1974 to 1980! That is less than a decade of celluloid portrayals that Jayan has left as his legacy in Malayalam Cinema. He was lucky to be have been around in the cusp of the transition era, where Malayalam Cinema graduated from the the finality of its Black & White realms into an explosive world of Color. Not that it made much of a difference to the roles that he got on celluloid, but what saddens me is the fact that no one seemed to have tapped the actor in him, save for its flashes in a handful of films. Jayan, I repeat again, to me was the Original Badass of Malayalam Cinema, a feat that can never be equaled by anyone, ever. In his most prolific years of activity, 1977 – 1980, the way I see it, the majority of the movies were made to get a piece of that ‘action-cake’ that so guaranteed success at the box-office, and as a result, resembled more of clones of the same movie, rather than unique stories. But, I think, his sheer level of screen presence, badassery made up for all of it to ensure reasonable returns for its producers. He has had around 24 releases in 1978 and 26 in 1979 – that is roughly 2 releases every month for 2 years ! Think about it. True, there were some that nose-dived into the trash bin – that happens to any business venture, but on the whole, Jayan, was a economically viable brand in Malayalam cinema, till the time he was around. Producers and directors were in a mad scramble to get a piece of the pie, and even looked across the borders , borrowed scripts and had it spiced and spruced up, so that Jayan could flaunt his pectorals with calf-boots, a Lee Enfield, a horse and sheer testosterone.
Here is a list of the ones I can recall. Please do add yours.
|Snehikkaan Samayamilla||1978||Vijay Anand||Galatta Kalyanam||Tamil||1968|
|Puthiya Velicham||1979||Sreekumaran Thampi||Phool Aur Pathar||Hindi||1966|
|Anupallavi||1979||Baby||Pati, Patni aur Woh||Hindi||1978|
|Oru Raagam Pala Thaalam||1979||M Krishnan Nair||Aalayamani||Tamil||1962|
|Venalil Oru Mazha||1979||Sreekumaran Thampi||Mullum Malarum||Tamil||1978|
|Deepam||1980||P Chandrakumar||Mein Tulsi Teri Aangen Ki||Hindi||1978|
I have always thought about ( I’m sure many of you have too) how it would have been, had that fateful day at Sholavaram not happened. How would have been the natural progression of an actor and an action dynamo of the Malayalam screen, our very own answer to Chuck Norris and John Wayne combined. How would he have progressed, makes up for some interesting evening musings I think he would he fared brilliantly in his career curve, opting more towards the exploring the likes of the softer roles that came his way between the whirlwind hormone-capers that he found himself caught in, aging gracefully on screen through the years. Lesser known sidekicks and lower rung actors of his time have evolved to show us some of the brilliant abilities and facets of their repertoire we wouldn’t have ever even imagined in those times. Janardhanan and Cochin Haneefa could be the best examples.
The following compilation is an attempt to put together the ones that clearly stand out for its fond moments, quirkiness and surprising level of emotive/ action quotient. Maybe these would not the ‘obvious ones’ you would come across his usual ‘blockbuster lists’, but these are memorable in my own personal sort of way. Hey, I can, can’t I ?
Kannappanunni was the first and the Vadakkan Pattukal – based production that opened Jayan’s doors top more of Udaya’s productions AND Navodaya’s ones in the same genre. He would go on to play the lead role ( yes, for me it is !) in Thacholi Ambu and another major production Mamankam the following year, follow it up with Kadathanaattu Maakkam in 1979 and Palaattu Kunjikkannan in 1980. This was, according to me, the movie that catapulted Jayan onto the big league, a force to reckon. Though he played the side-kick and rode shotgun ( with a grimace, sneer and abundant cockiness) alongside KP Ummer‘s loutish villian, Jayan held his own. Though his total screen time hardly clocked more than half an hour, it was enough to let the general public made aware of the enormous potential and onscreen charisma that this fairly new actor had around him like an invincible cloak. Though Thacholi Ambu gave him his meatiest role in Vadakkan Paattukal ( which I do love ), somehow, this ‘debut’ is the one amongst all of his Vadakkan Paattukal – based movies I love the most.
Prema Gaayaka from Kannappanunni. Every time I see Unni Mary‘s headgear, I collapse in a heap
Achaaram Ammini Oshaaram Omana (1977)
I truly believe every Jayan Fanboy ought to watch this movie. From his early years (before the teeth-gnashing and Lee Enfield came into his onscreen life), this brings out a delightful. refreshing and often surprising onscreen persona of Jayan, the actor. Displaying a level of happy-go-lucky brashness (I don’t know any other way to put it). Out of the three films Adoor Bhasi directed, this was the most popular and had a fairly successful box-office run, from what I can remember, which also owed its bit to Sarangapani as the Script writer and the backing by Excel Studios ( Boban Kunchacko‘s production wing ). Jayan was Sudhakaran, a rare specimen in the tribe of Medical Representatives, who is chronically optimistic with everything in life, including the woman of his dreams. His instances of flirting with his ‘police woman lady love’ ( Sheela as Ammini) has to be seen to be believed . As I said, there is an enduring freshness about the character that he plays on screen, something that went from stale to insipid in the onslaught of action movies that came rushing in. Not that I hated them ( the genre had its gems ), but I wish there were a reasonable number that represented this too.
Kaalamaakiya Padakkuthira from the movie.
Etho oru Swapnam (1978)
A little gem from the ‘beefcaked’ 78 . Based on K Surendran’s novel Bhikshamdehi ( Jayan wasn’t all testosterone and daggers, you know ), brilliantly adapted for the big screen by Sreekumaran Thampi, I consider this one amongst his top 5 roles of his career. True, he was a little ‘raw around the edges’, so to speak, and the prosthetics left too much to be desired, but the Jayan that we saw on screen was as close to one could visualise VV Swamiji from the novel. It was a unique characterisation – here was someone, still in the prime of youth, glowing with vitality and raw charisma, yet in the spartan attire of a yogi, who is trying to stick to his new -found direction in life with all the courage he can summon from his reservoir of youth inside, which in itself was a delicious irony. We find the yogi vacillating between his material caring and his dispassionate assessment of life as it happens to the ones who are close to him, by belief, rather than design, and yet the inevitable happens. Of course, there was also the brilliant compositions of Salilda to enrich the narrative, each a melodious cookie that you could sink your teeth into, and a favorite in itself. It was also interesting to watch Jagathy and Mallika Sukumaran play the reel life couple, estranged and bickering, trying to have the Swamiji help them find a way out. One of Jayan‘s best, without a doubt.
Here is Sripadam from the movie.
Sarapanjaram (1979 )
Ah. Sarapanjaram. Jayan, Sheela, Rifle, Horse, Promiscuity and its nemesis. End of story. Jayan‘s Rakjashekharan, the stable hand who turns into the Lord of the Manor left you bristling, but admit it, you were bowled over by the sheer audacity and brash adventurism of this ‘virile upstart’ I love his transformation in the first half hour of the movie, and his unapologetic demeanor to anyone who doesn’t seem to accept his ways of life. I think the ‘seduction scene with a poor horse as an involuntary participant’ has to be the only one of its kind in world cinema. Director Hariharan sure knew what he he was writing up as he conceived the movie, based on the premise from Lady Chatterley’s Lover. The similarities are just there, but threadbare, to me. This was as potent as the country toddy you sat and downed with an endless supply of prawn masala that set you ‘basement on fire.’ This was full-blooded, powerhouse promiscuity on overdrive. And what a ride it was.
Here is the powerful, overtly suggestive moment from the movie.
Puthiya Velicham (1979)
Puthiya Velicham (1979) told the story of this career criminal Venu (Jayan), the love of his life, a club dancer called Lily ( Jaya Bharathi), and the entry of a widowed, beautiful woman (Srividya) whom Venu gets acquainted with, in one of his midnight robberies. He stumbles upon her, ailing, bedridden and sinking, in a mansion he breaks into, and takes care of her, and in a peculiar turn of events, ends up taking her and offering her refuge in his bachelor quarters. Lily, desperate to leave the crime-ridden life, wants Venu to leave it all and walk away. But Venu is planning for that final one, the biggest heist of his career, the one that would never even make him want to do another ‘job’, but things take an interesting turn with the new ‘arrival’ at his house. Do I really care whether it was a remake of Paaji’s Phool aur Pathar (1966) ? No, Sir, I don’t. This was also one where I absolutely loved the Jayan – Sreevidya combination onscreen, a sort of consummate grace meeting explosive machismo And how can one ever, ever forget that little secret behind Nature’s worst possible weather phenomenons ?
If you still haven’t, check this out. Dive straight into 1 :01
Angaadi, according to me, has to be the most successful multi-starrer, potboiler movie that Malayalam cinema has ever seen, a commercial idea that simply burned down the box-office, with that added incendiary called Jayan. Babu was a watershed in the history of action-packed Malayalam films. I still know most of the movies dialogues by heart, and am sure there would many who would nod their head in delighted agreement. Jayan‘s Babu was the educated, ‘worker on the street’, relying on physical labor at the market place to sustain, along with a host of others, yet managed to reflect an uncommon affability and integrity in that maddening environment. Speaking of dialogues, his ” We may be poor..” has now attained cult infamy, thanks to the video sharing sites, but i think most got it wrong. Please do not expect a person from that level speak to you with a stiff upper-lip, and for that matter, why should an accent bother you in the first place ? Even the Englishman speaks his language with an accent. And I think, Jayan as Babu did a fabulous job at it.
This was T Damodaran‘s second Screenplay, I think, and the first in the T Damodaran – IV Sasi duo’s multi-starrer format that they would successfully employ to churn out blockbusters in the coming years. The format hit pure gold the first time around ! Another aspect of this movie that stays with me was this was one of those that reiterated the undeniable popularity and commercial viability of Kuthiravattam Pappu as a prime ingredient in mainstream films in the 80′s. IV Sasi had two songs decided for the movie from its songlist. One went to Jayan with Kannum kannum ( sigh ) and the other was for Kuthiravattam Pappu, with the evergreen Paavaada venam.I think he was just recognising the latter’s unmistakable presence in Malayalam films of his time. Haven’t watched Angaadi yet ? Begone !
Here is Paavaada venam from the movie.
Karimbana (1980 )
I absolutely, absolutely, absolutely love this movie. Set around the palm-toddy tappers’ community, it was about Jayan as Muthan, a toddy-tapper, Kamalam ( Seema ) the love of his life that he marries without wasting any time, and in a repeat of the Sarapanjaram plot, the sexually frustrated comely wife of the local Rich One ( Adoor Bhasi as Saheb aka Saippu ) who has fallen hook, line and sinker for Muthan’s body. There is a unique amount of honesty in naivety that Jayan brings to his character, and the flirting between Kamalam and Muthan in the early part of the movie are a chuckle-worthy spectacle. The man has a libido taller than the tallest palm tree in the locality and has no compunctions in letting it out, so to speak. But rather than revulsion, his demeanor only makes you smile with the charming naivete that accompanies along with it. The repartees and the exchanges between him and Balan K Nair ( his mentor are a delight to watch. The movie progresses along predictive lines but Jayan, is an absolute treat in this one. The dialogues at times border perilously close to corny, but he rescues each of them with his undeniable, mischievous charisma.
Pranayam Vilambum from the movie.
Love in Singapore (1980)
They don’t make movies like this anymore . The 80′s answer to the CID genre and amongst all the gangsta movies that Jose Prakash presided over, this is my favorite. I also see this as the best representation of all those movie -clones that had Jayan running around with a Bike, a Horse, a Rifle and pure badassery. Please don’t get me wrong. I haven’t forgotten Moorkhan ( 1980), Shakthi (1980), Ankakkuri ( 1979), Chandrahaasam ( 1980), Thadavara ( 1981) and a whole lot of others, but Love in Singapore holds a special place for me amongst them all. There was nothing you didn’t know about the movie as you sat down to watch it. And that was the whole beauty of it. Our original McCoy ( Prem Nazir as Prem ) looked too portly and clumsy from his early CID days, and I sometimes wonder how it had been if it had been Jayan who played the CID Officer. But that is just not possible, isn’t it? It would have killed all the fun. As the muscle-for-hire, Suresh, in Singapore’s underworld (tee hee ) who just about appears in the nick of time to save the CID officer’s skin, and a storyline so bizarre and corny that almost had you reaching for a cold beer, this was sheer, manic fun. I would go ahead and say this has to be the worthy successor and answer the 80′s could give to the 70′s madcap CID genre. Prem and Suresh as two lost-and-found brothers, what an idea, Sirji.
The immortal opening line, “ദരിദ്രവാസിയുടെ ഇടി, കൊള്ളാമല്ലോഡാ ! ” @ 26: 32. Priceless.
Kolilakkam (1981 )
I guess the photograph says it all. In a way it somehow even defines the entire onscreen career of the greatest action man that Malayalam film industry has ever witnessed. His strength lay in his capability to thrill you, and that’s what he did, within the budget allocations and amongst his portly peers. He was all that we wanted others to be when adventure called onscreen and made good where others left us sadly disappointed and sore. And he also left without a warning. In a blaze of glory, I would add. Kolilalakkam was exactly what it promised. A shockwave. The finality was so profound.
Yet, here we are, 31 years later, still discussing it.