G. Vivekanandan’s novels portrayed life in the backdrop of rural Kerala. One of his worksKallichellamma, first published in 1956 was a bestseller. This novel was made into a film with the same title and released on August 22, 1969. The story focused on the life of tapioca farmers and vendors settled in a seashore village near Kovalam in Thiruvananthapuram district. The film, like the novel, was a perfect adaptation of the mannerisms of these people, their slang, and their lifestyle. This was the first Malayalam film to be shot in Orwo Color, and probably the first of its kind in Indian cinema.
Produced by Shobhana Parameswaran Nair for Roopavani and directed by P.Bhaskaran, the film was shot outdoors, except for a few scenes inside a studio. U Rajagopal and Benjamin captured the natural beauty of the seashore villages perfectly. The music composed by K. Raghavan was in sync with the mood of the film.
Prem Nazir, Madhu, Sankaradi, Veeran, Sheela, Adoor Bhavani played important roles in the film.
Chellamma (Sheela) loses her parents quite early in her life. Valli Akkan (Adoor Bhavani), her neighbour brought her up and trained her in tapioca trading. Chellamma was a tenant of Adhikari or the landlord (Veeran) who was enamoured by her beauty. Adhikari’s son Gopi Pillai (Jesey) was also charmed by her beauty. Bold and brave Chellamma knew how to keep such men at arms length. Athraamkannu (Madhu), an agent in the market, was in love with Chellamma and supported her whenever she needed help.
Kunjachan (Prem Nazir) a pump operator comes to the village to help the villagers drain out the rainwater that has flooded the paddy fields. Kunjachan, who saves Chellamma from an attack by Adhikari’s men, becomes intimate with her. Kunjachan returns after completing his work never to return though he had promised Chellamma that he would come back to marry her. Chellamma becomes pregnant. The entire village turns against her, except Valli Akkan and the kind-hearted tailor Kochu Kunjan Maistry (Sankaradi). Chellamma delivers a stillborn baby.
Athraamkannu supports Chellamma who is unable to work owing to ill health. One night, Kunjachan returns to the village and sees Athrakannu and Chellamma together in her hut.
Chellamma’s plea that Athraamkannu is like a brother to her does not convince Kunjachan. In the ensuing fight Athraamkannu is wounded severely and Kunjachan runs away.
Kunjachan breaks his arm in an accident and is hospitalised. Chellamma takes care of him and they move to a house away from her hut.
Chellamma struggles to manage the household as Kunjachan is unable to work with the fractured arm. Kunjachan’s wife Mary (Saraswathi) comes to the village with her two children. Chellamma is shocked to know that Kunjachan was married. She gives refuge to Mary and the children.
That night she attempts to commit suicide. She plucks a tender coconut to quench her thirst. Adhikari and his men catch her red-handed and brand her a thief – Kallichellamma, moments before her death.
Sheela excelled in her role which won for her the Kerala State Film Award for Best Actress. Also impressive were Adoor Bhavani and Sankaradi. Adoor Bhavani won the State award for Best Supporting Actress.
Songs written by P. Bhaskaran and tuned by K.Raghavan became very popular. Karimukil kaattile… (P.Jayachandran), Maanathe kayalin… (K.P. Brahmanandan), Ashokvanathile Seethamma… (Kamukara Purushothaman- B.Vasantha), Kaalamenna Karanavarkku….(C.O. Anto, P. Leela, Sreelatha, Kottayam Santha) and Unni Ganapathiye… (M.G. Radhakrishnan-Anto) has all stood the test of time.
Will be remembered: As the film that won State awards for Sheela and Adoor Bhavani, for the music and as the first film to be shot in Orwo Color.
Released on March 2, 1979, Sharapanjaram was a box office hit. The story of this film was written by Malayattoor Ramakrishnan. Dialogues written by popular playwright K.T. Mohammed were impressive. Written and directed by Hariharan and produced by G.P. Balan under the banner of G.P. Films, the film was shot at Satya, Vahini and Arunachalam Studios. Cinematography by Mehli Irani, especially the outdoor scenes shot in beautiful landscapes of tea and coffee estates, impressed the audience. The music composed by G. Devarajan was the highlight of the film, which was edited by V.P. Krishnan.
The story line of the film closely resembles the controversial novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover written by D.H. Lawrence in 1928. The novel was banned by several countries including Britain, and the ban on the novel is still in force in India though other countries have lifted the ban.
Popular artists like Jayan, Sathar, Nellikodu Bhaskaran, P.K. Abraham and Sheela essayed the important roles. Popular star Shanker appeared in a guest role. The dances were choreographed by E. Madhavan.
Flashbacks were put to use in narrating the story. Saudamini (Sheela) is married to a rich planter (P. K. Abraham) who becomes a heart patient shortly after Saudamini gives birth to their daughter Baby (Baby Sumathi and Priya). Saudamini’s husband becomes impotent due to the disease and though life becomes dull for her, Saudamini nurses her husband and the family live together, happily.
Chandrasekharan (Jayan), is appointed by Saudamini’s husband to train his newly bought horse. Saudamini is fascinated by Chandrasekharan. Taking advantage of the situation, one day Chandrasekharan seduces Saudamini.
At the same time Saudamini’s husband succumbs to a massive heart attack. Baby (Baby Sumathi) who was searching for her mother happens to see Saudamini with Chandrasekharan. Saudamini then marries Chandrasekharan but Baby develops a hatred towards her mother, believing that Saudamini’s neglect of her father resulted in his death.
A grown up Baby (Priya) leads a wayward life in her college hostel. She goes to clubs and parties, consumes alcohol and gets dismissed from the college. Baby returns home. Saudamini’s attempts to get Baby married also do not succeed. Prabhakaran (Sathar), son of a faithful servant Siddhayyan (Nellikodu Bhaskaran), who was dismissed by Chandrasekharan, is appointed as a driver by Saudamini. Baby falls in love with Prabhakaran. Prabhakaran succeeds in bringing Baby to a righteous path.
Saudamini repents her marriage with Chandrasekharan when she comes to know his real character.
After his marriage with Saudamini he turns more depraved. Chandrasekharan mismanages the estates and swindles away their wealth. He turns against Prabhakaran, murdering him and throwing his corpse from a hilltop.
Baby comes to Chandrasekharan to enquire about her lover. Chandrasekharan attempts to rape Baby, but Saudamini arrives and shoots Chandrasekharan to death, bringing the action-packed family drama to a tragic end.
Nellikodu Bhaskaran won the Kerala State Film Award for the Best Supporting Actor. Jayan and Sheela impressed in their key roles.
Jayan exuded machismo in his role of the gamekeeper and the scene in which he grooms the horse became a sensation. The comic scenes involving Oduvil Unnikrishnan provided moments of laughter.
Songs written by Yusuf Ali Kecheri and set to tune by Devarajan became popular. Instant hits were the Harikhamboji Raga based Saraswatha madhuventhum… (Vani Jairam) and Ambalakulathile aambal poley…’ (K.J. Yesudas). Other hits include Malarintemanamulla rathri… (P. Madhuri), Shrungara virunnorukki… ( P. Susheela) and Theyyaka thheyya thaalam…. (P. Jayachandran-Madhuri).
Will be remembered:
For Jayan’s performance, the music and the State award for the Best Supporting Actor for Nellikodu Bhaskaran.