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.