Day of the Jackal (1973), Sibi Malayil, Frederick Forsyth, SN Swamy, and August 1?

I recall when August 1? was released, SN Swamy, as a script writer was on a roll. You could say, every single scriptwriter in Malayalam in 1988 aspired to be SN Swamy. From Irupatham Noottandu in 1987, he followed it up with 3 back-to-back box-office scorchers, the tacky Moonnam Mura (1988), the first in the CBI franchise, Oru CBI Diary Kurippu (1988), and then August 1? (1988). I still believe that August 1? was the most confusing movie title for any movie ever graced our Malayalam screens till date. The director wanted the message that had to be conveyed across with the title was August Ennu, ( When, in August? -as the alleged political assassination was expected in the first fortnight of August), but for the average movie fan who looked at the posters, it was too confusing to have his tired intellect be elevated to such lofty and tricky subliminal messages, he settled on August 1 ! 😀  . It was hilarious.

The story was a straight rip-off from the Hollywood version of the Hollywood screen adaptation of Frederick Forsyth’s The Day of the Jackal (1973) starring the lethal Edward Fox as the assassin out to bump off General de Gaulle, which rolls on to that nail-biting, coronary-generating climax at the end as you sit there helpless knowing there is no force on Earth, save for a miracle that can save the head of De Gaulle on Bastille Day, with the Jackal, smiling and breathing down the trigger.

It was audacious to have the plot transplanted to the political scenario of Kerala’s murky politics, (hell, it would have suited any State’s scenario), but to make you believe that they would go to the lengths of hiring an assassin to ice the CM was way too preposterous, at least for me. I remember, sitting there chuckling in the darkness, as Edward Fox was reborn as Captain Raju, and he went through the motions of bumping off the newly elected, popular CM of Kerala, played by Sukumaran. It was too amusing. But, when you think about it from another point of view, from the perspective of  a movie goer who hasn’t even heard of a novelist called Frederick Forsyth, then the whole equations changed. It was way too refreshing for a Malayalam script as thriller, and you already had a taste of SN Swamy’s thriller ride with Irupatham Noottandu (which was a story weaved  out of a single premise from the Godfather, about the Corleone family not doing drugs to keep the business intact).

It was also interesting to note that Sibi Malayil involved himself in the “thriller business” only for two productions, and both had SN Swamy writing the screenplay. Buoyed by the success of August 1?, he made Parampara in 1990 but that was a Trainwreck. Sibi Malayil never tried his hand at SN Swamy’s brand of thriller rides again !

Read  this very ambiguous confirmed report of Mammootty “wanting” a sequel to August 1? recently, reprising  the role of Special Officer Perumal.. You could read it here.  I am looking forward to another chuckle-fest.  🙂

Here is the trailer of the original Day of the Jackal

Here is an excerpt from August 1?

Updated January 6, 2011

Perumal is back ! Produced by Aroma Mani, the script is by SN Swamy again and is directed by Shaji Kailas. Titled August 15, Mammootty reprises the role . Am not quite sure about the releasing date though. You could hear it straight from SN Swamy here

Updated March 11, 2011

The movie slated to be released on March 17, 2011 from what I hear. This should be fun with Shaji Kailas‘s industrial light and fireworks 🙂

Here is the trailer of August 15.


13 thoughts on “Day of the Jackal (1973), Sibi Malayil, Frederick Forsyth, SN Swamy, and August 1?

  1. Dear Cinematters
    I am grateful to you for the information regarding the textual connection between Adikkurippu and Bourne Identity. Infact, I am working on a study about the unofficial remakes of Western texts in Malayalam film. The study attempts to compare and contrast the film texts to unearth the cultural implications. Not a “critical jargon” study, that is usually seen in Malayalam but a reader friendly one. As a research scholar on Film Adaptation Theory I am trying to find out the real works of ‘adaptation’ rather than ‘Copiyadi” films. After having seen a lot of such films in Malayalam, I know there are some who really know how to “relocate” the culture quite effectively. But what often happens in case of such film is that it often betrays the inferior nature of our (Malayali/Indian) approach to life, culture, and our attitude towards fellow human being.
    One such example is Priyadarsan’s take on Milos Foreman’s One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest. Milos Foreman’s film which is adapted from Ken Kesey’s novel of same name, is really a study of the condition of insanity and rebellion and many others, making it something universal. It appears ridiculous to see that the Doctor performs lobotomy on Mohan Lal just because he and is in love with his (doctor’s) daughter. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is film meant to be released as a popular film, and our Thalavattom too. Jack Nicholson is popular favorite like our Mohan Lal. But what use! Making Thalavattom and showing it to the world as a cultural document was like saying aloud that “we are like this”. Remember that both films were popular success.

    Still, the case does not end here. It is a fact that must be admitted that Cuckoos Nest cannot be taken in Malayalam as a study of rebellion or insanity, a fact that clever Priyadarsan understood. He knew what will work here, in other words what our culture receives. That’s it. In terms of narrative and story telling, can we find any fault in Thalavattom? If you are interested I will tell you another case. Have you heard of an adaptation of Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment in Malayalam? Not in the black and white period, but in the ninetees. It is obviously Vishnu, the Mammootty starrer film directed by Sreekumar. I haven’t heard it referred to as adaptation of the novel. I was going through an abridged version of the novel when I saw the film and I was struck by the similarity. Analysing novel and film makes every Malayali ashamed as of what the novel tells and what the film tells. I will cite an instance. The hero Rascol Nikov meets a drunkard who sadly tells him that he is ruined man of no use to the family and his daughter Sonya sells herself in the street to provide for him. Obviously, Dostoyevsky will, of course, move Nikov to Sonya, where he finds her as an epitome of “all human sufferings”. In Vishnu there is a drunkard and her daughter. But the daughter is not a prostitute but a film actress and the father is as sad as the Russian father that she is an actress. The analogy is Prostitute/ Film Actress. That’s how the our adaptations betray ourSELVES. (It is interesting to note that Mammootty in the film is a wannabe film actor)
    I am sorry I digressed a lot. I will be thankful if you help me with some informations if you know. I have tied up with a leading publisher in Malayalam to novelize some of the Malayalam films. Novelization, of course is a mode of adaptation, which is very popular in the west. Our publishers haven’t yet understood its market values. All they are interested in is the transcribed film script. It is easy because any one can watch the film and transcribe it. But novelising is not that. It is an attempt to develop a healthy Link between Malayalam Popular Cinema and a new Brand of Popular writing. Just like the Pulp fiction industry and Hollywood. Unfortunately, in Malayalam we don’t have such kind of popular writing to which film makers turn to. It is an attempt to make one apart from the Malayala manorama/Mangalam fiction. Moreover, it is an attempt to bring the movie going public to Reading as well. To destroy the Gulf between Film and Literature, to put it that way.
    My first attempt was a collection of short stories based on the TV serial Alfred Hitchcock Presents. The Book was published by Pappiyon Publications Calicut. It comprises short stories based on 17 half an hour episodes directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Book is called Alfred Hitchcock Avatharippikkunnu. I was told by the publishers that the book goes well. As I am intersted in Thrillers, as every body are, I particularly look forward , sorry, look backward to the SN Swamy thrillers by the end of eightees and by the beginning of ninetees. The appearance, treatment, language, the cover of the book, all will be taken care of. The list of films I have made are:
    Orkappurathu ( Renjith, Shibu Chakravorthy)
    Irupatham Noottandu (S N Swamy)
    Moonnam Mura
    August 1…?
    Oru CBI Diarikkurippu
    Kalikkalam and
    Season (Padmarajan)
    These films I think are the best films in the genre that are not out dated even now. Each book will be having a study of the film, about the genre, its previous sources, influences, audience-response, trivia etc. The previous source is cited not to degrade tha Screen writer, of course. But to high light the writing as a practice of adaptation. As a person interested in Malayalam Cinema in general and Old Malayalam Cinema in Particular, you will be able to help me. I would like to like to know your Opinion of the project and suggestions if any. I can see from your writing that you are familiar with the writers like Foresyth, Ludlum, Sheldon and the like. I really don’t know if Orkkappurathu, the story of treasure hunt, is an inspired film. If you know pls let me know. I have heard some one tell that Padmarajan read Stephen King’s novella, Shawshank Redemption and went on to make Season even before Hollywood planned Shawshank Redemption. But I didn’t find much similarity except the jail and the jail break.
    Maria Rose

    1. Dear Maria Rose,
      Apologies for the delay in replying to you. I am touched and humbled. There are so many aspects that you have brought out in terms of ‘adaptation’, ‘free adaptation’, ‘remake’ and ‘inspiration’ that I think it is in itself worthy of an exhaustive discussion 🙂 The uncanny coincidences of Vishnu had not gone unnoticed but by then it had set a weariness in making these as subject of discussions that take up our valuable time 😀 . Novelisation, as you rightly pointed out, is something that has been lost on us as a reading community, but it also has its peculiar sense of roadblocks when it comes to the Malayali cineaste.Also, just how many of the ones that are released now would warrant a transformation of that scale, I really really wonder, though it is a goldmine as we turn to the early years. I would love to get hold of a legal copy of the Hitchcock collection, is it available on any online store which I can buy from? Regarding the Thrillers that you just mentioned about working one, I had some time back collated and categorised some for a coffee table book on the same which eventually gathered dust enroute. I would be delighted to share those rants. Would it be fine if I mail you on the same? Thanks so much once again for writing in. Again, I feel so humbled. Regards, CM

  2. Dear cinematters
    I am very happy to say that I happened to visit your site yesterday. In 1988 when August 1..? was released, I was one who sat anxious to see how the role of Edward Fox was recreated by Captain Raju. Though I dont think that Captain is a bad actor, still I was anxious on account of the the ‘original text’ by inimitable Edward Fox. Though the focus on the assassin was reverted to the cop, I was happy with the film. As we look back, as you said, it is one of the best thrillers we have.

    In ‘Day of the Jackal’ the reason for OSS to assassinate De Gaulle was history and I think SN Swamy really wanted half of the film to create the premise, and its quite natural that the assassin lost the focus. Still August 1..? is a compact film except for the comic digression where Lizzy and Innocent enter. Even with less screen time, the writer has has tried to provide some glimpses into the character of the assassin. The Cat and Mouse game between the Cop and the Assassin is interestingly treated. The fact that is absent in Jackal which is present in August 1..? is the respect that the hunter develops for the hunted during his trail. (Mammootty pays homage to the assassin when he says to the chief that “Determination enna waakkinte artham Saarinu Sarikkum Ariyanjittaanu) We get a feeling that the assassin is in the business not only for the money, but it is his mode of expression. He way he guard his profession and his professionalism, and is interestingly done. Though directly lifted from Jackal, the scene where the killer kills his friend too is interesting. We get a picture that the lonely Cold blooded killer was once a young man called Nicholas (only occassion where his real name is mentioned) who had a good time at Madras College. I often think about that situation. We had so many companions at schools and colleges. Often they may site their ambitions. One is a doctor, one is an engineer, one is an a collecter. Every time I watch August1..? I think if there is any one of friends who had become a professional killer, who kills just as an artist paints. O just a digression, thats all. What I was saying was that S N Swamy was able to adapt the story effectively to Indian scenario, and was able to use the Sri Lanka incident to reinforce it.
    Adaptation, that is the issue. It is really an activity that needs skill.
    By the way, I am a Research Scholar who works on the thesis Screening the Text: Adaptation and Appropriation in the films of Akira Kurosowa.
    There are many unofficial film remakes in Malayalam from Hollywood. Most of the films were just ‘copies’ but there are very few adaptations. August1..? is one of them. Mammmotty has done Perumal creditably, and I really felt that his counterpart in Jackal as a boring and uninteresting character.
    Though a popular film, August 1..? never goes to that extent to lengthy dialogues and other gimmicks to enthrall the front benchers except for the unnecesaary assault on Thevar where Mammooty bellows “Eda Thevare!”
    The camaraderie between Mammootty and Sukumaran was also excellent. One of my favorite scenes in the film is the sequence where Perumal visits C M as his college mate.

    As a he is a writer who concentrates on thriller I am (was) interested in S N Swamy. But my S N Swamy favorite is ADIKKURIPPU which I believe to be his Masterpeice. Have you seen it? I dont know whether it is inspired from a book or film. But I feel that there no other film in Malayalam which treats a subject like that film. Its is a very relevant subject even now.
    Any way, nice to meet you, sir
    Maria Rose

    1. Dear Maria Rose,
      Phew. 🙂 That is SOME perspective. Thank you so much for writing in. Yes, I have watched Adikkurippu and I thought the reference and inspiration was quite clear 🙂 It is the basic premise from Robert Ludlum’s Bourne Identity into which SN Swamy clearly worked in the instnce of the Indian cargo frieghter that disappeared in the high seas without a trace during those times and blended it in high speed 🙂 I find it very amusing that Kamal Haasan’s Vettrivizha, also was another interpretation of the Ludlum classic but no one seem to remember that 😛 . Its always a pleasure to meet another cinephile who helps you learn more about a movie just when you thought you had learned everything off it. Thanks again. While on the subject, if you would like to share your perspectives on any otehr movies in Malayalam, OMC is all yours – please consider this as an open invitation. Its not everyday that a Research Scholar on Kurosowa-san passes through these sepia gates 🙂 WOw! I wish I could do that someday – atleast on Sholay and Kurosowa 🙂 Thank you so much once again..Warm regards..Cinematters.

      PS. An Agatha Christie fan who is a Research Scholar on Kurosowa – now THAT’s something 🙂

      1. I’m really happy and proud when we find in some rare occasions that our actors excel the international actors. Mohal Lal, Mammootty, Jagathi Sreekumar, Thilakan (to name a few) Whenever I watch August 1…? I think about the Mammootty’s brilliant perfomance as the cop. The way he examines the Hotel staff, his peculiar gait, appearance, the way he behave as the character. I am happy to find anither who share my opinion

  3. I prefer to agree with you on some points and disagree on several other factors.

    In an interview ( Indiavision TV – Cinema yum Jeevithavum program) S.N. Swamy mentioned that although he had read the Forsyth thriller, he then did not think that it was feasible to adapt (“inspired copy”) this story for a malayalam movie. What changed his mind was the attack on Rajiv Gandhi ..while inspecting a military parade in Sri Lanka. Now if you remember the climax of this movie, its more close to the Sri Lankan incident than the hollywood movie.
    I have watched both the hollywood version and the Siby Malayil production and in my opinion Mammooty as Inspector Perumal is a class act. The trim hair , rolled up sleeves etc. The political backdrop created by S.N. Swamy is convincing enough and is well executed by Siby Malayil. Sukumaran and Prathapa Chandran excelled in their roles. The script writer also makes a believable point mentioning how the post assassination political scenario would be. These characters are more entertaining to watch than the pigeon feeding inspector in Paris or the tight lipped members of the OSS in the hollywood version.

    Where S.N Swamy disappointed was the means and ways of the killer. When the Frederick Forsyth novel came out, it was praised for the good research especially in finding the system loop hole to create a false birth certificate. In the novel, the importance is for the killer and his ways. In the Siby Malayil movie in late 80s asking Mammooty to play a low key role compared to Cpt Raju would have been too much to ask for both from the star and the movie producer and probably even the audience.

    I have often felt that, if I had a chance to review the script, I would have trimmed the scenes depicting the good work of the chief minister and devoted that time to building the character and credibility of the the assassin.

    In-spite of these shortcomings , I still think August 1 is one of the best thriller movies ever to be made in malayalam. If the story was copied / “inspired”, it was made good by great acting and dialog delivery by all the actors.

    1. Hi George,
      Thank you for passing through and taking your time out to leave your impressions on the Movie. The views expressed here are purely from a personal perspective and it is always a pleasure to listen to and be informed from others’. I believe that is the whole point of writing this and putting it out in public domain. I guess Mammotty’s lean, mean, close-cropped get up was a direct fallout of the “1921” movie by IV Sasi which was also under production almost at the same time as August 1. Regardless of lifting off the plot and making it indigenous, I perfectly agree with what you said on it being “one of the best thriller movies ever to be made in malayalam” – something I have very clearly stated in the post, ” But, when you think about it from another point of view, from the perspective of a movie goer who hasn’t even heard of a novelist called Frederick Forsyth, then the whole equations changed. It was way too refreshing for a Malayalam script as thriller, and you already had a taste of SN Swamy’s thriller ride with Irupatham Noottandu “. But the fact remains, No Day of the Jackal, No August 1?. ( Maybe, he would have looked for a Chase thriller instead, then 🙂 ).
      Thank you once again,

  4. I believe that the title was August 15 while the movie was in production. Vague remembrance about reading shooting reports then

    1. Rajesh, to the best of my knowledge and recollection, that was removed owing to the “patriotic” angle of the title and giving away the “date” of the evnt in the movie. I still recall the August 1? write ups in the popular “film weeklys” of the times.. And even then, the very fact that you brought this fact adds up to the confusion which I mentioned about the title.. 😀
      Thanks .. CM

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