[The repost of a note in memoriam, published on the passing of Venu Nagavally, 9th September, 2010. It has been an year.]
It has almost become a sickening joke of this passing away of the ‘Old School’ of Malayalam Cinema, one after the other in quick succession, right before your eyes With each, goes a part of a definitive and creative force that molded the golden years (purportedly) years of Malayalam Cinema, the 80’s and the 90’s. It almost makes you cringe, as you cock an ear at the ‘BREAKING NEWS’ ticker of the foaming-in-the-mouth crop of God’s own TV Channels, and with a an air of helplessness, mutter “why, so soon?” Venu Nagavally was no stranger to the magic of Cinema, you could say he was born right into it, with an illustrious lineage, right from popular writer and commentator Nagavally RS Kurup, starting off his dabbling into films as a playback singer, on the lines of Jose Prakash, who also entered Malayalam films as a playback singer . His first playback was for the film Chottanikkara Amma (1976), singing the traditional Kalidas kriti ‘Maanikya Veena ‘, under the guidance of RK Shekhar. Venu Nagavally’s contribution to the Malayalam Cinema as an actor and director are significant, though the latter’s gravitas almost relegates the former to its shadow. Right from his debut , Ulkadal (1976), his broody demeanor and his eyes that almost seem to overflow with grief without shedding a tear almost had him typecast in those roles for a long time.
I guess the increasing involvement in directing films and his meaty roles in the TV soaps helped a lot in getting the film industry recognize the various shades in him as an actor. Maybe to a certain extent, the natural aging process also helped. From his huge body of work, I have attempted to showcase a selection under three heading, as a Singer ( that was easy), Actor and Director, in a way that could best express the natural development of his art and his creative shine at the same time. Please note, these aren’t definite, these are just my favorites.
Venu Nagavalli – The Singer
Venu Nagavally debute as a singer in Chottanikkara Amma (1976), directed by Crossbelt Mani ( he wasn’t all soft-porn, you know), with Venu singing an excerpt from the famed Kalidasa composition, praising Goddess Saraswati, the Vagdevi – the mellifluous Manikya Veena.The script was also by his father, Nagavally PRS Kurup ! Incidently, another stalwart from the neighboring film industry had done a performance on the same composition, playing Kalidasa himself, Annavuru Dr.Raj Kumar from Karnataka. You can listen to his version here.
Song : Manikyaveena
Written by : Kalidasa
Music : RK Shekhar
Sung by : Venu Nagavally
It is said that he had lent his voice for a handful of films in the early 80’s, but of the ones surviving in the mainstream media, there was a fun number Kochu Chakkarachi pettu from Balachandra Menon‘s Ente Ammu, Ninte Thulasi, Avarude Chakki , and the folksy Mannu, Ayyappa Panicker’spoem, in Chillu (1982), directed by Lenin Rajendran. He also enacts and sings the part!
Song : Mannu, a poem (1967)
Lyrics : Ayyappa Panicker
Sung by : Venu Nagavally
The song starts at 5:30