. S. Akhileswara Iyer under the banner of Kairali Productions, the film was the first directorial venture of R. Velappan Nair, a noted cinematographer of the time.
The film was an adaptation of the Malayalam novel ‘Paradeshi' authored by Dr. P.S. Nair. The novelist himself wrote the script and dialogues for the film. It was edited by K. D. George. Shot at Rathna Studios, Salem, the film had few dances choreographed by Tripunithura Madhavan Menon, which were the highlights.

Freedom fighter, leader of the Sarvodaya Movement in Kerala, and former General Secretary of Nair Service Society (NSS), M. P. Manmathan starred as hero, the only film he acted in. Popular artistes like Kottarakkara Sreedharan Nair, S. P. Pillai, Miss Kumari, Aranmula Ponnamma, Muthukulam and others provided the star value.
‘Jeevitha Nauka,' released the same year, had a sub plot relating to the rehabilitation of the mendicants. The country was slowly achieving economic progress and poverty was a burning issue. The heroine of ‘Jeevitha Nauka' is one who struggles for the rehabilitation of beggars and the film had scenes where she strives to get justice for them.
‘Yachakan' stressed on the problems faced by the society due to poverty and begging. In fact, the protagonist was a beggar. But the film failed to attract the audience.
Sudhakara Prabhu (S. J. Dev) a wealthy landlord lords over ‘Padmalayam'. The film opens with Prabhu conducting an elaborate Onam feast in his palatial house. Sathi (Miss Kumari) is the daughter of an old servant of this house who was given refuge by Prabhu when her father fled away from the city. Gopi Mohan (Kottarakkara) is the manager of ‘Padmalayam'. He has an eye on the wealth of ‘Padmalayam' and manages to win the heart of Sarojam (Ambalapuzha Meenakshi), sister of Prabhu. He is even able to manipulate the wealth with Sarojam's support. 

Sathi falls in love with Chandran (M. P. Manmathan), a beggar who is engaged in a struggle for their welfare and rehabilitation. Prabhu appreciates the noble cause for which Chandran works and supports him with generous donations. But he turns against Chandran when he comes to know that Chandran is in love with Sathi. 

Sarojam becomes pregnant and Gopi Mohan betrays her. He now tries to win over Anandam (Aranmula Ponnamma), a prostitute, and her friend Meenu (Thankam). He misleads Anandam and makes her believe that he is the landlord of ‘Padmalayam'. Gopi Mohan is expelled from the house when Prabhu comes to know about his misdeeds.
Gopi Mohan tries to molest Sathi but the timely intervention of a masked man saves the girl. Sarojam gives birth to a child and out of shame runs away from the house leaving her child at ‘Padmalayam'. 

Prabhu changes his mind when he comes to know about the true love of Sathi and Chandran. He promises to conduct their marriage. Sathi leaves home in search of Chandran. Now, a misunderstanding springs up between the lovers. Chandran suspects that Sathi is in love with Prabhu and begins to spurn her. Gopi Mohan reaches Chandran's hut and attempts to kill him. 

Again the masked man appears and saves Chandran's life. Gopi Mohan's vengeance does not end. He attacks ‘Padmalayam' with his gang and tries to molest Sathi in the presence of Prabhu. The masked man appears again and beats back Gopi Mohan.
Now to the climax of the film, which is reconcilation and clearing of all misunderstandings. Sarojam finds Gopi Mohan on the streets, seriously ill and brings him home. Chandran's foster father reveals to him on his death bed that he is none other than the elder brother of Sudhakara Prabhu, who was kidnapped by Madhu Pillai (Muthukulam) while he was a child. The child was handed over to the beggars by Madhu Pillai. 

The masked man is Kunju, who has been pretending to be the faithful servant to Gopi Mohan in order to save others from his cruel deeds. Sathi and Kunju are children of Raghu Raman, the faithful servant of ‘Padmalayam' who was forced to leave the household due various reasons. Gopi dies of illness and Madhu Pillai becomes a lunatic. Sudhakara Prabhu invites his elder brother Chandran to take over charge of ‘Padmalayam'. But Chandran refuses for his life's mission is welfare of the beggars. He leaves home with Sathi. 

Though a new comer, M. P. Manmathan impressed in the lead role. Deviating from her usual roles, Aranmula Ponnamma was cast in a negative role but did not impress. Kottarakkara performed well as the villain. 

There were 18 songs in the film. The songs included the popular poem ‘Komala Keralamey...' written by the noted poet Narayanan Nair, popularly known as ‘Bodheswaran' and another one written by G. Sankara Kurup, ‘Innu njaan naale nee..' The other songs were written by Abhayadev. Music was by S. N. Ranganathan. A romantic duet sung by V. N. Rajan and P. Leela, ‘Veeshuka neele, veeshuka neele...' became a hit. A solo sung by Rajan, ‘Swantham viyarpinaal..' also became popular. 

This was the debut film of Rajan, brother of Vaikom Saraswathi, a popular classical singer of that time. Soon after the recordings of the songs for the film, Rajan died of illness and Malayalam cinema lost a gifted playback singer. 

Will be remembered: As the only film acted by M. P. Manmathan. And as the debut film of poet Bodheswaran, producer Akhileswara Iyer and singer V. N. Rajan.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Nalla Thanka (1950)

V Dakshinamoorthy

‘Nalla Thanka' is considered as the first ‘Mega Hit' in Malayalam cinema. The film introduced legends like music director V. Dakshinamoorthy, and stalwarts of musical opera like Augustine Joseph and Vaikom Mani to tinsel world. The film also introduced comic actor S. P. Pillai and actress Miss Omana (real name N J Mary) to Malayalam cinema.

Early Malayalam cinema saw the entry of several popular stage artistes. Playback singing was not very popular and the singing stars from musical opera were preferred by film producers and directors. With the advent and popularity of cinema, ‘sangeeta natakam' began losing its prominence. Augustine Joseph and Manikuttan Nair, popularly known as Vaikom Mani, were two such singing stars who entered films through this film.

Augustine Joseph who formed the Udaya Kerala Natana Kala Samithi based in Kochi was noted for his Biblical, mythological and historical characters on stage. He was gifted with a melodious voice and was proficient in Carnatic music. The handsome actor's talents made him one of the most popular stars of musical opera. He also acted in the lead role in the Malayalam film ‘Velakkaran' (1953) and then went back to musical operas, never to come back to films again.

Vaikom Mani began acting from the age of 14. His singing and acting talents were recognised by Tamil cinema. He went on to act in films like ‘Daana Shoora Karnan' (1940), ‘Dharma Veeran' (1941) and ‘Krishnapidaaran' (1942). Songs sung by Vaikom Mani in the film ‘Dharma Veeran' turned big hits. Lyricist Sreekumaran Thampi is his son-in-law.

Music director V Dakshinamoorthy, who made his debut in this film, composed tunes for this venture along with Rama Rao, a noted Telugu music director. Most of the songs of ‘Nalla Thanka' were based on Carnatic ragas.

The legend of Nalla Thanka (‘Nalla Thankal' in Tamil) is based on a popular Tamil folk tale. The story was staged as musical operas in Tamil by some very popular drama troupes. These musical operas were very popular in Kerala. The mass appeal for these Tamil plays must have prompted the Malayalam version of a stage play.

The Malayalam musical opera ‘Nalla Thanka,' authored by Vaidyaratnam P. S. Varier, for the troupe Kottakkal Paramasiva Vilasam' became very popular.

The success of the Malayalam opera paved the way for the screen version. K. V. Koshy and Kunchacko, founders of Udaya Studios, went for the screen version of the story. The two Tamil film versions based on the legend of ‘Nalla Thangal' released in 1935 were not successful. But the Malayalam version titled ‘Nalla Thanka' created new records at the box office.

This was the second film produced at the Udaya Studios, the first being ‘Vellinakshathram' (1949) that failed at the box office.

The script and dialogues written by Muthukulam Raghavan Pillai followed the stage play with just minor changes. The camera was handled by A. Shanmugham and P. K. Madhavan Nair. The film was directed by P. V. Krishna Iyer.

Nalla Thanka (Miss Kumari), the only sister of Nallannan (Augustine Joseph), the King of Madhurapuri, is wedded to Somanathan (Vaikom Mani), the king of the neighbouring kingdom Ratnapuri. Alankari (Miss Omana), the wicked wife of Nallannan becomes envious of the prosperity of Ratnapuri and the happy married life of Nalla Thanka. Years pass and Nalla Thanka gives birth to seven children.

Drought strikes Ratnapuri and severe famine follows. Nalla Thanka leaves Ratnapuri with her children to seek the help of her kind brother. Nallannan promises all help. Alankari tortures Nalla Thanka. Nalla Thanka hides the misdeeds of Alankari from Nallannan as she does not want their family life to be disturbed.

Out of shame and grief, Nalla Thanka leaves her brother's palace. She decides to kill herself and her children. Nalla Thanka prays to Lord Shiva to forgive her for the decision. She throws her children one by one into a well. Lord Shiva descends and saves her life. All the children are brought back to life.

Nallannan comes to know about the misdeeds and cruelty of Alankari and she is banished from the country. Ratnapuri regains its glory. Nalla Thanka and Somanathan live happily with their children.

The performances of Augustine Joseph, Vaikom Mani, Miss Kumari and Miss Oamana were impressive. In fact, Miss Omana's character became so popular that the name Alankari became a synonym for a wicked woman. The special effect scenes was another highlight.

Music composed by Dakshinamoorthy was another highpoint. The songs were not free from the prevailing trend of imitations. There were 14 songs, written by Abhayadev.

The romantic duet sung by Vaikom Mani and P Leela, ‘Imbamerum ithalaakum mizhikalal...' was a direct copy of the Telugu song ‘Poovu cheri...' sung by Ghantasala and G. Varalakshmi from the Telugu film ‘Drohi' (1948. Music: Pendyala). The chorus sung by Augustine Joseph, Mani and Leela, ‘Manoharamee rajyam...' was a copy of the Mohamed Rafi-Noor Jehan duet ‘Yahan badla wafa ka ...' from the Hindi film ‘Jugnu' (1949. Music: Phiroze Nizami).

The solo sung by Ms. Kuruvila, ‘Pathiye deivam, deivame pathiye...' owes its tune to the Telugu number, ‘Premamayamee jeevithamu...' sung by Nagiah and Sabu from the film ‘Sumangali' (1940. Music: Nagiah).

In spite of being imitations all these songs became hits. The Vaikom Mani- Leela romantic duet became an evergreen number in this genre.

The lullaby by Leela, ‘Amma than premasoubhagya...' is considered as the first popular lullaby in Malayalam cinema. Other hits from the film included ‘Sodara bandham athonne...' (Augustine Joseph), ‘Anandamaanake...' (Augustine Joseph & chorus) etc. A prayer song ‘Shambho njaan...' (P Leela) was composed as a ragamalika.

Will be remembered: As the debut film of music director V. Dakshinamoorthy, actors Augustine Joseph, Vaikom Mani, S. P. Pillai and actress Miss Omana, and cinematographer P. K. Madhavan Nair. And as the first mega hit in Malayalam cinema and for its good music.