Kakkothi Kaavile Appoppan Thaadikal (1988)

Kakkothikkavile Appooppan Thaadikal

There is no other film that weaves a story around childhood and sibling love  like Kakkothi Kaavile Appoppan Thaadikal (1988), in Malayalam, written by Fazil and  directed by Kamal , and looking at the way things are progressing, there never will. Kamal calls it the movie closest to his heart, Vipin Mohan (legendary cinematographer) says there can be no film like this, ever. It doesn’t have a single superstar of the times, no sky-high budgets, no glitz. All it has  is a beautiful story of separation, independence and the inevitable reunion, deftly woven around a myth that stays sacred in the collective consciousness of one’s childhood – everything that is embodied by an appoppan thadi ( Grandpa’s beard a.k.a Calotropis Gigantea) !

Kaveri in Kakkothikkavile Appooppan Thaadikal
Kaveri as the Young Valsala

Valsala ( Ambika ) and Lakshmi (Revathi) are sisters, and the elder one is more like a mother to Lakshmi, ( they stay with their father, a delightfully young MS Thripunithura) who fondly calls her Vavachi. The childhood of the siblings, shown as a montage ( the most memorable of them chasing the Appoppan Thadikal) as the opening song ( the melodious Kannathumbi Poramo..) is brilliantly portrayed by Pallavi Joshi ( its Kaveri ! Thanks for pointing out, Sandeep!) as the young Valsala, though I have no idea as to who plays the adorable lil Lakshmi.

Vavaachi of  Kakkothi kavile Appoppan Thadikal
The adorable lil Lakshmi aka Vaavachi

Suffice to say, lil Lakshmi disappears one morning, from their front courtyard, as sister Valsala goes to draw a pot of water for a thirsty gypsy (V.K Sreeraman as Uvachu) who asks for some. Even the gypsy has disappeared when she gets back !

VK Sreeraman in Kakkothikkavile Appooppan Thaadikal
VK Sreeraman as Uvachu.

The story moves to the present , centered around Murli, an orphan, who has music in his blood, hates his foster-parents and carries an  infectious sense of optimism ( Kiran Vergis ‘s debut), his arch rival Punnoose ( Anu Anand‘s debut),  their band of school buddies, their Math teacher – Mathai ( Krishnankutty Nair) a.k.a Kalan Mathai ( Kalan means Devil), who is also the recurring nightmare of their little lives, and the entry of a wayfaring gypsy group who pitches tent inside the Kakkothi Kavu ( the sacred grove) in their laid-back village.

Kiran Vergis in Kakkothi kavile Appooppan Thadikal
Kiran Vergis as Murli

The Kaavu (sacred grove) is said to be the haunt of Kakkalathi Subhadra, who was killed in her prime by the local squire, the one-legged, conniving Chellamballil Elameenan who couldn’t bear to see her falling in love with a minstrel and was murdered by the former.

Murli's nemesis Punnoose from Kakkothi kavile Appooppan Thadikal
Murli’s nemesis Punnoose.

She in turn kills the squire and waits in the grove through centuries, singing to him, fulfilling the wishes of the children who offer gypsum stones at the entrance to make her necklaces!

Krishnankutty Nair in Kakkothi kavile Appooppan Thadikal
“Kaalan Mathai !”

Murli is a regular devotee, thankful for having escaped the clutches of Kalan Mathai many times through her intercessions. The scenes in the school are so hilariously funny and memorable, and also brings a tear to your eye, of memories past. Valsala (Ambika) joins as the new class teacher for Murli and takes an instant liking to him. Murli, tired of the beatings, runs away from home, drops out of school, into the safe haven of the grove, stumbles upon the gypsy camp and meets in flesh and blood, whom he has till then worshipped in  spirit, Kakkothi! Only it is the most foul-mouthed, boisterous tomboy of them all, Revathy, whom he still addresses as Kakkothi.

Murli meets kakkothi in  Kakkothi kavile Appooppan Thadikal
Murli meets kakkothi.

She is floored by his dexterity with the harmonica and at once team up.The story follows their adventures through the countryside, stealing guavas, hawking, street-singing , everything we owe to our childhood –  its an evocative 20 minutes of screenplay.

Ambika in Kakkothi kavile Appooppan Thadikal
Ambika as Valsala Teacher.

In between he gets confronted by Valsala, who takes him home, determined to give him a fresh lease of life. Kakkothi meets him the next day on the way to school, and he is back with her and their  adventures. Surasu playsthe leader of the gypsy clan and Kakkothi’s foster father, who had in fact rescued her from Uvacchu’s hands as a little girl, for which he is still vengeful. He lands in the village – now with a limp ( as a result of  Kakkothi knifing him in an earlier attempt to take her away) in his search for Surasu and the girl that was taken from him.

Surasu in Kakkothikkavile Appooppan Thaadikal

He finds out their camp. Meanwhile, the local police raid the camp inside the Kaavu, and Kakkothi and Murli watch as their fellow-members are rounded up and taken away. Murli proposes a practical solution, even at the cost of losing his freedom and getting a dressing down, to request Valsala teacher for help.

Both of them reach the house in the middle of the night, and as Kakkothi takes the first look at the house in the moonlight, she is shell-shocked, and she breaks down. Does Valsala teacher listen to Murli and help them? And what is it that made Kakkothi break-down as she sees the house, Valsala teacher and her aging father?

Kakkothi's world comes tumbling down - Kakkothi kavile Appooppan Thadikal Will Uuvachu manage to take her away this time around? Or will she escape? Has she stumbled upon the biggest and darkest secret of her life and her lost childhood in that moment? For that you will have to watch the movie. 🙂

So, is there is a DVD of the movie available?
A company based out of US, New Age DVD has advertised about it being its new release, but haven’t been able to get my hands on it. A mail to their contact id, newagedvd@usa.com, bounced back all guns blazing ! Found a site called MalayalamFlix.com which has a DVD, which costs US $ 7.00 !   There is a Video CD locally available, crappily digitised, marketed by Weekend Home Entertainment .

I have posted the Songs of Kakkothi Kaavile Appoppan Thaadikal in the Music.Magic Section.

44 thoughts on “Kakkothi Kaavile Appoppan Thaadikal (1988)

  1. This morning, I woke up and wondered what it was that was so captivating about this movie. A few thoughts:
    The whole movie is visualized through a child’s eyes- a child’s exploration of the world that surrounds him…of the simplicity of that world…of the immense possibilities he sees in that world. In fact, it is a journey into a child’s subconscious. The movie unlocks from our memory all those savoured moments of our own childhood. The visuals bring an instant bout of nostalgia and longing for that phase of life. The water lilies that we artfully plucked from waterlogged fields, the sandcastles that we lovingly built, the casual tunes we played on the mouth organ, the ‘chembu’ leaf for an umbrella, the old ammamma , serene and beautiful in her wrinkles, narrating stories while we listened with fervour, the appooppan thaadis that sprung out of nowhere and came floating into our world, like little presents from heaven- these visuals led me to subconscious memories of my own childhood vacations spent in Kerala. A child’s treasurehouse of simple joys amidst nature, which was perhaps experienced at its best in the laidback villages of old world Kerala.
    The movie is of fate unfolding a story…of life being steered by the play of fate. Lakshmi would ideally have grown up in the civilized world to be a woman much like her sister- educated and civilized. But fate intervenes and shapes her into a nomad, distant from the ways of civilization. Fate intertwines Murali’s life with the lives of Lakshmi and Valsala, making him the coincidental thread of reunion between the two siblings.
    Murali, in his pursuit for liberation from the adversity of his circumstances, is drawn towards the freedom of nomadic life. To a child, freedom is most attractive. Love and affection are of prime importance. A child needs assurance from the world that there is goodness and worth in him. Murali finds all these amidst the nomads- freedom, love and affection, a sense of worth. A nomad’s spirit is so beautifully portrayed by Revathi here.
    As children, we all had our myths…myths that fascinated us…myths that we imbibed and guarded with fervour. And thus, a story and a myth that Murali guarded passionately in his mind, unfolds before his eyes in real life. Revathi, whom his subconscious likes to see as kakothi, truly transforms into kakothi on that night when she kills Uvachu. This is the beauty of the climax. The myth becomes a sacred story that lingers eternally in our minds.
    This movie also has a beautiful backdrop on which the lives of the characters unfold- the kaavu, the old ambalam, the idavazhikall and the wilderness all around, the monkeys comfortably prancing about in the kaavu as Murali sleeps…and so much more. The backdrop is so inconspicuous that it cleverly blends into the plot, endowing it completeness, complemented by the background music and songs.

    1. Hi Vidya,
      That is a truly beautiful way to look at Kakkothikkavile Appooppan Thadikal. Madhu Muttom cleverly employs this dual concept of myth-reality that feeds off each other in another movie too, Manichithrathazhu. Thank you so much for this elaborate and descriptive flow of thoughts on the movie. Am sure this would, in turn, give rise to more observations on the movie going forward. Regards.cinematters

  2. This was a movie that effortlessly took me back to the tranquility of childhood. A child is in so much acceptance of his circumstances. His spirit is beautifully captured in this movie. Revathi portrayed the nomadic character with so much vitality. This movie was to me a surge of emotions at multiple planes.
    It is hard for me to post impulsive comments on movies such as this. I fear that I will not do justice to them. But thank you for seeding in me the desire to reflect on all these movies and get to their crux.

  3. Thank you very much for writing abt this movie Sir, a true classic, no other movie has ever defined sibling love in a better way than Kakkothikaavile Appopan Thadikal…This one is my all time favourite…very well written sir 🙂

    1. Thank you, and its always a pleasure revisiting childhood, in this case in the company of a delightful band of friends that include the siblings. Glad it helped you make that trip too..regards..cinematters

  4. Kakkothikavile Appoppan Thadikal was a good film by Kamal. I have always been awestruck by the titles Kamal gave to his movies- in particular THOOVALSPARSHAM, POOKKALAM VARAVAI and PERUMAZHAKALAM.
    i have always wondered what would happen if Pookal Varavayi were to be remade today. the charachter portrayed by Jayaram would be accused of being a pedophile, the bus driver who assaulted a baby would have been the news headlines. POOKKALAM reminds one of the innocence of days gone by.
    I have written a sequel to Thoovalsparsham..still in search of a producer/ director for the same. – yup contacted Shri. Kamal, but his hands are tied upto 2012.

    1. Hi Narayanji,

      Kamal’s movie titles have been a conversation topic for many, including yours truly. Every single one of his is what I would call a nano Malayalam haiku 🙂 about the sequel, that would be absolutely fantastic ! :)Hope things turn out good. All the best..regards..cinematters

  5. The role of young Valsala was done by Kaveri ( heroine of films like Udyana Palakan), not Pallavi Joshi;wish you had done your homework well, before maing such statements!

    1. Hi Sandeep,
      Point taken, I stand corrected, though I wonder how such a slip-up would have happened. It has since been corrected. Its human to err, and I could always rely on eagle eyes like you to correct them. Thanks so much for passing through and pointing it out…Regards..CM

  6. hi cinematters,

    lovely write-up on the movie. but then, i have a vested interest in it! :> have you got an email ID i could write to you at? or, i presume, you as blog owner have access to mine. drop me a line pls?

  7. Hi there!
    We have not communicated in a while, and I thought I would get a status update. If you are finding it too much work/stress, don’t hesitate to quit if you have to. 🙂

    1. Hi Prasanth,
      On the contrary, I have managed to make some proud progress. Am on a crazy schedule travelling for this fortnight.Once i get back, will mail it to you. Thanks for checkin in.. 😀

    1. Thanks Prasanth..Just saw that.. Guess its a direct dump from the telecine without any frame monitoring at all. Guess we will habve to do with this till someone sensible comes along..Have a great evening..

  8. .dat file masquerading as a DVD file? Hmm….the guts of the DVD resemble a typical DVD:

    Sadly the DVD case is also a bit on the cheap side…same goes for the “Kilukkam” dvd I got….I think I am learning to be a little more thankful for Ayngaran International…haha
    I will start timing the dialogue lines 🙂 (without words for now).

    1. Prasanth, check on the screengrab frame resolution.. it should atleast be 765×385 on a usual 4:3 mode. You would also be able to make out the amount of effort they have put on, looking at the screengrab quality as against a standard DVD release..Sadly, all these are just references. About Ayangraran, Oh Yes!

  9. The New Age DVD arrived in the mail today so I thought I’d add some comments on it.
    I don’t think the video has been retouched or anything like that, as it seems not much better than the VHS copy I watched. But I suppose this isn’t really a big deal for an older film.
    What *is* a big deal is that they’ve plastered “NewAgeDVD.COM” on the bottom right side of the screen whenever a song plays…..
    But anyways, a digital version is better than nothing, of course. P.S. the site you linked to was very quick in shipping it out to me.

    1. Yay!! 😀 We will still go with our project. Would also appreciate if you could take a screengrab of the dvd on your computer and check, whether its a .dat file masquerading as a DVD file. Have already started on the scripting, so we are rolling. 🙂

  10. Luckily not much coordination or common time is needed for this process. You can work little by little and send me whatever you’ve done and I can do the rest. Huge thanks =)

  11. Yea, the way I did it before (I did this once for a “foreign” film scene) is the translator would work scene by scene, and just translate and write everything he hears in microsoft word, in order. Then I would take that “list” of sentences and do the process of matching each line to its correct time and subtitling.

  12. The idea of things being a cycle sounds appealing..but I suppose I am just a pessimist. Not much discussion about this movie online either, other than your blog. Your passing comment about splitting, subtitling, and sticking it on Youtube sounds appealing…and I have experience doing this for old tamil movies…If I can find a Malayali translator who won’t charge too much, I think I might just do it myself..

    1. I wouldn’t charge you anything 🙂 I guess the easiest way would be to get down to the script by scene, translate it into English, and take that as the basic pointer, if you are thinking about subtitling the entire feature..Thats the way I see it..

  13. Hi cinematters,

    I have just watched Kakkothi Kaavile Appoppan Thaadikal. it’s late at night here but I feel like I have to write something about this movie before I can go to sleep, so I am taking advantage of your blog. hope you don’t mind =)

    I think this is one of my favourite movies ever. it was so good that it made me sad that I didn’t have the opportunity to watch this movie as a child – because I know that if I did, it would have been a cherished childhood memory of mine forever. it makes me even sadder that there is no subtitle or dubbed version so I can share it with my family.

    Even though I didn’t understand every sentence spoken 100%, you were right – the nature of the movie – like a simple fairy tale – made it easy for me to understand even without being fluent in the language. i loved it….and I loved the characters the most. They are the kind of characters that stick in one’s mind…like characters from novels I would read as a child…

    Over here in the modern Tamil industry we are currently obsessed with superstars and keeping images. actors would never surrender themselves to the story and become the character like Revathi has done in this movie. ask a modern glamorous heroine to dress up like an unclean, loud gypsy girl, i doubt they would ever do it. that’s why we never get movies these days with characters who are as memorable as Lakshmi and Murali…Even I, who is a big fan of Revathi, forgot within twenty minutes that this person was Revathi…I only saw the gypsy girl. That is what a good actress can do…

    Everything about this movie impressed me. I have nothing bad to say about it. I will probably write more detailed reactions on my own blog later…but all I can think of right now is that I am jealous. Jealous that Malayali families have such a wonderful movie to show their kids! Thank you for your article and summary.

    1. Hi Prasanth,
      So glad that you loved the movie. Though there are a few gems classic humor layered in between ( they are more of wordplays, and I wouldn’t go further than that) which am sure you must have grasped through. Thank you for taking your time out to write this down Truly appreciate that.
      With regard to the Tamil movie industry that you have just mentioned, things are not that different in Malayalam films too. There is a weariness and rage at the quality of movies that come out these days, but I guess its all a cycle. Everyone says the 80’s and the 90’s were the golden age of Malayalam Cinema, but I am of the opinion that each time has its own contribution, albeit its own way. Regardless, hope floats.
      Thank you once again…CM

  14. Indeed, if I ever actually get to see Ankuram that would be a dream. If I were living in India right now I would probably take a train to AP and search for it myself. I am not too familiar with Telegu (the films nor the language), however my favourite film is a Telegu movie Saagara Sangamam (dubbed as Salangai Oli in Tamil).

    Cheers, and definitely 🙂

  15. One more thing (I talk too much, I know)……while some of these old Malayalam films are hard to come by, I haven’t had too much trouble in obtaining some of the well-regarded ones. Same with the old Tamil movies. Usually after some sleuthing, asking around, I can get my hands on a copy.

    On the other hand, I have been searching for this Telegu movie called “Ankuram” for the past two years and have not found a scrap of it. This is a Revathi film about a woman trying to find a father of an abandoned child. I gave up on finding subtitles a long time ago, now I would be happy to even find just a poor quality, blurry version of it.

    It’s a shame when classics are shuffled into the dustbin of history along with the rest….

    1. Hi Prasanth,
      Thats all right. I have a surreal threshold in listening, too 🙂 I will surely keep an eye out for Ankuram, through peers who are stuck in the sepia mode in Hyderabad. Will keep you posted. Thanks… CM

      1. Oh, my blog was not deleted, I just moved it over to another address recently that made more sense: http://goodtamilfilms.wordpress.com . Basically it’s just a place for me to talk about Tamil and sometimes, despite the title, Malayalam films that I like, and also occasionally review non-favourites. Eventually I want to compile many articles on old films, since hardly anyone writes about them online.

        1. Ok. Guess in that case, its time you changed your blog url to the new one.. 🙂 Ankuram is already on the bush telegraph, so hoping to hear something about it soon. Its great to be even thinking about compiling information to be shared and passed on..

          By the way, Udayananu Tharram was loosely based on Bowfinger. The similarity ended there, with Srinivasan using it with his typical black humor to flay the powers-that-be that are now gagging creativity and fresh thought in Malayalam Cinema.

          Thanks again, and hope to see you around in these parts more often.


  16. Hi there,
    Yes, I suppose if I have no choice I will try to go through and understand what I can. I’ve watched Malayalam films without subtitles before, but usually as an extreme last resort, because I really like to feel that I understand what I’m watching 100%. Well, at least I can check your summary and make sure I haven’t confused anything 🙂 But anyways, your post really makes this film sound like something special, and Revathi is my favourite actress, and I keep hearing that this is one of her great roles.

    I just don’t understand why, if this “New Age DVD” is taking the trouble to re-release a 20 year old movie in a foreign market, why not hire a guy to spend a few hours translating it and then potentially open up the market to anyone who speaks English? So frustrating.

    Anyways, you have a great blog here that I will be exploring for some time to come….It’s kind of funny, I’m only in my early twenties, but I really don’t like the modern film industry. Almost all the films I watch are either Malayalam films or old Tamil films from the 80s and 90s. I feel like these films have a certain dignity to them that is becoming rarer.

    1. Hi Prasanth,
      I totally understand what you mean when it comes to ‘understanding it 100%’. It is a simple and sweet movie, so I guess it wouldn’t be difficult to appreciate the narrative. Revathy is truly one of the most gifted actors we have in our times. And about the New Age DVD’s marketing ‘concept’, well I still stand by my ‘idiots’ reference. Any other expression would fall short, I feel. There is always a strong undercurrent of the ones that truly yearn for what you correctly expressed as the ‘dignified’ creations from the past. Agreed not all, but most, yeah. And it is great to have the wired generation finding a refreshing solace in color sepia. As far as this blog is concerned, well, you are welcome anytime.. 🙂

  17. I would really like to watch this film, but I can’t speak Malayalam….do you know if there is any hope for me? I eagerly clicked the DVD link you posted, but it says Subtitles: None….

    1. Dear Tamil Rhythm,
      Thank you for passing through.Sadly, this is the bane of our regional home movies dvd market industry. The idiots who get the movies into market hv no idea as to what the customer needs and decides to serve you the goods based on his limited knowledge. But am sure, with the knowledge of Tamil, ‘understanding’ a Malayalam film is not that hard.I know it works well the other way around.. 🙂 And, Kakkothikkavile Appoppan Thadikal is a simple narrative, along with the language used. I’m sure you can sit through it.. 🙂 Till the day someones slices it up into 15 equal portions and puts it on Youtube and does the extra favor of using its subtitling, or someone else with a lil more intelligence comes arnd offering sub-titled Malayalm DVDs, I guess we have to live with these substandard media, starting from VCDs!!! Thanks again..

What do you think ?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.