A week down the line, I realize it is difficult to get out of the vice-grip that a literary work by Padmarajan has on your soul. It was on a whim that I dusted off the old, dog-eared collection ( from my school days) of the Celestial Storyteller, and dived straight in, starting with Nakshathrangale Kaaval (1978). It might have been a coincidence that the recent news report about his son, Ananthapadmanabhan starting off on preliminary scripting in remaking the 1978 film version of this fantastic story of three souls bound together in deep friendship, love, immorality, lust and celestial love.
I remember watching the movie in one of the late-night sessions of Doordarshan Kerala, thanks to probably a very bored program executive trying to bring some life into the otherwise staid proceedings of DD’s program chart. But try as I might, now, I just cannot recollect the main protagonists of the movie, I know there was MG Soman as Prabhu and Adoor Bhasi as Varmaji (Uncle). Recently I got hold of an old movie-still from the film which had MG Soman and Jaya Bharathi which brings me to the next question - what role did she play, his first wife Shobha or the spunky Kalyanikkutty, his second wife? Beats me. Any inputs on this is welcome. Needless to say, I have been searching and searching for a copy of the ill-fated movie for quite some time. Maybe DD Kerala will oblige again.
About the Original one by KS Sethumadhavan.
If you were someone who has read the novel, the film came as a surreal surprise. It left you scratching your head, except for the brilliant performance of Adoor Bhasi as Varmaji – I firmly believe this was his finest performance as an Actor! Maybe it was a little difficult accepting him as the devious, ever-smiling, chillingly perverted step-father of Prabhu, played by MG Soman. It was also interesting to hear from Padmarajan’s wife, Sri. Radhalaksmi in a recent TV programme about how Bharathan and Padmarajan’s friendship grew out of the former’s deep desire to adapt this novel into a movie, which after countless rewrites, kept on becoming frustratingly without a direction and dejected, they atlast left it. KS Sethumadhavan took it from there and made it into a movie, with the screenplay by Padmarajan. It wasn’t a commercial success, and not critically found a favourite, either, from what I can recall. So, it is great to know a new version coming up, that too from a team of people who know what they are talking about.
About the Remake by Deepan ( Director of Puthiya Mukham).
The new version is with an updated Screenplay by Padmarajan’s son and fim maker Ananthpadmanabhan, and has Anoop Menon, Priya Mani and Meera Jasmine in the announced cast. Meera Jasmine would be fantastic in the role of Kalyanikkutty, spunky, fiery and daring and yet vulnerable at the same time! All three seem to be more or less just right for the roles, not to forget Jagathy Sreekumar whom I feel would be the new Vermaji. It would be a brilliant chapter in his long and eventful career in Malayalm Cinema, if this project is pursued to its fruitful completion. Curious, that what Adoor Bhasi, one of the patriarchs of humor in Malayalam Cinema brought alive on screen as the evil Varmaji, is being reinterpreted by Jagathy Sreekumar, 40 years later!
I just can’t wait!!