Kuttyedathi (1971) | Memorable character sketches

The characters from Kuttyedathi (1971) is very much like his creations from MT’s earlier works – you can almost recall one from where the place you came from, regardless of which part of Kerala you hail from, and yet, every single one has an indefinable, distinct identity. There is also one interesting fact that I noticed with the movie – Kuttyedathi(1971) has to be the only movie where almost all of the creative heavyweights of the Kozhikode Theater circuit came together in a project ! P Santha Devi, Kuttyedathi Vilasini, Philomena, Nilambur Balan, Balan K Nair, Kuthiravattam Pappu - cameo or a leading, they ensured the characters came alive on screen for you. It was  almost as if the character was destined to be there, at that part of our protagonist’s life to make events happen. {Crazy, I know, but then again, its just my perspective :) }.

Kuthiravattam Pappu’s Kuttishankaran

From his debut in Bharagavinilayam in 1964, to Kuttyedathi in 1971, this was one of the surprisingly small-but-sturdy roles that came his way before the ‘commercial demands’ of the mainstream Malayalam productions took over and carried him in a different direction. Kuttishankaran is the high-caste nimcompoop who has his eyes on Kuttyedathi but is also mortally scared to solicit her for sexual favors ( as had been wont in those days from what I have gathered – You are high-caste, and hence have power and any village girl is for you for the asking). There is the memorable scene where Kuttishankaran goes a little too far with his ‘teasing’ Kuttyedathi who incidentally is perched atop the mango tree, stealing a bunch, when she comes down, warms up to him, and gives a resounding one on his cheek !

Vilasini had mentioned in an interview about how almost-impossible it was to raise her hand against Pappuchettan (as he had been a veteran of the Kozhikode Theater circuit and Vilasini was at that time, an upcoming and respected actress in theater and held him in awe). It was Pappu who almost screamed at her to give her ‘best shot’, and on the final take, it sent Kuthiravattam Pappu reeling! There is another memorable scene where the thespian SP Pillai, her maternal uncle takes sweet revenge on Kuthiravattam Pappu for having swindled him once in a brilliant reversal! As always, it is a delight to watch Kuthiravattam Pappu, then, now and am sure, forever.

Master Sathyajith’s Vasu

MT Vasudevan Nair‘s script of Kuttyedathi is written from the reminisces of a grown-up Appu who returns to the village and as he revisits his now dilapidated and decayed home and the environs around it, remembers Kuttyedathi who was the strongest singular influence in his life. The movie is written as a memoir, seen entirely through his eyes. Master Sathyajith is pretty on even-keel for an actor of his age, playing the bubbly, ‘without-a-acre’, precocious lad who adores his Kuttyedathi and is by her side for every single ‘misdemeanor and conspiracy.’  I believe he left the business of films after a handful – Ummachu (1971), Theerthayathra (1972), Achani (1973)  in a period of 3 years. Watching him, one is easily transported to  our own childhood, and an elder sister who at times, was our own Kuttyedathi.

Balan K Nair  (The Nameless Leader)

Balan K Nair in Kuttyedethi It was again, a delight to watch Balan K Nair, in what I should say, his first  movie appearance ( certainly not Nizhalattam ), though sadly he hardly had any words to say. The script that only mentions the ‘collective face’ of the village that seeks vengeance (and wants to restore the ‘social order’) on the defiant Appunni (Sathyan) has a leader in the screen adaptation and it is Balan K Nair. He is the one who literally takes justice in his own hands to restore social sanity in the village, shaken by this ‘wayward, unorthodox love-affair. His ease and absolute confidence is evident even in this short ‘nameless role’ and a sign of brilliant roles to come. Thank God, we got to see it in around 300-odd movies and the one in Oppol remains my all-time favorite.

SP Pillai’s Kaaranavar

SP Pillai in KuttyedethiIf you take the 5 best roles ever portrayed on screen by SP Pillai, I would include this with absolute confidence. The thespian dazzles as the sad, forlorn, duty bound by birth and pauper beyond description, it was a very difficult proposition to successfully translate on screen. But SP Pillai did a beautiful job. One moment he is the matriarchal power center of the family, getting prospective grooms for Kuttyedathi, managing the proceedings, and at the end begs when it time to leave, literally begs for a Rupee from his sister to get back to his place! One of the few instances where SP Pillai got an opportunity to show you the fine actor that lay behind that ‘industrial comedy’ clown-face.
SP Pillai and Kuthiravattam Pappu in KuttyedathiThere was also this delightful interplay between SP Pillai and Kuthiravattam Pappu (the meeting of two legends onscreen), where the former being swindled once of his cash by the latter, employs the same modus operandi to give it back to him a hundred fold – the cowdung routine. One of the rare instances where MT’s sense of humor shines through, mischievously.

P Santha Devi’s Cheriyamma (Aunt)

P Shantha Devi in Kuttyedathi(1971) A role that seems to have been tailor-made for P Santha Devi - as the mother of Vasu and Kuttyedathi’s Aunt. She is the island of refuge for Kuttyedathi when she gets the short end of the stick from her mother always, and is genuinely concerned about her future, longing to see her married off and living a normal, content life like everyone else. She is also the tired and affectionate mother to a precocious lad like Vasu and beautifully balances both throughout the movie. But it her love for Kuttyedathi, her favorite niece that shines through the movie.

Philomina’s Valiyamma

Has Kerala’s media forgotten her? Philomina belongs to that special category of actors (who were once the silent majority) – veterans of Malayalam theater who where perfect chameleons in slipping into the roles the played, and who perfectly understood the difference in the medium and beautifully utized its advantages and respected its disadvantages. Philomina plays the Valiyamma, the Elder One in the family, and mother to Kuttyedathi and Janu. Her pain about the general poverty and the grinding mill of life she is hitched to, plus the bitterness in coping with the ‘waywardness’ of her daughter that makes her explode often is a treat to watch. One of those actors that make you forget time. Coming from the theater ‘kalari’ of the legendary PJ Antony, should it be a surprise?

Jay Cee’s ‘Young Man’

Jay Cee in Kuttyedathi (1971) I think this is the only movie this was one of his couple of brief screen appearances the director Jay Cee did, before he took to direction. And am pretty much sure that this is the Director Jay Cee (seen around in print as Jeassy, Jayssey and other variations – Jay Cee is mine :) – I’m sure he was riding on his name initials). Anyways, Jay Cee plays the ‘young man’ who moves into the staid neighborhood of Kuttyedathi and pretty soon, things go topsy-turvy. The enigmatic young man becomes the bone of contention between the sisters in not-so-expressed words but in moments that make up for them. He turns out out to be one who doesn’t care beyond moments of pleasure, leading to one of the most wonderful moments in the movie between the sisters.

And if you haven’t watched it by now, do yourself a favor this Sunday, and watch it. I guarantee it will be worth it.

Related : MT’s Films | Kuttyedathi (1971)

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10 thoughts on “Kuttyedathi (1971) | Memorable character sketches

  1. Great movie .saw it some 25 years ago and still remembers the scences and dialogues.worth a remake by capable director .

  2. This was quite a nostalgic journey through the film realms of MT, Thank you. I have been reading MT’s screen plays recently, not as a whole, but here and there and cannot help but marvel at his sketches…Touching his feet here…

    • Hi,
      MT’s screenplays are a treat in itself..even in his early years, his firm grasp on the technical aspects of composing each scene is admirable, and one never feels that it is a screenplay that you have opened in your lap. Thanks..CM

  3. No signs of climax here as well :)
    Just remembered a book on Sathyan Anthikad’s usual gang while reading about Philomina. The book is called Sathyan Anthikadinte Grameenar and has good anecdotes on Sankaradi, Mamukoya, Oduvil , Philomina etc

    • LOL ! I am sure by now, you ‘know’ your way around here. Thanks again for coming around. Yes, I do have the book, and its a must for anyone who loves Sathyan’s brand of music, and with it I mean simple pleasures of life and simple lives. Though, there is this lil question that nags off late as to whether he has become a prisoner of his own making.. Regards..CM

  4. Thank you for this, OMC. Another classic from MT rises from the dust of obscurity vis-a-vis the new-gen. Most of all, if we have missed this one, we certainly do want to watch it. In a way, nothing speaks truer than nostalgia and it always, without doubt, evokes that sense of belonging. And here, that sense of belonging is reinforced by this very informative take on what is one of the greatest movies in Malayalam.

    • Hi Soni, welcome back :) The purpose of writing this was the fact that I never felt fully satisfied just giving a brief synopsis of the movie and leaving it at that. This movie deserved more, and this is not even anywhere close to it. If this helped someone take the effort of watching this movie, I’m happy. Taking furthur on what you mentioned, sadly nostalgia and obscurity seem to be in a live-in relationship, atleast when it comes to old Malayalam movie actors and actresses…Regards..Cinematters

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