|Prem Nazir, Madhu, K. P. Ummer, P. J. Antony, Sukumari, Usha Nandini, Jyothilakshmi, Adoor Bhasi etc|
Morality tale The film was hailed as a realistic breakthrough
‘Nagarame Nanni,' released in 1967, can be easily considered one of the best social movies produced in Malayalam. The film represents an impressive attempt at realism that began in Malayalam cinema with ‘Neelakuyil' and which attained more attention by the mid-60s. Most of the earlier social movies in the language were a far cry from reality, with unusual twists and turns.
Produced by Shobhana Parameswaran Nair under the banner of Roopavani, the film was directed by A.Vincent. A. Venkit handled the camera for the film that was shot partly outdoors, in Madras and at Satya, Prasad and Vikram Studios.
The story, script and dialogues were by M. T. Vasudevan Nair. In fact, this was a story written specially for the film. Most of the other films of this writer were based on his already published literary works. The dialogues had a strong Valluvanadan flavour and this was one of its attractions.
The star cast included noted stars of that time like Prem Nazir, Madhu, K. P. Ummer, P. J. Antony, Sukumari etc. in main roles. The lyrics by P. Bhaskaran were set to tune by K. Raghavan. Dances choreographed by P. S. Gopalakrishnana also impressed.
The film told of the tensions between tradition and the culture of the city, in the form of a morality tale, the story of a family that migrates from a village to the city of Madras in search of a better life. In the city some of the family members succumb to depravity and vice. In spite of the high melodrama the film was hailed as a realistic breakthrough. The dialogues penned by MT was perhaps one reason for this. This film is considered one of MT's best contributions to Malayalam cinema.
In the words of one of the characters, the city is a ‘concrete jungle lit up with neon lamps,' where humanity has no value. It may be purely accidental perhaps, but the film closely resembles two films that were shown in India at some film festivals during that period. One is ‘The Conquerors of the Golden City' (1965) directed by Getin Gurtop and the other is ‘Birds of Exile' (‘Gurbet Kuslari' in Turkish - 1964) directed by the noted Turkish film director Halit Refig. K. Balachander's Tamil film ‘Pattina Pravesham' (1977) also was based on the same theme and closely resembled these foreign films.
Madhavankutty( Prem Nazir) is from a rich aristocratic family in a remote village in Kerala that was reduced to penury due to his spendthrift father, whose extravaganza in conducting temple festivals took away the wealth of the family. After the death of the father Madhavankutty's family consisting of his mother (Bharathi Menon), sister Kunhilakshmi (Jyothilakshmi) and brother Unnikrishnan depend on their rich aunt's family. Madhavankutty leaves home in search of a job and reaches Madras. Raghavan (Madhu) gives him shelter in his small room where he lives with some of his friends who have small jobs in the city. With the help of Anandan Pillai (P J Antony), Madhavankutty gets the job of a driver. Anandan Pillai's daughter Bharathi (Usha Nandini) falls in love with Madhavankutty and Madhavankutty begins dreaming of a happy life. Madhavankutty brings his mother and younger ones to Madras. Kunhilakshmi joins tailoring classes and Unnikrishnan joins a Polytechnic. But the cruel hands of the city do not let the family lead a happy life. Kunhilakshmi falls in to the trap of Mrs. Mudaliar (Sukumari) and Captain Das ( K P Ummer) and ends up as a call girl. Raghavan tries to correct her but in vain. Madhavankutty meets with an accident. Except Raghavan nobody helps him in the hospital. One night Madhavnkutty chases the taxi in which Kunhilakshmi was travelling and his car crashes. He dies. Madhavankutty's mother returns to the village with her daughter and son.
Prem Nazir excelled in his role of the dutiful son in the family and so did Madhu as the good friend of Madhavankutty.
Jyothilakshmi as the innocent village girl in the begining and as the call girl did her role in an impressive manner. The villainous roles handled by K P Ummer and Sukumari also impressed the audience. In contrast to the Malayalam cinema's archetypes, the film offered some well drawn and realistic characters, which one could find aroundThe four songs penned by P Bhaskaran were tuned by K. Raghavan. All the four songs became instant hits. S Janaki sang the romantic hit, ‘Manjani poonilavu Peraattin Kadavingal.....' The song describing the city life, ‘Nagaram Nagaram Mahasagaram....." (Yesudas) remains one of the best in Malayalam cinema. The dance number, sung by L.R. Easwari, ‘Mullappoo Maala vilkum .....' also became a hit and stood the test of time.
Why remembered: As one of the best social movies and for the excellent music.