With TK Sarangapani’s passing, Malayalam cinema lost something significant that it would have never even realised in the first place (or though realised, callously relegated it to those places where one normally stores stuff which don’t have ‘dollar’ value) – he was the last living custodian of Udaya studio’s history, one who was Udaya Studio’s soul-keeper (I know that sounds tacky but that comes close to it). Sarangapani, who was virtually whisked away in his work clothes from his ‘lowly’ existence as a seamster at the Alleppey South Indian Rubber Works to the the hallowed portals of Udaya Studio bowled over Kunchacko, the reigning emperor of Malayalam Cinema ( read Udaya Films) with his very first attempt in rewriting a couple of lines of Moidu Padiyath‘s screen adaptation of Umma (1960).
Umma went on to become a box-office scorcher with its fiery dialogues by Sarangapani and single-handedly rescued Udaya Studios from ruin. It was also the beginning of a relationship of a script-writer and a studio, that was to blur the lines between personal and professional domains. Though Sarangapani was also instrumental in creating a number of hits for Udaya in his times, Umma (1960), Postumaney Kaanmanilla (1972), Acharam Ammini Osharam Omana (1977), Neelaponman (1975) – what he would be most remembered for in the history of Malayalam Cinema would be for something more significant, according to me. He invented an entire genre in Malayalam Cinema, out of references and characters that till then existed only in the vocal tradition of Vadakkan Pattukal, mostly embedded in the Northern Kerala folklore, blended it with the kitschy sensibilities and dramatics of pulpy western and gave us the Celluloid version of Vadakkan pattukal.
It was a genre that was also identified with Udaya Studios and Excel productions, that one couldn’t imagine an Onam without its staple Vadakkan Pattu version movie release, and a one on the genre which was NOT from Udaya studios! It had become such a strong brand and a money – spinner at that too, that even after the demise of Kunchacko, Navodaya Appachan who took over the mantle of Udaya with his Navodaya banner, himself chose to introduce the technical wizardry for the first time in Indian films industry, he chose this genre!
( I have written in detail about what Vadakkan Pattukal meant to the average Malayalam Movie goer here).
Sarangapani started with the core story, that of Unniyarcha, the spunky, female warrior from the Chekavar clan who was feminine grace, beauty and ferocity, all bundled up in one classy package, and who else but to choose Ragini to enact her onscreen !
Here is the list that I have been able to compile on the ones from this genre that came out of Udaya Studios, thanks to MSI.
- Unniyarcha (1961)
- Palattukoman (1962)
- Othenente Makan (1970)…………….. Screenplay by N.Govindankutty
- Aromalunni (1972)
- Ponnapuram Kotta (1973)…………….Screenplay by N.Govindankutty
- Thumbolarcha (1974)
- Kannappanunni (1977)
- Palattu Kunjikkannan ( 1980)
Except for Othenente Makan (1970) and Ponnapuram Kotta (1973), it was TK Sarangapani‘s creativity that ran riot in all the productions. Also, Sarangapani, though a die-hard UdayaStudio craftsman all through his professional career, also took an exception to the rule when he scripted Kadathanattu Makkom (1978) for Navodaya! Personally, I consider it to be the most kitschy and colorful of all the Vadakkan Pattu movies that came out in that genre from Udaya Studio. Sarangapani was also instrumental in repairing and strengthening one of the most powerful commercial equations of Malayalam Cinema of his times – that of bringing back, together, the ‘evergreen pair’ of Sheela and Prem Nazir, and he did that with another Vadakkan Pattukal movie , specially made for the event, that became the famous Thumbolaarcha (1974) ! ( More on that as we discuss the movie).
Kannam Thalir Muttam from Thumbolarcha (1974). Srividya looks gorgeous, don’t you agree
My humble effort is to turn the spotlight on this aspect in Malayalam Cinema that was effected by TK Sarangapani, through the versions of Vadakkan Pattukal that he brought alive onscreen, if possible, his every single movie on that genre, and the songs that made it memorable.