Onnu Muthal Poojyam Varey (1986)

The movie hall where I watched Onnu Muthal Poojyam Varey (1986) – From One to Zero has now disappeared and in its place stands a shopping arcade.  It was a beautiful movie that  revolved around a young, widowed mother, her adorable little daughter and this unknown caller who befriends the child, and before she knows,  is inextricably drawn into this relationship and realizes that the Voice has become an inseparable part of her life. It is also a depressing moniker of the progression of  a story, from hope to hopelessness and perchance a faint ray on the horizon.

Produced by Navodaya, this little gem also was the debut of Asha Jayaram (as Aleena, the young mother), Geethu Mohandas ( as young Deepa ), the debut of G.Venugopal as a playback singer ( he was pretty famous those days on All India Radio), Mohan Sitara as a Music Director and Raghunath Paleri as a Director.

Asha Jayram and Shari in Onnu Muthal Poojyam Varey (1986)

Aleena is a graphics designer, and her life post the sudden passing away of her husband (Prathap Pothen as Jose, a irreverent, wonderful  and a popular Western Classical Music Teacher), is one of hopelessness and personal solitude. Her world revolves round her lil daughter and Elizabeth ( Shari) , friend and confidante – who adores Deepa and even sends across paintings every day to her.

Geethu Mohandas in Onnu Muthal Poojyam Varey (1986)

And on a day like everyday, Deepa, bored as usual at home, terribly missing her father, randomly dials a number, and this time, there is some one on the other end, who actually wants to speaks to her , the pleasure evident from his voice. ( I wonder how it would have been in these times – an obvious pedophile-stalker-slasher movie? Mercifully, things were more humane back then I guess 🙂 ) There is an obvious flash back on the happier times, the crazy husband and the whackier couple, so much in love, expecting their first born. And a wonderful moment as the hubby sulks crawling under the grandstand piano – I believe every family should have one, an official sulking corner.

Pratap Pothen and Asha Jayram in Onnu Muthal Poojyam Varey (1986)

Saddened by his sudden passing as a result of a coronary complication, her father-in-law, who is still around and a call away, keeps requesting her to find closure, get married again and move on.

She is alone, and she is scared of the future. And into this dreary life comes the Voice. The caller seems to know exactly who Deepa is, where she lives and everything about her mother ( He reveals that in the end).  Probably this and Ramji Rao Speaking (1989), I guess, were the only two films in Malayalam, that centered around the unknown and exciting probabilities of the good old bakelite telephone – while this revolved around anonymity, the latter was a technical glitch, a cross-connection! Anyways, the calls keep coming in regularly, the Voice knows exactly when they are at home, and before she realises, she is also drawn to the playful, loving and caring ‘Uncle’ with whom lil’ Deepa carries her unending conversations.

Geethu Mohandas and Asha Jayram in Onnu Muthal Poojyam Varey (1986)

Its as if she is at her sunshine happiest, speaking to the Voice. There is a delightful scene as both of start hearing the telephone start ringing inside the locked house, from the driveway, and as they rush, groceries flying, a key lost in the flowerbed, successful retrieval, and as they rush  in, it falls silent.

X’mas comes around, their favorite time of the year, and as Deepa watches Santa Claus along with the carol revelers, she is surprised to find him sneaking up her way, and gives her a gift, a small piano.He also takes a photograph of her in the garden holding the gift. You know its the Voice who has sent it, and though furious at first, Aleena reads the letter attached along with, written with  the love a father has for her daughter. Its a very poignant moment, as it suddenly dawns on her about this growing fondness to this anonymous person, who has now taken a ‘paternal’ dimension in Deepa’s life, and naturally, a possible relationship in her own.

From Onnu Muthal Poojyam Varey (1986)

Later, in her trip to the City hospital to hand over  first drafts of  an ad campaign for the hospital , she hears the Voice in the adjacent cubicle, and as she rushes around to check, he is already in the elevator and as she rushes down to the foyer, sees the car speeding away. Its three years now since Jose passed away. That Sunday, as they reach Jose’s tombstone to pray, Aleena is surprised, moved and touched to see a bouquet of red roses, already on the white and cold marble, kept there  before their arrival.

This for me, seems the moment of truth, where Aleena decides to take her life forward, now helplessly  in love with the Voice, looking forward for the familiar telephone bell jingle, along with her daughter. And in between all this bizarre events is the Doctor (Nedumudi Venu in a short and sweet role), who knows the identity of the Voice, befriends the family through a chance encounter and then comes to know of the whole chain of events that has turned the young lady’s life topsy turvy. Onnu Muthal Poojyam Varey is a beautiful premise, scary and sublime at the same time.You could add stupid too, but then hey, what is love without a little stupidity?

Asha Jayram and Geethu Mohandas in Onnu Muthal Poojyam Varey (1986)

Its soon Deepa’s birthday, and she insists that he come for dinner, so that she can meet him at last, goaded on by Aleena, now helplessly in love with “Telephone Uncle“.He surprises them by saying it might be his last call, and he would not be able to meet them even though he wanted to. Shocked, angry and  feeling more alone than ever, they regardless pay a visit to the neighborhood cake shop to order a cake made for her, and is surprised to find one ready with her name and a note attached which reads ‘ Uncle’s gonna be there for sure.’  Whether he will be there for her birthday, what was it that made him hide behind the anonymity of the telephone, and would Aleena finally find closure and love again in her life….ummmmm..for that you have to watch the movie. 🙂

Uncle's Note in Onnu Muthal Poojyam Varey (1986)

For a generation weaned on ipods and cell-phones that does everything except biological reproduction, the movie might look stupid, but this was a time where love was a warm feeling. The film also had some interesting cameos including Mukesh ( I would love to strangle the guy who did the voice dub for him) as the mistaken groom the soul-sisters go to meet at the ice-cream joint for Shari, Suresh Gopi as the actual groom-to-be ( he sure looked more handsome in his younger days ), Sainuddin from Kalabhavan as Santaclaus, Kalabhavan Rahman as the lecherous waiter at the ice-cream joint, Pattanam Rasheed (ace make up man) as the salesman at the cake shop, and of course the adorable bundle of joy and Mary Francis as the baby Deepa.


The film got Raghunath Paleri, the Kerala State Award for the best debut Director, Best Cinematography (Color) for Shaji N. Karun, Best Child Artist (Female) for Geethu Mohandas  and Best Editing for  T.R. Sekhar. Quite a bundle, considering that the main players of the  team were novices.

The Songs.

I have posted the songs in the Music.Magic Section.

OK, so is there a decent DVD available of this movie?

Where can I get it?
MoserBaer Home Videos have released it on video, check their site here.

12 thoughts on “Onnu Muthal Poojyam Varey (1986)

  1. I searched a lot about asha jayaram.No informations at all😑
    Anyways , Glad to read this post…it is so nostalgic..like u perfectly conveyed the mood of this film.

  2. Excellent piece on one of the greatest films ever produced from Malayalam.
    Every part of the movie from acting, direction, cinematography and music, all was perfect.

    Mohanlal just with his voice was magical and elevated the great movie many notches higher. And baby Geethu as Deepamol too was outstanding. But it was Asha Jayaram as Aleena that was most sensational of all in the film. Her perfomance could easily be listed among the 5 great heroine perfomances in Malayalam movies of all time. The way her expressions subtly flowed showing a whole range from happiness, longingness to anger,gloom or sadness, within a gap of seconds, was just amazing.

    Even if she has only this film to her credit, it is more than enough of an evidence to call her as one of the greatest actresses ever seen in Malayalam cinema.

  3. Dear CM,
    Reading this got me into the same melancholic mood as the movie….your writing beautifully captures the mood of the movie.
    I like the way you started-the movie hall you where you watched this movie has disappeared. So have such movies….we are back from one to zero 🙂
    This movie doesn’t have a strong storyline, but it is a work of art. It is all about the exciting possibilities of life…of how an unexpected turn of events can change the course of our lives. We adapt to the storms of our life, come to terms with our losses, strengthen our resolutions…only to realize that life has other plans for us.
    This movie brings out man’s fundamental need for companionship. It beautifully captures the solitude in Aleena’s life and goes on to highlight how the ‘Voice’ breaks this silence and becomes the most importan part of the duo’s lives. It reflects man’s tendency to become vulnerable and emotionally dependant when a relationship fulfils the voids in one’s life.
    Also, the beautiful house in which they live, forms the perfect backdrop for this movie. The songs are what led me to watch this movie….
    Thank you for this piece!

    1. Dear Vidya,
      The plight of the movie halls is yet another topic of interest for me 🙂 To me, the movie was apart of those delicious fare that had been served to us in the late 80’s and 90’s, one as varied and equally delectable as the other. It is this movie that made me bookmark Raghunath Paleri and have never missed a movie of his ever.That man has a terrific sense of ironic humor 🙂 Glad it found some resonance.Thanks, cm

  4. Onnu muthal poojyam vare is one of the finest movies I’ve seen as a teenager. The anxiety and suspense created was really commendable…. It was one movie where the voice was a character till the last scene and Mohanlal did a fine job!!!!

  5. ONNU MUTHAL POOJYAM VARE was one good movie, a movie which I appreciated more as an adult- rather than when I saw it first in the theatres as a kid.
    Asha Jayaram though fizzled out – save for some appearances in tv serials and a couple of other movies- she is all but forgotten. Prratahap Pothen gave one of his zainest and whackiest performances and that for me was one of the highlights of the movie

    1. Dear Narayanji,
      Totally agree. I sure hope she comes back with the abundant opportunities now even on the small screen. By the way, do you remember the details of any of her TV Soaps ? regards..cinematters

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