TK Sarangapani | The Master Craftsman of the Vadakkan pattukal on celluloid.

TK Sarangapani With TK Sarangapani’s passing, Malayalam cinema lost something significant that it would have never even realised in the first place  (or though realised, callously relegated it to those places where one normally stores stuff which don’t have ‘dollar’ value) – he was the last living custodian of Udaya studio’s history, one who was Udaya Studio’s soul-keeper (I know that sounds tacky but that comes close to it). Sarangapani, who was virtually whisked away in his work clothes from his ‘lowly’ existence as a seamster at the Alleppey South Indian Rubber Works to the the hallowed portals of Udaya Studio bowled over Kunchacko, the reigning emperor of Malayalam Cinema ( read Udaya Films) with his very first attempt in rewriting a couple of lines of  Moidu Padiyath‘s screen adaptation of Umma (1960).

Umma went on to become  a box-office scorcher with its fiery dialogues by Sarangapani and single-handedly rescued Udaya Studios from ruin. It was also the beginning of a relationship of a script-writer and a studio, that was to blur the lines between personal and professional domains.  Though Sarangapani was also instrumental in creating a number of hits for Udaya in his times, Umma (1960), Postumaney Kaanmanilla (1972), Acharam Ammini Osharam Omana (1977), Neelaponman (1975) – what he would be most remembered for in the history of Malayalam Cinema would be for something more significant, according to me. He invented an entire genre in Malayalam Cinema, out of references and characters that till then existed only in the vocal tradition of Vadakkan Pattukal, mostly embedded in the Northern Kerala folklore, blended it with the kitschy sensibilities and dramatics of pulpy western and gave us the Celluloid version of Vadakkan pattukal.

It was a genre that was also identified with Udaya Studios and Excel productions, that one couldn’t imagine an Onam without its staple Vadakkan Pattu version movie release, and a one on the genre which was NOT from Udaya studios! It had become such a strong brand and a money – spinner at that too, that even after the demise of Kunchacko, Navodaya Appachan who took over the mantle of Udaya with his Navodaya banner, himself chose to introduce the technical wizardry for the first time in Indian films industry, he chose this genre!

( I have written in detail about what Vadakkan Pattukal meant to the average Malayalam Movie goer here).

Sarangapani started with the core story, that of Unniyarcha, the  spunky, female warrior from the Chekavar clan who was feminine grace, beauty and ferocity, all bundled up in one classy package, and who else but to choose Ragini to enact her onscreen !

Here is the list that I have been able to compile on the ones from this genre that came out of Udaya Studios, thanks to MSI.

  • Unniyarcha (1961)
  • Palattukoman (1962)
  • Othenente Makan (1970)…………….. Screenplay by  N.Govindankutty
  • Aromalunni (1972)
  • Ponnapuram Kotta (1973)…………….Screenplay by N.Govindankutty
  • Thumbolarcha (1974)
  • Kannappanunni (1977)
  • Palattu Kunjikkannan ( 1980)

Except for Othenente Makan (1970) and Ponnapuram Kotta (1973), it was TK Sarangapani‘s creativity that ran riot in all the productions. Also, Sarangapani, though a die-hard UdayaStudio craftsman all through his professional career, also took an exception to the rule when he scripted Kadathanattu Makkom (1978) for Navodaya! Personally, I consider it to be the most kitschy and colorful of all the Vadakkan Pattu movies that came out in that genre from Udaya Studio.  Sarangapani was also instrumental in repairing and strengthening one of the most powerful commercial equations of Malayalam Cinema of his times – that of bringing back, together, the ‘evergreen pair’ of Sheela and Prem Nazir, and he did that with another Vadakkan Pattukal movie , specially made for the event, that became the famous Thumbolaarcha (1974) ! ( More on that as we discuss the movie).

Kannam Thalir Muttam from Thumbolarcha (1974). Srividya looks gorgeous, don’t you agree 🙂

My humble effort is to turn the spotlight on this aspect in Malayalam Cinema that was effected by TK Sarangapani, through the versions of Vadakkan Pattukal that he brought alive onscreen, if possible, his every single movie on that genre, and the songs that made it memorable.

Next : Sarangapani’s Vadakkan Pattukal on Celluloid.

7 thoughts on “TK Sarangapani | The Master Craftsman of the Vadakkan pattukal on celluloid.

  1. From what I heard.. Sarangapani was in Udaya Studio most of the time and was also knew the “secrets” of many stars of the time. There were rooms in Udaya studio for the stars to stay….(From the memoirs of M.O Devasia, Adoor Bahavani)

    About Tumbolarcha..Nazir Sir and Sheelama had a tiff in their very “special” relationship around 1970 or 1971. They decided not to act together It seems the general public did not know about this. For three years Udaya Studio was flooded with letters from fans who wanted to see them together onscreen ( and off screen as well) asking Udaya why they were no cast together. Producers had already begun to bring Nazir Sir and Sheela together, as theirs was the most successful pair in Malayalam cinema with wide audience acceptance. Finally Nazir Sir and Sheela decided to patch up. Udaya had to make sure their comeack movie would be a feast for the audience. Kunchacko gave the responsibility to Sarangapani.

    Someone who saw the movie then, told me that this movie ran to jampacked theaters across the state. The very first scene which shows Sheela praying at a temple and Nazir Sir asking her in a romantic tone “കുറെ കാലം ആയല്ലോ കണ്ടിട്ട് എവിടെ ആയിരുന്നു.”?/It seems the audience broke in applause for 3 minutes or so that the next few dialogues could not be heard.

    Note: I heard Ranjith made Prtihviraj ask the exact same thing to ThilakanChettan in Indian Rupee and the response was almost the same from the audience.

    1. Dear Sibi,

      Thank you for that delightful piece of trivia. I had intended to write on this in the continuation on this series, but now that you have mentioned it, thought will add to it. The factoid about “Sheela praying at a temple and Nazir Sir asking her in a romantic tone “കുറെ കാലം ആയല്ലോ കണ്ടിട്ട് എവിടെ ആയിരുന്നു.”? I think was first put in print by someone who had NOT watched the movie in the first place, or gave it his/her own color based on hearsay/second hand information. IT IS SHEELA WHO ASKS PREM NAZIR the famous line, and not the other way around. It goes like this,
      PN : ഉം..എന്താ, വല്ലാതെയൊരു നോട്ടം ?
      Sheela :നാള്‍ ഏറെ ആയല്ലോ കണ്ടിട്ട്?
      If ranjith has made Thilakan repeat that, it only underlines the capability of Sarangapani’s dexterity in knowing and delivering those ingredients that makes a ‘populist’ screenplay :)..Thanks so much..cinematters

      1. I saw the movie..and I think it escaped me memory as to who said it…now that you said it here I am able to recollect the scene.

  2. do you know that kunchacko initially planned AAROMALUNNI without prem nazeer and sathyan master was roped in to play 3 pivotal roles in that movie. sadly that wasnt happened and sathyan master died just after commencing the shooting. later the script was revised to suit the style of prem nazeer and ravi chandran was brought in to play a double role in that film.

    1. Wow! 🙂 Maybe he would have planned it right after Othenante Makan (1970) but things never worked, sadly, as you had mentioned it. Ravi Chandran looks so ill-at-ease and wooden in the whole movie, maybehe just couldn’t get the ‘kitschy spirit’ right 🙂 This is some delightful trivia. Thank you for sharing this..regards..cinematters

  3. You know these are a part of the 70s-80s nostalgia more and although we used to scoff at the Naseer syndrome in college, now “it feels like heaven” as the suiting ad says… waiting for the next part..

    1. I whole-heartedly agree with the Prem Nazir part. i alwyas think he was there at the right time to fulfill a ‘celestial’ obligation, but the ones associated with him lost the plot (literally) somewhere along the way. he has rued many-a-times at the triteness of what he was doing onscreen, and was loath to the toupee that he wore on screen. Thanks for passing through…Regards..CM

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