The early editions of Vadakkan pattukal that came out from Udaya studios had a delightful set of commonalities. The scripts were either by TK Sarangapani or N Govindankutty, and until Sheela came along, it was Ragini who brought to life the women-centric ballads onscreen. I have tried to feature the ones that TK Sarangapani and Ragini came together in this post, and then go on to the similar roles Ragini did in other Malayalam Cinema productions (both for Udaya and others), and onto the Vadakkan Pattukal scripted by N Govindankutty.
The genre of Vadakkan pattukal in Malayalam cinema as we know it, starts with Udaya Studio’s Unniyarcha (1961). In addition to creating a genre out of thin air, Sarangapani also set the template for all the future ones to follow. Iwould say with some reasonable amount of conviction that even Unniyarcha (1961) was the blueprint for Hariharan‘s magnum opus Oru Vadakkan Veeragatha (1989), even to the point of borrowing sequences and scenes, but with a far greater sensibility of the medium than its Black and White predecessor. There are some striking continuities in both ( there has to be, after all its basically a retelling of the same event with the same characters, but with a 90’s sensibility and the literary acumen of MT Vasudevan Nair) and Mamootty’s Chanthu is exactly the opposite in appearance when compared to the slightly effeminate version in the original, in fact drips testosterone. (More on that later).
Unniyarcha (1961) tells the story of Aaromal Chekavar, famed martial arts exponent and mercenary (Sathyan) and his equally famous sister Unniyarcha (Ragini), her cousin Chanthu (Kottayam Chellappan) and of course the warrior-woman’s love of her life, Attummanamel Kunnjiraman ( Prem Nazir) – present for the customary romance and the songs only! The story is about how a wounded Aaromal Chekavar is mortally stabbed again by Chanthu, who exacts his vengeance for not having Unniyarcha, the love of his life, given in marriage to him by Aaromal Chekavar. Unniyarcha, takes a blood-oath to take revenge but it is Aromalunni, her son, who kills Chanthu in a swordfight, fulfilling his mother’s promise.
Here is Aaru neeyen Marivilley from Unniyarcha (1961)
There were close to 27 songs in Unniyarcha (1961) ! Now you know what it takes be a costume drama AND a musical, right? This was also TK Sarangapani’s first outing as lyricist, writing up Urangathentunni, a lyrical exhortation-lullaby by the grieving Unniyarcha to take revenge on Chandu to her sleepy son, Aromalunni.
Here is Urangathentunni – TK Sarangapani’s first song for the silver screem.
The music was by K Raghavan for the movie, which also included a Sanskrit chant and traditional folk songs set to music by the maestro. The rest of the lyrics were by P Bhaskaran. You can access the complete list of the songs here at MSI.
Here is one of my favorites from the movie, Annu ninne kandathil pinney, a duet by AM Raja and P Susheela.
Palattukoman/ Konki Amma(1962)
Ragini was back once again at Udaya, this time playing the love interest to Sathyan’s Paalattu Koman (1962). Buoyed by the success of Unniyarcha (1961), Kunchacko never lost time in putting together another one, in the same vein. Sarangapani wrote the screenplay based on the Kundoor Narayana Menon’s epic in Malayalam, ‘Komappan’, and tells the story of the Kalarippayattu legend Koman (the exiled heir to the famous Paalattu family) who falls in love with his arch enemy ( the one who murdered his entire clan save for his mother) Chandrappan’s sister Unniyamma ( Ragini).
As one of the early lot of movies featuring wild animals and heroes together, a fight between a wild tiger and the hero, Koman ( a Malayalam version of Tarzan and Jackie Chan rolled into one!) was a thrilling episode in the movie. This was also the Telugu singing star Rushyendramani‘s one and only Malayalam movie.You can read a detailed version of the review of Paalaattu Koman by Vijay ji here.. There were 12 songs in the movie of which Sarangapani wrote one which starts as Aanakkara, and Vayalar took care of the rest 11, set to music by MS Baburaj. One of the most memorable amongst them has to be the duet, Chandana pallakkil, a duet by AM Raja and P Susheela.
A track excerpt of Aanakkara, Sarangapani’s first Song. [ Courtesy MSI ]
You can watch the video clipping of Chandana pallakkil, by AM Raja and P Susheela here.
This was probably the last Vadakkan Pattukal adaptation that had Ragini and through some celestial coincidence she reprised the role that started off the entire genre, as Unniyarcha. It was also amusing to see the Unniyarcha ‘aged’ over the years, and Prem Nazir who played her lover, now played son to Unniyarcha, as the young Aromalunni!
Aromalunni, along with cousin and best buddy Kannappanunni (Aromal Chekavar’s son) travel to Kolashree province to take part in the Swayamvaram of the princess there, and Kannappanunni falls for Kadathanattu Makkam (Sheela) at the event, but there is a complication – she happens to be Chanthu’s daughter! Also, Sarangapani introduces a new character Chandrappan – the lovechild of Aromal Chekavar and Thumbolarcha, who join forces with Thanpy kutty, the son of Chanthu and the second generation goes to full-scale war when Kannappanunni professes his love for Makkam! Sarangapani was clever enough to spin off the main characters to mainstream movies in their own right, be it Thumbolarcha (1974), Kannappanunni (1977) and Kadathanattu Makkam (1978). Other than being the grieving, harried warrior-mother to Prem Nazir, there wasn’t much Ragini needed to do in Aromalunni (1972). It would be Sheela who would go to rule Northern Ballads on celluloid from here on. It would be one of the most rewarding and fruitful relationships any actor shared with any major production studio – in this case, Udaya Studio, till misunderstandings broke apart the evergreen pair of Sheela and Prem Nazir apart. And it was Sarangapani who brought them together onscreen again, with a story specifically written for Sheela, the box-office hit, Thumbolarcha in 1974.
You can get the complete details of the songs from Aromalunni (1972) at its MSI page .
Here is Muthumani palunku Vallam from Aaromalunni (1972).
8 thoughts on “The Ragini chronicles in Sarangapani’s Vadakkan Pattukal”
Sincere thanx for all your supports and prayers that you have extended for Rare Moments (16th Dec,2010)-a rare photo exhibition of Travancore Sisters .
Happy to inform you that this year I plan to conduct it on a larger mode .I invite all your valuable suggestions on the same.This year it will be more focusing on Lalitha& Ragini(infact the programme will be titled as Decemberil Kozhinja Nishagandhi)
Like that of last year,this time too the raised fund will be extended to Pain &Paliative Care Unit in Trichur serving Cancer Patients).
help me…join with me….if find Ragini’s first movie.I knew that it was a Kannada Movie.And she appeared in a Dance Scequence.
I think the movie may b Kankanam(i have doubt)…Iam in search.
Thanx for Vijayji for his rememberance of Kalpana(Udayashankar’s),whre both Lalitha nad Padmini r been introduced in the scene
Wow.. a lot of information here. I’ve not watched any of these films so it was very interesting to read about them. 31 songs in a movie!! .. phew !!…
Although I’ve seen her in a quite a few songs clips, I didn’t know Ragini’s name until now…
Thank you for those kind words.. I’m just trying to put in some perspective to the information thats already there 🙂 And yes, 30-odd songs in a movie would have the current generation on their knees, weeping for redemption, but then, that was an era that somehow strangely didn’t feel odd with those numbers. The life of Ragini, from the Travancore Sisters trio is someone the preset crop of blister-packed and bubble-wrapped 18-something PYT’s can learn a lot from, provided they have the patience, that is 🙂 And if you haven’t watched any of them, NOW would be a good time to start.
Hope to see more of you in these parts,
Thank you for this, OMC. A lot educative, including the vids, plus the effort shines through. Most of these movies, which we watched in our younger years, were a tad incomplete as an experience without these facts to embellish them. The memories can now rest gilt-edged, thanks to you.
The pleasure is mine. On hindsight, I do not think I have contributed anything new other than narrating the story from my perspective. If it helps lace your memories, I’d do it again :D…Thanks again..Regards..CM