Classic Picks | A Vincent | Bhargavi Nilayam (1964)

Madhu in Bhargavinilayam (1964)

The Beypore Sultan’s only first Screenplay in Malayalam.

Bharagavinilayam Title Credits

This is just an image, NOT the movie !

If only the Sultan wrote more Screenplays than short-stories and novellas. If only. This has to be one of the rare horror films in the history of cinema which is an absolute delight to watch with a half-smile on your lips. It is a movie that carries you away with its simplicity in narration ( yet regally eloquent if you think about it). Bhargavi Nilayam (Bhargavi’s Mansion), produced by PK Pareekkutty‘s Chandrathara Productions, was the debut directorial venture of the legendary cinematographer A Vincent, and had the screenplay written by the one and only Sultan of Beypore, Vaikom Muhammed Basheer. Shobhana Parameshwaran Nair, fondly recalls the journey they took to meet Vaikom Muhammed Basheer and coerce him to write a screenplay for them in the seminal documentary, Cinemayudey Kaalpadkual (more on that later!).

Adapted from the Sultan’s short story Neelavelicham from the compilation of his short stories Paavappettavarudey Veshya (The Destitutes’ Whore), the story emphatically told you and showed you the existence of the supernatural and a narrative that was heart-warming and gut-wrenching at the same time, told in simple prose, the way only the Sultan could. The movie was also the debut of two actors, the lead actress Vijaya Nirmala in Malayalam cinema and a certain Padmadalakshan who would go on to become the Kuthiravattam Pappu as we know him today, with the moniker borrowed from this movie, MP Kuthiravattam. The songs that went on to become a part of the Malayalam cinema’s playback heritage were written by P Bhaskaran, set to music by MS Baburaj. Bhaskar Rao ( A Vincent’s protege’) was the Director of Cinematography (an amazing job in Black and White! ).
Madhu in Bhargavinilayam (1964)Madhu, (he seems to go without a screen name), the upcoming novelist , after searching for an peaceful and ‘inspiring’ place to start his latest work, zeroes in on the abandoned mansion called Bharagavinilayam, considered to be haunted by the locals. The rickshaw pullers flee after dumping his baggage at the gate, unnerved by the place and more by the cool-as-a-cucumber novelist. The terror is evident as he goes around updating the neighborhood eatery, his gang of friends and the Postman of his new address. (The Postman seems to be Shobana Parameshwaran Nair in a delightful cameo! Need to confirm.) He also finds time toexplore the house and the ‘choked-with-weed’ backyard, and even throws a big rock into the huge, abandoned well in mischievous glee.
Bhargavinilayam (1964) - Madhu listens to the tragic story of the haunted mansionApparently the house is named after the daughter of the house, Bhargavikutty (Vijaya Nirmala) , who loved to sing and dance, was beautiful beyond compare, and who committed suicide in the deep well in the backward, heartbroken in seemingly unrequited love, and hence, in the after-life, a fierce man-hater. Chastened from his prejudiced notions, and eager to meet her, Madhu hurries back home and goes about speaking to Bhargavi or the Well in the dead of the night, which, to me personally, is one of the most delightful bit of screenplay ever written in Malayalam Cinema. We need to speak more on that, but later).
Bhargavinilayam (1964) - The novelist apologises  to Bhargavikutty He doesn’t stop there. He has more or less decided that with all the bad vibes floating around, compounded by his guilt, it would be his last night on the planet, and even mutters a goodbye prayer to the planet, and before he closes his eyes, a goodnight wish to Bhargavi too ! Morning comes, and the locals are amazed at this mortal who has survived a night alone as he drops in at the tea shop. He also comes to know about a new personality in town, a certain MN aka M Nanukkuttan (PJ Antony), Bhargavi’s uncle’s son,  betrothed to her, and also the fact that she was in love with the musician living next door. It was a love triangle, after all.
Bhargavinilayam (1964) - The Novelist finds Bhargavi's letters Back home, in a locked room upstairs, he find a dusty, warped sitar with the initials SK which he surmises to be the musician Sasikumar’s, the neighbor who is currently the villian of the whole story, which may have been gifted to her. He also finds a locked box with a B emblazoned, which he thinks would hold the “key to unlocking her life’s secrets.” That night, he is awakened by a piercing scream from the front porch and finds a wayfaring stranger, named Cheriya Parikkanni (Adoor Bhasi), scared out of his wits, and intimidated becasue he got slapped by a strange woman in his sleep! Madhu invites him to stay with him and help around the place. But the ‘Spirit’ by now has taken an immense liking to Cheriya Parikkanni and ensures that he is kept terrified in just the right amount. Madhu has by now decided to base his next story on Bhargavi’s tragic life. But his next evening out at the neighborhood beach becomes a turning point in his life.
Bhargavinilayam (1964) - The Writer meets Bhargavi for the first time He sings some, hum some and at the end of it all, an beautiful lady suddenly appears , walks up to him, and disappears in a cloud of spray, just as she came, leaving him a irritated, inquisitive and at some level scared. He hurries back home, but her eyes Bhargavinilayam(1964) - The eyes at the beachseems to have seared into his memory. back home, he takes another look at the dusty photograph at his rickety writing table, and he knows. He had just met Bhargavikutty for the first time, and sadly, she didn’t even say a word! Another incident happens soon. In a joint operation to clean up the inner-walls of the well in the backyard, thick with weeds and wild fronds, they rig up a rope and scaffold contraption which ends with the rope breaking off and Madhu falling into the well. But he survives without a scratch, and recalls someone actually lifting his sinking body from the inky depths, helping him breathe. He is sure it has to be her. And there is more to come. The writer is so eager to hear it all from his muse, now that he has started off on his new project, and she does just that, but not all of it.
Bhargavinilayam(1964) - Bhargavi pays a visit to the writer She lets him know a perspective of her life that he was not aware of, and as if to emphasise it, his draft goes up in flames. He realises he had been wrong along, and the story is entirely different. Bhargavi, also opens up her memory chest for him as she leaves, where he finds an yellowed, moldy newspaper which reports of the body of an unidentified male found in a Railway station lounge, with a  few  snips of curly hair, seemingly feminine, in his pocket. Along with the newspaper is a moldy bunch of letters, one of which he hungrily pulls open. It is from MN and it reads, “If you aint marrying me, you aint marrying anyone.” The ‘investigator inside’ now smells blood, a desire to unravel it all, and get to the bottom of it. He manages to track down her two friends through his friends who, curiously were still of the opinion that Sasi Kumar had betrayed Bhargavi. But  Bhargavi’s mother, dispels all that. She had always held him in high regard, and also tells Madhu about a letter that was found next to the well, the morning after Bhargavi committed suicide, allegedly written by Sasi Kumar which said he was going away to get married. But the letter was taken away by MN, according to her, and not heard of anymore !
Bhargavinilayam(1964) - A knife and a firebomb comes visiting in the night That night, Bhargavi Nilayam receives a threatening message in the form of a firebomb, hurled into the compound, and a country dagger thrown against the window, missing the writer by inches. A very angry Madhu, goes around checking with everyone for the possible origins/ownership of such a dagger but draws a blank. Later, on a rainy night, in the flickering light of a Hurricane lamp, absolutely sure that Bhargavi is present in the room, Madhu starts reading out her story to her, and that forms the delightful flashback where the college trio approaches the young and handsome musician Sasi Kumar to compose a song to dance to for their college fest. Inspired by a moth dancing next to the lamp, Sasi kumar composes one for Bhargavi. It doesn’t take for the admiration to turn to love, and the musician fondly reciprocates.
A Vincent also introduces MP Kuthiravattam, the handyman of the household who dreams of becoming a world-famous playwright almost all the time. No marks for guessing how Kuthiravattam Pappu got his famous prefix from.
Bhargavinilayam (1964) - Introducing Kuthiravattam PappuInterestingly, in portraying the romantic interludes between Sasi Kumar and Bhargavi, Basheer introduces the garden wall, across which both of them pour out their hearts as and when they can. If this exchange was of the fulfilling kind, Basheer also introduced the heart-breaking version in his Mathilukal, adapted to screen by Adoor Gopalakrishnan, where the entire story revolved around a prison-wall and two souls in love on either side. The romance progresses and before long, Nanukuttan (PJ Antony) pays a visit Bhargavinilayam (1964) - Nanukkuttan pays a visitto Sasi Kumar, worried and scared about his plan of marrying Bhargavi slowly sinking away, having got wind of the ‘affair’ in the neighborhood. The garden wall has, by now, graduated into their own love-post box with both of them exchanging love notes on it (the ones Madhu later finds in the box), but it doesnt take long for private messages in public domain to fall into wrong hands. Nanukuttan stumbles upon one love note and is enraged. There is now no mercy. Sasi Kumar barely escapes a murder attempt on him by an unknown assailant, a gunshot that misses him by inches. He plans to leave for Lucknow, take a break, and return in 6 months, also promising to send her a letter every week. But Nanukkuttan is listening in. Sasi Kumar finds a surprise companion across his seat, Nanukuttan who fibs about a sudden trip and a missing friend, and also hands over a food parcel which he says was send across by Bhargavi. We presume he has poisoned it. In the esuing months, Bhargavi is heart-broken with no news of her beloved. Nanukkuttan coerces his aunt to fix their wedding. Bhargavi is adamant, and Nanukkuttan plays his trump card. He confronts Bhargavi and tells her that he has finished off Sasikumar with the poison laced bananas.
Bhargavinilayam (1964) - Nanukkuttan plays his trump card An enraged Bhargavi gets into scuffle with Nanukkuttan  and is pushed into the well by the latter, who later plants the fake letter next to the well. It is at this point that the ‘Reading’ is interrupted by Nanukkattan in the present, who had broken in into Bharagavinilayam, planning to finish off Madhu. He reveals that he is of course the murderer, and he intends to kill  Madhu too before morning breaks by throwing him in the well. But, for once, he has picked on the wrong one to fight. A scuffle ensues resulting in both of them crashing through the old well’s safety wall and hurtling down into the watery grave.

What happens next? Do they survive or perish? For that, you would have to watch the movie :)

So, is there a DVD/VCD available of the movie?
VCD, yes, and a crappy one at that, courtesy Harmony Videos.

Can I buy it online?
Yes, you can get a copy here.

Related : Songs and dances from Bhargavi Nilayam (1964)

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52 thoughts on “Classic Picks | A Vincent | Bhargavi Nilayam (1964)

  1. I made the mistake of once visiting the local thatched-roof cinema talkie in the village (before it got demolished, sadly). A few years ago, I was desperately looking for a print of Bhargavi Nilayam, having read the screenplay published by Current Books (or was it DC?) and having my imagination all fired up.
    Anyway, the movie being played there was “Veendum oru Bhargavi Nilayam” The !@#$%^ movie producer had highlighted just the “Bhargavi Nilayam” part and I, got suckered into buying a ticket. The ticket dispenser happened to be a distant relative and he enquired as to what I was doing here, why I wanted to watch this “thalli-poli” picture But he said all this after issuing me with the ticket, and I was forced to watch- he being reluctant to issue a refund, ftm. the movie was atrocious- it had Cochin Haneefa in it and a cople of buxom women and a handsome villain, some baby-doll heroes, whatever. In essence, purely forgettable.
    Afterwards the ticket dispenser spread news to my aunt that he saw me going to watch a “B grade” movie. Aunt then told her sis, my mom, and I had to get some warm words afterwards…

  2. total length of BHARGAVI NILAYAM is 3 hours and 12 minutes.. the print available in markets now and old VHS copies are not full versions. KAIRALI tv has once shown its full version 5 or 6 years ago. luckily i recorded that version and that version include many horrifying scenes which i was missing in HARMONY/ DOORDARSAN / VHS copy

    • If Kairali TV owns the satellite rights of this movie, what is it that is preventing them to partner with a marketing arm like moser-baer and release DVDs of the movie out in the market? I’m sure there is a huge market out there who would gladly buy them. I fail to understand why the ‘obvious’ is always beyond their line of vision..And of course, a Classic, anytime…regards..cinematters

    • but not much to cherish. kairali tv intentionally deleting many portion of this film nd they have only got an average print. the DD malayalam print has some quality and clarity and it ran over 165 minutes.

    • Dear Rajesh,
      Unfortunately, none that I know of. Will surely keep you updated. Else, the way out would be to take the onus on ourselves, sit down and remaster it ourselves, frame by frame. I think I will be forced to do it at the rate these idiots stick to the VCD nightmare. Thanks..cinematters

    • I have a VCD (2 volumes) of this movie, purchased in Palakkad (OCT2009). Print is good, so is the sound. Being a VCD, no sub-titles or other interactive features…

  3. Would it be interesting if you could also go into the differences between Neelavelicham and Bhargavi Nilayam? Had read the story some time back and I remember it more as a one man’s attempts to adjust eerily to the presence of a ghost in the house and not so many side characters as in the movie. The move that way expands into a much wider canvas and a full fledged horror movie, unlike the original story.

    • Dear Pradeep,
      Neelavelicham, to me, at best was a ‘wire-frame’ for Bhargavi Nilayam. I’m sure you could even call the latter a separate piece of literary work done for the cinema by the Sultan. Will surely do that comparison though, but it is so sparse :) when you consider the multi-layers and rich texture of the film. Will surely do it.Regards..cinematters

  4. “(The Postman seems to be Shobana Parameshwaran Nair in a delightful cameo! Need to confirm.)” :)
    OMG! And all thew while I was wondering the Postman sure looks awfully familiar!

  5. I recently saw ‘Cinemayude Kalpaadukal’ and especially to see the interview with Sri A. Vincent and Raghavan Master was the best thing of the whole experience!
    Sri. Vincent, in particular mentioned about the ability (or the characteristic quality) of the ancient Mitchell cameras to bring out a depth (and feeling) from the characters. Mentally I appended “-something quite missing from cinema after those glorious days of B&W”.
    Somehow the starkness of B&W makes the mind dwell less on expectation of colour, or externalities, and appreciate more the inner ‘flavour’ of the character being portrayed.
    Malayalam movies from the late 80s, especially those by Sri. Sathyan Anthikkad have, by dint of superior control and direction, been able to bring to light the fragrance of the story. The camera can be likened to the eye, the primary source of vision. What we see is the story. But if the eye is defective or underutilized, the storytelling takes a hit.
    One movie that stands out in my mind, and I have watched it close to 100 times already, is KG George’s YAVANIKA. I think its the triumph of Good Direction, Artistry, Editing, Sound and right Equipment that makes one watch a movie over and over again.
    I am on the lookout for two movies: the comic classic road-trip “Kaiiyum Thalayum purathidaruthe” and G Aravindan’s “Oridathu Oridathu” I wached Esthappan a few weeks ago, on Youtube, but the overall effect was not impressive enough.
    My best wishes to your efforts- keep up the good work!

    • Dear Krishnan,
      That is a documentary that will always be close to my heart. Across all of them, I guess Shobana Parameshwaran Nair was the superglue and the catalyst that wired and fired the group, a Producer and a Photographer who had a profound sense of Malayalam literature – an extinct trait, if you ask me. I have lost count of the times I have watched the documentary . Sathyan Anthikkad‘s ‘honest and daring ventures’ somehow seem to have settled down to more predictive and staid premises, 50 movies on.” The camera can be likened to the eye, the primary source of vision. What we see is the story. But if the eye is defective or underutilized, the storytelling takes a hit.” PERFECT ! Kaiiyum Thalayum purathidaruthe, the onscreen adaptation of the KPAC drama, according to the veterans of KPA failed to bring the tautness of the stage production, and I too am hunting for a legal copy. Along with Oridath, will keep you posted .
      Tailpiece: Came to know from Jayanan Vincent that A Vincent hasn’t yet watched the documentary, nor him, so bought and set across one to the Maestro through him. He said he was so moved watching the documentary.

      Glad to have souls like you around.. :)..Regards..cinematters

  6. Hi

    This film has b&w photography at its zenith. The lights and shade trick just does not come alive when you view it in colour. That is why this movie is one of the all time hits. But then, my favourite will always be YAKSHI, which is quite unmatched in its totality. Even today, when I view it at night time, sitting alone, I get goose bumps and turn around to see whether someone is standing behind me and you keep hearing the soft foot falls and rustle of silk.

    Regds
    Anil

    • Dear Anil,
      One can’t expect less when you have the Maestro behind the camera, can you ? :) A Vincent was a master of playing with light and every one of his movies, as director and cinematographer emphasizes it over and over.I have a faint recollection of watching Yakshi, and I was more interested in Sathyan’s burnt face than anything else. But I completely agree with you about the ‘tightness’ that is brought by the play of shadows and light. Will have to look out for Yakshi now, in the market. :) Thanks..Cinematters

      • Hi

        Unfortunately, there seems to be no CD available of YAKSHI.

        I have watched the movie whenever it has been telecast on channels( Asianet,Kairali Jai Hind.DD etc have put it on air)

        This movie is also a prime example of the sacrifice a leading actor will go through to effectively portray a disabled person. Satyan, with his burnt face and the inner struggles that he goes through as a schizophrenic is something to be seen to be believed. And Sharada, with PADMARAAGA PADAVUKAL.. so haunting!

        This is also one of the few movies where Devarajan composed for PBhaskaran’ s lyrics

        Rgds

        Anil

        • Dear Anil.
          Guessed so. Even I too had made a few calls since . Hoping that it will be released soon for public consumption on crappy VCDs. Swarnachaamaram still invokes goosebumps for me, my favorite :)..Regards..cinematters

        • Anil
          Is it Sharada in the scene of Padmaraaga Padavukal…I believe that Sharada appeared in Chandrodayathile Chandana Mazhayile… & Vilichu Njaan Vili Kettu….The song Chandrodayathile was repeated towards the end of the movie sung by Yesudas. The lyrics of Yakshi was by Vayalar and not P Bhaskaran

          Sajith

        • Dear Anil,

          My copy was despatched the day they published it online :) I am yet to watch it, though. Thank you so much for that headsup. Why not write up your thoughts on the movie. I will add the pics. :D Is that a Deal ? :) regards..cinematters

      • We now have a new Malayalam movie named ‘Akam’ based on ‘Yakshi’ directed by newcomer Shalini Usha Nair and starring Fazil’s son in the lead role. It is being screened in IFFK 2011, so this maybe something to watch out for! Also, from what I gather, this is an ‘loose adaptation’ of the book and not necessarily the movie, so it’s not an attempt to remake classics as is the trend now. Also, a woman director in Malayalam is indeed rare and for a story like this, maybe a fresh perspective!

        • Dear Pradeep,
          I had come across it a while ago. The movie is a loose adaptation, based on the premise that it is a married couple and the husband thinks his wife is a Yekshi, which is an entirely different take on the existing one where the main protagonists remain lovers and not as a married couple. Also Sathyan’s character Dr Srini doesn’t have any ambivalence on the identity and existence of Sharada’s character, he knows she is a Yekshi and is besotted by her. ( All this, based on what I could gather from the teaser.) Anjali Menon, Shalini Usha Nair..may the tribe increase..Will keep an eye out..regards..cinematters

          The trailer of Akam.

      • Ok thanks…Unlike Basheer Malayattor has penned two other screenplays :) Chembarathy (Madhu) and Iyer the Great (Mammootty). Any thoughts about Chembarathy? I have no idea about it…I hope Yakshi will come out in CD.

        • Hi Benjamin,
          It doesn’t stop at Chembarathi and Iyer the Great. There were others too – Odukkam Thudakkam, Ponni, Gaayathri, Lakshaprabhu, Chaayam, as far as I can recall. And Malayattoor seems to have wrtitten the dialogues for Iyer the Great, the story and screenplay was by Bhadran himself. Chembarathi is a forgettabale film other than its memorable Ambaadi Thannilorunni, for me. Have mentioned about the song in my post on Lullabies which you can read here. I too hope on Yakshi. :)..regards..cinematters

      • Dear CM

        I have watched the movie a couple of times on channels( grainy ones, though). Am planning to watch the one I bought, this week-end. Shall reply with fresh thoughts after that.

        What I still feel ( and this is the opinion of a couple of my cousins also, who are die-hard lovers of this movie) is that this is one of the best of this genre and just might have been ahead of its times.

        Shall keep you posted

        Rgds
        Anil

  7. >>former is being remade again with Mammootty in the lead, or so I heard
    no they are planning sequel titled ‘Mathilukalkkappuram’ :-|

    • Dear Rajesh,
      Balyakalaskhi is indeed being remade with Mammootty playing Majeed.You can checkout the article here. I really really have my doubts on how he is going to pull that off without some serious restructuring of the story. Specially the age ! God knows. :).Cinematters

  8. Thank you for this article..I watched this movie after the suggestion from this article and it was a magnificent film!! Even after so many years it looks fresh and innovative to someone seeing first time. Do you know where was the shooting location of this movie? Which beach was that? Too bad Basheer did not write any more screenplays and did not become another MT.

    Would you have any link to Nirmalyam, Asuravithu or Olavum Theeravum?

    Thanks

    • Dear Benjamin,
      So glad that you got to watch the movie, and as you truly said, the freshness is timeless in its appeal.Will check on the locations with the learned ones and get back to you. Basheer’s two more stories had been adapted to mainstream commercial films, Balyakaalasakhi and Mathilukal. The former is being remade again with Mammootty in the lead, or so I heard, and Mathilukal was by Adoor Gopalkrishnan. I donot have any link as such to the movies but would be soon writing about them too. Am not even sure that they are available as legal copies in the commercial domain now. Will keep you posted of any updates. You could also Subscribe to the feed so that you get keeping updated of any new entries. Thanks so much for writing in. Means a lot.
      Regards,
      Cinematters

      • Thank you!! I have not seen mathilukal either..but had read the story. I had read Neelavelicham also, but this film is much more expanded :) It must have been a stunner to watch this movie when it was released on silver screen. I have to ask my parents about it.

        • Dear Benjamin,
          Everytime I watch Bhargavinilayam, I am touched by that unique joie de vivre associated with the Writer and his character’s inherent honesty that glows. Amongst his contemporary ‘on screen peers’, this lead character was a refreshing breath of fresh air, someone who was a natural in breaking the walls the divided genders and even physical realms :) All with his unique approach to live. It would have been memorable, am sure, for the ones living in those times too…Thanks for writing in…Cinematters

  9. Thanks for this informative post. I’ve not watched this movie so reading about it made it more interesting…

  10. An exquisite read, OMC. Thank you. During my college days, whenever I had to go house-hunting, we would get to see a few hopefuls before settling on what suited us. Some of the houses, quite rundown and set in dubious surroundings, would very often elicit the ubiquitous comment amongst us – Eda, ithu oru Bhargavi Nilayam aanelo! Though people may not remember the details as such, kudos for doing that so beautifully here, the movie’s title has become a synonym for any house that evokes an eerie feel. Appreciate the effort, mate!

    • Dear Soni, :) Goes to show the brand recall of a term, devised from the most simplistic of surroundings and brought to life on the movie screen. Every time I watch that movie, I’m shaken by the sheer simplicity of the terms and the passion with which the protagonist adores this dear friend from the Other Side. Only Basheer could have done that. Sadly this was his first and last screenplay. Wonder how many more phrases it would have got us had he kept at it for a while. :) Thanks again..Cinematters

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