The silver screen had always fascinated me right from childhood. I have heard stories about my mother’s childhood in the late 40s, when my uncle took his sisters, my mother and her siblings, for a “devotional/mythological” movie which released in the first talkies in their neighborhood. It was a tribute to bamboo pylons, teak struts, thatched roof and smelly Rexine seat backs for the privileged. And not knowing what a cinema really was, they sat facing the projector thinking that that’s where the action is. My uncle was so embarrassed that he didn’t know where to look.
Brought up in an plantation in Malaysia, I still remember the movies that were shown at the open air cinema. Apart from some Hollywood classics, Hindi and Tamil movies, I can vividly recall watching two Malayalam movies as well. One was Kidappaadam and the other Bharya (1962) . I must’ve slept through Kidappadam (1954) – don’t remember much about it. But Bhaarya is one movie which actually shook me.
I still remember that I hated Sathyan. I would rather stay at home and watch television or play with my childhood friend, than join my mother and her friends for a movie starring Sathyan. Such was the impact Sathyan had on me. While enroute to the cinema to watch Chemmeen (1965), Mom said that Sathyan was not there in the cast and still remember the racket I created in the cinema . Now when I look back, it’s not the movies or the actor that I hated, it’s the role – and how convincing he had been !
My mother has always been a great Sathyan fan. According to her, even in the era where drama had a major influence on movies, Sathyan was very natural in his acting. He practically lived in every role that he essayed. Today, I totally agree with her. Have been watching quite a few Sathyan movies of late. Ashwamedham (1968), Oru Penninte Kadha (1971), Karinizhal ( 1971 ), Thettu (1971), Thaara (1970), Sharashayya (1971) are a few of them.
Sathyan in Kuttyedathi (1971)
Here I would like to mention about a classic Sathyan movie Kuttiyedathi (1971). When we relocated to Kerala from Malaysia in the early 70′s, Kuttiyedathi’s movie adaptation had just got released in one of the talkies nearby. Mom as usual had gone to watch this movie with her sister-in-law and friends. For some reason, we kids were not taken. Maybe because she had already read Kuttiyedathi and found that the story doesn’t suit us kids. I remember overhearing her talking about the movie to one of our neighbors.
I still very clearly remember about the sibling rivalry and the relationship between Sathyan and Vilasini that she was talking about. And one scene that stuck ever since is when Sathyan lights a beedi leaning on the axe, taking a break. Mom said that she could never imagine another actor doing that sequence with so much authenticity. Today I have the digital version of the movie. But could never bring myself to watch it. Maybe because I wanted the sketches etched by my mother to last.
What if I get disappointed?
Prapancha chethana from Kuttyedathi (1971)