The First Successful Jungle Movie in Malayalam.
I guess I got scammed again by the VCD Mafia :) . Aana Valarthiya Vanambadi (1960) is said to have been made simultaneously in two languages, Malayalam and Tamil and it also holds the howlarious distinction of having had the Tamil version [ Yaana Valartha Vanambadi (1959) ] released in Kerala BEFORE the Malayalam version, according to Vijay ji. The VCD copy I have has the title cards in Malayalam, but the soundtrack is clearly the Malayalam dubbed version for the lip-movement which is undoubtedly in Tamil! Which makes me come to the conclusion that the actual Malayalam version originally released must have been the same or else they have lost the original Malayalam version. Oh, the fiends. This also has to be the first movie in Malayalam to depict an airplane crash – you know the staple runup shots – sweating Captain, wobbling craft, screaming passengers and a long shot of trees swaying. For the time and the equipment available, I guess it was a decent effort, that’s all.
The story follows the same Tarzan routine, but thankfully there are a lot of outdoor shots, convincingly shot, and that makes the movie delightful. The movie script was written by Thikkurissi Sukumaran Nair who also plays a lead role along with the hero Sreeram from Tamil. Directed by P Subramaniam himself, the movie also had veterans of Tamil cinema CK Saraswathi, MN Nambiar, SD Subbalakshmi , D Balasubramaniam and a host of others lending support. Miss Kumari played Meena/Malli – the lady Tarzan, with close friends Pedro the Chimp ( Aadiyappan in the movie) and Bhima, the Elephant . There were 7 songs in the movie which I have wrote about in detail, here.
The movie starts with Laxmi’s (Miss Kumari) goodbyes to her extended family before her departure to Singapore with her daughter to be with her husband, Selvapathi (Thikkurissy Sukumaran Nair). Airborne and enroute, the airplane loses altitude, and we are treated to probably the first instance of an aircraft crash in Malayalam cinema.
The airplane joystick seems to be a sawed off steering wheel from an automobile, going by the looks of it, but hey, I love the sequence :) Suffice to say, the earth shakes, a couple of trees shake along with it, there is the deafening crescendo of a Brass Section in the soundtrack and you know everything is over! But the infant Meena is miraculously saved and is found by Pedro, the chimpanzee who gets his buddy Bheema, the elephant and their master Dharamarajan (D Arunachalam) – leading the life of a hermit in the jungle, disgusted by the urban excess and they gladly take her into their fold. We are also treated to another first in Malayalam Cinema – the wreckage of an aircrash in a jungle ! The only similar scene I can recall is from Dauthyam (1989) – almost 3 decades later !
The little one is renamed Malli and grows up in the care of the trio, well-versed in the ways of the jungle. Meanwhile, a broken Selvapathi, returns home, and adopts his sister Saraswathi’s ( SD Subbalakshmi) son Shekhar (Sreeram in a leading role), who grows up to be a Private Detective ( amazing foresight to have a hero with this unconventional career for the times, if you ask me :) ). Selvavathy’s brother’s ( Friend Ramaswamy as Arunachalam) daughter Mohana ( KV Shanthi) is head-over-heels in love with the young and dashing detective but he is much too occupied and busy for her love. Little Malli, has now blossomed to the lithe, fearless and beautiful daughter of the jungle ( Miss Kumari again), coming at you with the staple frolicking song, astride her dear friend, Bheema.
In another part of the jungle, a conspiracy is brewing. Feared jungle bandit of the region (MN Nambiar) is planning to ambush a wedding convoy passing through the jungle with his band of thugs. It is followed in the coming days by an increase in attacks on villages across the periphery of the jungle specially the village of Kantharamuttom which prompts the authorities to fix a reward of Rs 10,000 for capturing the Bandit. Malli, in the meantime, stumbles upon the lair of the Bandit, where a ‘Dance-by-the-fire” is in full swing and she is discovered.
She flees, with the thugs in pursuit but lose her. The bandit wants to have her at any cost. They even dig her a pit-trap and almost succeeds but Bheema comes to her rescue. In the city, smelling a windfall, Sreeram goes for a recce of the jungle and meets Malli as she saves his life in the forest, and also enthusiastically volunteers to lead him to the bandit’s lair.There is also a creeping doubt in the Detective’s mind as to whether she too is an active part of the band of thugs and is leading him by the nose to them.
The moment he expresses his doubts out loud, Malli explodes in a fit of rage, disgusted by this urban mindset and goes swinging back into the forest, out of sight. But she is soon back, rescuing him from quicksand and saving his life for the second time! Sreeram falls in love with the daughter of the jungle. Comic relief in the movie is provided by the pair of SP Pillai and MS Karuppaiah as ‘Idea’ Ayyaswamy and ‘Action’ Annaswamy – the voluntary assistants to Shekhar in his fight against crime, and in the form of Bahadur as Paramu – the country bumpkin and Mohana’s uncle who is madly in love with her. The madly in love duo just can’t seem to get enough of each other, even prompting Malli to spend a good part of her day at Shekhar’s camp in the jungle, the base from which he hopes to strike a nd weed out the bandits of the jungle.
Dharmarajan, like any other father puts two and two together and gets really worried. He knows well the ways of the urban mind and doesnot want her daughter to be hurt in any manner.
The worried parent explicitly forbids his daughter from leaving the house and meeting Shekhar ever again. Malli is devastated. Shekhar and his team chances upon a band of dacoits in the jungle and a fight ensues. More join the skirmish, they are outnumbered, overpowered and taken to their jungle lair where an altercation ensues between the two on either sides of the law, one laughing off other’s threats. Some of the bandits also chance upon Malli’s treehouse after she has left and sets fire to it. Dharmarajan is missing! The entire band is led to an isolated peak, under guard, where Pedro, along with Malli (the latter, who, despite her father’s warnings has slinked away in search of Shekhar) liberates them. The ultimate fight ensues between the bandit leader and Shekhar.
Malli, happy an glad that things have turned out well returns to find her house razed to the ground and her father missing to which she presumes the worst. Shekhar finds her crying her heart out and despite her refusal, takes her and Aadiyappan to his home in the city, trying to help themselves adapt to the urban life. Mohana’s mother who has had her eye on Shekhar as her son-in-law finds her plans going down and seeks retribution. She tries to poison Malli but she miraculously escapes. Having come to know Shekhar’s family’s attitude towards her, she returns to the jungle.
Meanwhile Selvapathy chances on Shekhar’s bride-to-be’s photograph in his room and is aghast – she resembled his wife to the last detail. Determined to get to the bottom of this, his fears are confirmed at the end. It had to be his daughter Meena who must have survived the air crash in the jungle. But Malli has disappeared. Malli, on her return to the jungle, finds her father alive and well, and really really angry with her for leaving the jungle and disowns her. A shattered Malli contemplates suicide and disappears into the jungle. Selvapathy’s family and Shekhar now having put the jigzaw puzzle together reaches the jungle abode and finds Dharamajan who puts the last pieces of the puzzle in place. But he is inconsolable now. Malli is nowhere to be found and they fear the worst. But it ends well.
They find her in the nick of time, Selvapathy is reunited with his daughter and happily gives her away in marriage to Shekhar. Aana Valarthiya Vanambadi (1960) also holds the distinction of having the first sequel in Malayalam Cinema – Aana Valarthiya Vanambadiyudey Makan, released in 1971 – which also featured Gemini Ganeshan and Cho Ramaswamy in Malayalam cinema for the first and possibly last time.
I have written in detail about the songs and dances of Aana Valarthiya Vanambadi (1960) here.
So, is there a DVD/VCD of the movie available?
VCD, yes ! Shree Video Tronics holds the licensed distribution rights.