The Revolution on Film – 1

Malayalam Films’ Revolutionary Songs.

When KPAC went ahead and transferred the ‘socialist revolution’ on to the commercial framework of Malayalam Cinema, they were also cleverly marketing the principle onto those parts of the community that had not yet heard or known about the ‘movement.’ That was one aspect. It also gave us some great compositions through them movies that still manage to capture our attention, and sing along with it, amazed at the way some can turn on the goosebumps routine. But, whether they are equally as inspiring as they once were, hmmmmm..that would be something really worth thinking about, when the idea itself is gradually sliding down the planet’s  history dustbin. No, personally, I still believe the idea will have universal relevance. It was the ‘execution’ part that did it in. Here are the ones that still manages to get my eyes misty and the heart reasonably wistful.

Thulaabharam (1968).

Thulabharam won director A.Vincent the National Award for the Second Best Film, I remember. He was on a roll, in the 60’s, with Bhargavinilayam (1964), and the success of Thulabharam followed by the classic Nadi (1969), all garnering top National Honors. This was also remade into Hindi as Samaj Ko Badal Dalo (1970), directed by V.Madhusushan Rao. The song started off with the socialist refrain “Workers of the World, we have nothing to lose but our chains..”, and took it from there.

Directed by : A.Vincent
Song :  Nashttappeduvan
Lyrics : Vayalar
Music : G. Devarajan.
Sung by : Jayachandran and Chorus

Punnapra Vayalar (1968).

This must have been the first movie that adapted an event connected with the Communist Movement in Kerala onto a successful movie. Though the arguments and debates still rage on the classification of the uprising – some call it a class struggle, others call it misguided rebellion, it sure helped in rake in the moolah at the box office. “Comrades, Onward!” went the lyrics, something the masses could relate to, easily.

Directed by : M.Kunchacko
Song : Sakhakkale Munnottu
Lyrics : P.Bhaskaran /Vayalar
Music : K Raghavan
Sung by : KJ Yesudas and Chorus

Mooladhanam (1969).

The film title, borrowed from Marx’s seminal work, itself resonated with what the entire narrative was all about. P Bhaskaran chose to start with ” From every drop of blood shed for the cause, will arise a thousand comrades more!”, enough to rouse anyone with a general sense of equality and common sense running through their blood.

Directed by : Thoppil Bhasi
Song :  Oro thulli
Lyrics : P.Bhaskaran
Music : G. Devarajan.
Sung by : KJ Yesudas and Chorus

Ningalenne Communistakki (1970)

The patriarch of KPAC this time oversaw his popular play being adapted to screen. Devarajan Master who was instrumental in churning out the classics in the theater production, went ahead and gave a completely new set of timeless classics for its onscreen version too. Now, that is divine talent.

Directed by : Thoppil Bhasi
Song :  Pallanayaarin Theerath
Lyrics : Vayalar
Music : G. Devarajan.
Sung by : KJ Yesudas and Chorus

Anubhavangal Paalichakal (1971)

It is time they made an insightful documentary that celebrates the contributions of KS Sethumadhavan to Malayalam Cinema. In a career that spanned 3 decades of active cinema production, there are very few that can hold a candle to the innovations and the daring technical wizardry he brought to the industry.Vayalar chose to borrow the verses from the Socialist cause, “Workers of the world, Unite!”

Directed by : KS Sethumadhavan
Song :  Sarva Rajya thozhilalikale
Lyrics : Vayalar
Music : G.Devarajan
Sung by : KJ Yesudas and P Leela

Neelakkannukal(1974)

Of the handful of films, the legendary actor Madhu directed, and more or less produced, this must be the only one with a incendiary theme that bordered on the cause. Vayalar/ONV team were together on this one, andthe lyrics that came out were defiant and rousing,” We refuse to die, we refuse to be cowed down, and don’t you dare think you can make us go on bended knees to kiss the capitalist behind!

Directed by : Madhu
Song :  Marikkan njangalkku manassilla
Lyrics : Vayalar/ONV
Music : G.Devarajan
Sung by : KJ Yesudas,  Madhuri and Chorus

Sphodanam(1981)

Surprising!  A Malayalam film with songs set to music by Shankar-Ganesh.I guess this was also the movie that set Mammootty on his path to “megastardom” on the Malayalam Screen.ONV just repeated what Vayalar said in  1971, but with a more rousing set of lyrics, the idea still said the same thing ” Workers of the world, Unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains!”

Directed by : P.G.Vishwambharan
Song :  Nashtapeduvanillonnum
Lyrics : ONV
Music : Shankar Ganesh
Sung by : KJ Yesudas and Chorus

Kodumudikal (1981)

Directed by : Sasikumar
Song :  Inquilabin makkal nammal
Lyrics : Pappanamcode Lakshmanan
Music : M.K.Arjunan
Sung by : KJ Yesudas and Chorus

Related : The Revolution on Film – 2

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8 thoughts on “The Revolution on Film – 1

  1. CM
    Among the songs in this group may i add a few
    1. Inquilab Sindabad (Inquilab Sindabad) Vayalar Devarajam – Yesudas
    2. Zindabad Zindabad Tozhilaali Aaikkam Zindabad (Cross Belt) M S Baburaj
    3. Aikkamunnani (Ningalenne Communistakki) Vayalar DEvarajan
    4 Viplavam Jaikkatte (Neela Kannukal) ONV Devarajan
    5. Nakshatrangale Saakshi (Naghangal) Vayalar Devarajan
    6. Udayagiri Chuvannu (Aswamedham Vayalar Devarajan
    7 Jeevitham Oru Chumadu Vandi (Aval Alppam Vaikippoi) Vayalar Devarajan

    Sajith

  2. Thank you, Ebenezer. It was good to get some idea of the lyrics; they do make these clips more enjoyable. I also appreciate the good words about my lengthy reply above and I am delighted that you enjoyed the current incarnation of Never Got Used to It.

    It is sad to hear these words about the deterioration of the communist movement in Kerala. It’s true that power corrupts; I certainly can’t argue with that. (In fact, I’ve written a bit about that.)

    If the co-op aspect of the movement has become so much more corporate, that is a shame. I first started reading in some depth about the communist movement in Kerala after looking at a study written in the mid ’90s about a beedi-rolling co-op, which paper was passed out during a presentation at a mostly academic socialist conference in New York City that I went to in ’96 or ’97. (I rarely seem to be able to find the time or money (ironically) to go to similar events these days…) The guy writing the paper was another Richard 🙂 , Richard W. Franke. That brought me eventually to the link that I mentioned, his Kerala page:

    http://chss.montclair.edu/anthro/frankecurrentresearch.htm

    There is a lot of interesting reading in the links within the links listed here – though probably, some would be of interest only if you don’t mind dry academic studies… Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anything there specifically on Malayalam cinema, or theater, for that matter. Maybe one of us should send Dr. Franke some more links… 😉
    ————————-
    P.S. Outside of Franke’s links, I’ve also looked at some books on the subject. Right now, I am glancing at a book I picked up in a used bookstore, Communism In Kerala: A Study In Political Adaptation, by T.J. Nossiter. This looks like a real meaty history of the movement. But it also looks like kind of tough read. 🙂

  3. Thank you for this great post and I can’t wait for the “continued” part. Not being able to understand Malayalam, I still can get quite a lot from the spirit of the music and the imagery in some of the film scenes (when available).

    Now, I certainly understand what you say about the global failure in “the execution of the idea,” but I have seen Kerala as a place where the execution went remarkably well for a long time. Here where I live, in the belly of the capitalist beast (or at least the place that has been the belly for a long time – though India and China come closer all the time to taking that position), I have encountered a very interesting body of work studying the unique aspects of the communist revolution in Kerala, showing not only how your home state made remarkable social advances despite poor economic conditions (at least poor by traditional western standards) but also discussing how Kerala’s communists avoided the terrible mistakes of Stalinism, actually encouraging the mass-participatory (or “small-d democratic”) aspects of the movement rather than suppressing them. (I could post some appropriate links if you’re interested – or send them over e-mail.)

    We can all talk about encroaching corruption or the corrupting influences of global neoliberalism (which seems to me to be the main thing that did in the Kerala communists, at least at the electoral-political level, at least right now), and the purists among us could go on about how Kerala never really achieved a communist revolution but merely a relatively mild social democracy. But especially when you consider what happened in the rest of the world, there’s a lot to be said for the movement that you had in Kerala.

    And it also seems to have left quite a legacy in Malayalam cinema. I suppose it’s natural for some of the message to get diluted in this medium, but the legacy still looks quite impressive. Unfortunately, when I’ve read books by the academic leftists who like to talk so much about the “development model” and that sort of thing, I’ve found very little discussion of the cultural side, especially the cinema. Maybe those people should be illuminated somewhat on that front. 🙂

    The idea itself always will have relevance, and I think that it is more relevant than ever, given what’s been happening in the past couple of decades, especially in the present crisis. If the idea continues to slide down the dustbin, that is a tragic irony. However, I’ve seen more evidence of this idea’s survival or resurgence globally in the past decade or so than I did back in, say, 1989.

    And if the idea does not win in the end, as Rosa once pointed out, we’ll have barbarism.

    Hope I haven’t gone on too much… 🙂

    1. Dear Richard,
      Thank you for that very insightful and thoughtful,extended reply to the post.Glad you liked it..It was after I read your reply that I realised that I could have done a lil bit more, and have went back and added a little bit about the lyrics too, on what they essentially mean. I totally agree with you on the natural curve that the idea that became a earth-shaking movement, but as someone wise said long back, Power corrupts.
      The social structure that needed a genuine overhaul got it, thanks to the socialism movement, and now, the rebels are truly without a cause.
      And it was a delight to go through the ‘new’ Never Got used to it..:)

      More later…Ebenezer.

    2. Dear Richard, here is the later part..:)..
      You have termed it right about ‘global neoliberalism’ doing it in, and coupled with power and the unlimited resources that the movement helped garner has transformed itself into 3 mainstream TV Channels,a bloated ‘co-operative ‘ hospital complex which is no less corporate than its peers, real estate in the prime areas of the Sate, an amusement park..it goes on. I guess socialism was the best idea for a society neck deep in the quagmire of the 60’s, and once it evolved with the help of the movement, it seems to have suddenly lost its compass.
      It is strange, surprising and sad, that after this generation of senior representatives of the movement who have by now become political leaders representing the movemnt, there is no second rung that you can truly say has lived the cause!Its true, as long as the beast lives, there will ways and means to adrees it or atleast keep it under control (and THIS would always be the best one around)..Maybe there is another approach, rooted in socialism, and it would come in our times..:)..About the second part of this series, the movies shift from the cause to the personal lives of the leaders of the movement…Another perspective.:)

      PS.. Looking forward to those links.

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