Sunday, March 15, 2015
The concept of the anti-hero became a trend in Indian cinema with the unusual success of the Hindi film Kismet (1943) produced by Bombay Talkies. Ashok Kumar played a pickpocket in the film which was probably inspired by John Cromwell’s Algiers (1938). Premapaasam (Tamil, 1956), Bhale Ramudu (Telugu, 1956) and Kanaka Chilanka (Malayalam, 1966) were remakes of Kismet. Similar films with the anti-hero concept followed in various languages. O. P. Ralhan’sPhool Aur Patthar (1966) with Dharmendra in the lead, and its Tamil remake Oli Vilakku (1968) with MGR as the anti-hero were huge hits.
After nearly a decade the same story was remade in Malayalam as Puthiya Velicham, which was released on October 12, 1979. The unusual success of this action-packed film has been attributed to Jayan’s performance in the negative role.
Produced by Subramaniam Kumar for Sastha Productions, the film was directed by Sreekumaran Thampi, who also wrote the script, dialogues and lyrics. The colour film was shot at Vahini, Arunachalam, Prakash and Balaji Gardens. Cinematography by N.A. Thara, editing by Narayanan and music by Salil Chaudhary were commendable.
Jayan, Jose Prakash, Sankaradi, Jagathi Sreekumar, Sreevidya, Jayabharathi and Meena played significant roles in the film.
The story focussed on widow remarriage pivoting around the life of a thief. Circumstances force Venu (Jayan) to turn into a criminal. He falls prey to a blackmailer, Johnson (Jose Prakash) who uses his hotel as a cover for all his fraudulent activities. Venu is in love with Lilly (Jayabharathi) a dancer in this hotel.
Venu then meets Lakshmi (Sreevidya) in a mansion which he breaks into. A widow, Lakshmi has been locked up inside the mansion by her husband’s parents. Suffering from typhoid, Lakshmi is looked after by Venu. Timely medical care saves her life and she leaves the mansion.
Lakshmi’s in-laws, Panicker (Sankaradi) and Maheswari (Meena) return from Madras and find that their house has been looted. Lakshmi is accused of the crime. She is beaten up and her brother-in-law Balan (Vijay Raj) attempts to molest her. Venu reaches in time to save Lakshmi. And when she is thrown out of the house Venu gives her refuge. Lakshmi succeeds in reforming Venu. He begins to work as a labourer and promises Lakshmi that he would never go back to his criminal ways.
In his attempt to save a young girl from fire Venu sustains severe burn injuries. Lakshmi’s loving care brings him back to full health.
Now, Johnson sets a trap to bring Venu back to his fold. He sends his men to Lakshmi with the false news that Venu is injured in an accident. Lakshmi rushes to meet Venu but is accosted by Johsnon who attempts to rape her. She is saved by the timely intervention of Lilly. In the ensuing fight, Lilly is shot dead by Johnson. The police appear on the scene and arrest Johnson. The film ends with the marriage of Venu and Lakshmi.
The film made full use of Jayan’s macho image putting him through numerous fight sequences. Sreevidya also did well in her role.
Deviating from his usual character roles, Thikkurissi Sukumaran Nair as Lohithaksha Bhagavathar did full justice to his comic role. Jagathy Sreekumar as a pick pocket, ‘Parippuvada’ Kuttappan, Sreelatha as his lover and Poojappura Ravi as a doctor created moments of laughter.
The songs written by Sreekumaran Thampi and set to tune by Salil Chaudhary became hits. Most of them were repetitions of his Bengali film and non film tunes. Jhil jhil jhil chilampanangi…. (P.Jayachandran-P. Susheela) was a direct copy of the tune that he used for the Bengali film Pasher Bari (1953). Other songs like Aaraattu kadavil… (Jayachandran), Aaraaro swapnajalakam… (Ambili),Manasse nin ponnambalam…. (S. Janaki), Poovirinjallo athil… (K.J. Yesudas) turned very popular.
Will be remembered: A a good entertainer with a message on widow re-marriage; for Jayan’s performance and for its songs.
Sunday, March 1, 2015
Stories and legends behind the temples in India have been a staple source of themes for Indian cinema, especially in the South. Films on famous temples such as the Meenakshi temple at Madurai, Muruga temple at Pazhani, Balaji temple at Thirupathi, Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala, Sreekrishna temple at Guruvayoor etc were box office hits. Films were produced repeatedly on most of these temples. Malayalam film Devi Kanyakumari, released on August 30, 1974, was probably the only one produced exclusively on the presiding deity of the temple located in Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu. A huge hit at the box office, its Tamil dubbed version was also successful.
Produced and directed by P. Subramaniam under the banner of “Neela Productions”, the film was shot in colour at Merryland Studios and in locations surrounding the Kanyakumari temple. Dialogues written by Nagavalli R. S. Kurup impressed the audience. Cinematography by U. Rajagopal with Masthan and editing by Gopalakrishnan were commendable. Dances choreographed by Thankappan were a highlight of the film. Music composed by Devarajan became popular.
Popular artists from Tamil/Telugu/Malayalam cinema like Gemini Ganeshan, Kantha Rao (as Vishnu), P. K. Abraham, Thikkurissi Sukumaran Nair, Sathar , T. K. Balachandran, Rajasree, Santhi, Adoor Bhavani and Kaviyoor Ponnamma acted in the film. Vinodini, who acted in early Malayalam films as child actress, was cast as the heroine—as the Goddess Devi Kanyakumari.
The legends about the temple and some miracles played by the Goddess in the lives of her devotees are presented as flash back to the traditional folk art “Villadichaan Paattu” (a form of musical discourse) performed by the team led by S. P. Pillai and Kedamangalam Sadanandan.
The legend behind the Kanyakumari Devi temple dates back to the Dwapara Yuga in the vedic age in Hindu scriptures when Sree Krishna was born. The well known story of Kamsa’s (Thikkurissi Sukumaran Nair) campaign to kill his nephew Sree Krishna, his slayer according to the prophecy, is narrated in brief. Kamsa comes to the prison to kill the child born to his sister Devaki (Rajasree) and Vasudeva (Gemini Ganeshan). However, Krishna was replaced by the girl born to Yashoda. When Kamsa attempted to kill the girl, who was incarnation of Parvathi Devi, she escapes from his fist and disappears. The girl grows up to be Kanyakumari (Vinodini) whose mission was slaying of the demon Banasura (P. K. Abraham) who conquered the heavens and who could be killed only by an adolescent girl by virtue of a boon. Kanyakumari chooses the coastal area at the southern end of India (Kanyakumari town) as her abode.
Kanyakumari has immense devotion towards Lord Siva and their marriage was fixed. Lord Siva’s marriage procession started from Sucheendram but the marriage did not take place since the bridegroom could not reach the wedding venue in time due to the trick played by Narada (T. K. Balachandran). Banasura proposes to marry Kanyakumari, but is rejected by her. The furious demon is slaughtered by Kanyakumari in the ensuing fight. Kanyakumari takes an oath never to marry and to remain a kanya (virgin) and she reigns as the presiding deity of the temple at Kanyakumari (town named in her honour), blessing her devotees.
Miracles played by the goddess in the lives of her devotees follow the story of the formation of the temple. The episode of Kanyakumari rescuing her devotee (Kaviyoor Ponnamma) who got locked up in the temple unknowingly and feeding her was impressive. The goddess blessed her devotee Dasan Pillai (S. P. Pillai) to conduct the marriage of his daughter by giving ornaments promised as dowry. The fisherman (Vanchiyoor Madhavan Nair) whose family used to provide the rope for hoisting the flag during temple festival was saved by Kanyakumari when he got into a whirlpool in the sea while fishing.
Vinodini (daughter of dance master Guru Gopinath) impressed the audience by her fine acting and dances. Probably this was her only film as the heroine. The natural beauty of Kanyakumari was captured by the expert camera work and was an attraction of the film.
Songs written by Vayalar Rama Varma and set to tune by Devarajan became timeless hits. Instant hits were “Sucheendranatha Swayamvaramangalya ….”, “Kanna, Aalilakkanna ….” (both by Madhuri), and “ Sakthimayam Sivasakthimayam ….”(Yesudas). Other hits include “ Neelambujakshimaare ….” (Suseela Chorus), “ Devi Kanyakumari ….” (Yesudas, chorus).
Being the only film that exclusively focused on Kanyakumari temple.
For the music, especially for “ Sucheendranatha ….” and “ Kanna, Aalilakanna ….” (by Madhuri)