Minnaminungu, released on May 24, 1957, introduced M.S. Baburaj, the musical genius who popularised Hindustani music through his compositions, to Malayalam cinema. This was also the first independent directorial venture of Ramu Kariat. Playback singer Machad Vasanthi also made her debut in this film.
Produced by Ramu Kariat, jointly with Sreenivasan, under the banner of Chithra Keralam, the film was shot at Premiere Studios, Mysore. The impressive dialogues were by KSK Thalikulam for a story developed by Ramu Kariat along with Rafi.
The film dealt with a novel theme of inadequacy and corruption in the medical sector, which was prevalent in the remote villages of Kerala. Hindi films like Franz Osten’s Durga (1939) and Subodh Mithra’s Doctor (1941) had looked at this subject with fair success earlier. But Minnaminungu was not a commercial success. Film critics attribute the reason for failure to relatively unknown star cast of the film. The film was however noted for its sensible direction, K.V. Padmanabhan’s editing and cinematography by B.J. Reddy.
Eddy, Vasudev Cheruvari, Damayanthi, Mary Eddy, Padmam Menon were new. They were supported in guest roles by the more experienced actors such as Santhadevi, Premji and Manavalan Joseph.
The story pivots around a dispensary in a remote village. The greedy and corrupt doctor (Vasudev Cheruvari) in charge of the dispensary refuses to give proper medical care to Ammini’s (Damayanthi) mother (Santhadevi) and the old woman dies. The reason for this indifference was because Ammini could not pay the money demanded by the doctor. Ammini seeks refuge in the house of her neighbour Mathai (Vakkachan). The doctor is transferred following a complaint from the villagers. Sadanandan (Eddy), the new doctor posted here, is a widower. His mother (Padmam Menon) is unable to manage the household and the doctor struggles hard to bring up his children Babu (Vipin) and Suma (Seetha).
Mathai’s wife Thandamma (Mary Eddy) asks the doctor to appoint Ammini as a caretaker for his children. He does this and Ammini soon wins the heart of Babu and Suma. Ammini gets seriously wounded and Sadanandan’s prompt medical care cures her. Sadanandan falls in love with Ammini. Rumours are spread about them. Fearing that this would affect the reputation of her son the doctor’s mother dismisses Ammini from her job.
Babu and Suma are unable to bear this separation. Babu falls ill and Sadanandan’s medical care fails to give him relief. The news of Babu’s pathetic condition reaches Ammini who rushes to the doctor’s house. Her presence and care helps Babu recover. Sadanandan realises the need for a woman in bringing up his children. Ammini becomes part of the family. The film ends with the villagers bidding a tearful farewell to the doctor and his family following a transfer to another village.
The film reminds us of characters in the novels of Thomas Hardy. The illiterate Sanku Ammavan (Premji) who loves listening to Ramayana reading, his nephew Kunju (Balakrishna Menon) who earns his livelihood by reading the Ramayana, the retired soldier Vasu (Manavalan Joseph) who is always caught in some legal battleare some of the interesting characters.
The songs written by P. Bhaskaran and set to tune by Baburaj turned hits. Songs like Ithra naal ithra naal ee vasantham…, Enthinu kavilil bashpadhara…(both by Kozhikode Abdul Khader), Oru vattippoo tharenam…., Vaalittu kannezhuthenam…(both by Santha P. Nair), Thapassu cheythu….(H. Mehboob), Thathamme thathamme nee padiyaal… (Machadu Vasanthi-Meena Sulochana) were very popular.
Will be remembered: As the debut film of music director M.S. Baburaj and playback singer Machad Vasanthi; for the long list of actors like Eddy who went on to appear in guest roles in many films later and as the first independent directorial venture of Ramu Kariat.