Venu Nagavally | The Director | The List

Urvashi and Mohanlal in Laal Salaam (1989)

It is interesting to note that of the 12 movies directed by Venu Nagavally, 9 of them had Mohanlal playing the lead roles that mostly spoke about friendships  and the bonds of unrequitted love. There was always an impending sense of loss in Venu Nagavally’s movies, specially the ones from the early years. At times, it almost seemed as if he deified sorrow, as one of my friends once mentioned, “Venu Nagavally’s characters thrive on grief. They seem to be very uncomfortable being in a sunshine state of mind.” Everytime I catch a rerun of his movies, or sit back with one on the DVD player, I can’t but agree with him.  But, one also realises that its more the exception than the rule.

His movies celebrate friendships, and no one has been been able to replicate or even come close to his unbridled celebration of the bonds that make strangers bosom brothers. And he never gave in to the attempts by the media to slot him, this time around, in his avatar as the Director, in any established genre and tie him down in them. He flitted from friendships in campus to politics to relationships between married and single couples, practically disorienting the hawk-eyed movie scribe.

1986         Sukhamo Devi
1987         Sarvakalashala
1988         Ayitham
1989         Swagatham
1989         Lal Salam
1990         Aye Auto
1991         Kizhakkunarum Pakshi
1993         Kalippattam
1993         Aayirappara
1995         Agni Devan
1998         Rakthasakshikal Sindabad
2009         Bharya Swantham Suhruthu

Venu Nagavally‘s favorite leading lady seems to be Urvashi, having been fortunate enough to get some of her most memorable roles in her career from this ‘school’ of movies. Jayaram and Mammootty gone a movie each in his stint as a director, but when you thingk about it, it didn’t really matter. It would have done just as fine, had it been Mohanlal for them too. Really. His last movie as a director, Bharya, Swantham Shuhruthu (2009) had Mukesh essaying the lead role, along with Jagathy Sreekumar – the latter, an important part of most of his early films. I also feel that Ayirappara (1993) as a story and its narrative could have been actually a sub-plot of  Laal Salaam (1989), and maybe he found it too cumbersome and lengthy and spun it off as a separate story altogether. Hey, its just my opinion.

Venu Nagavally‘s movies are also remembered for its songs, and his favorite has to be, undoubtedly Raveendran Mash. MG Radhakrishnan came second, and Rajamani seems to be  the one who was responsible for the background score of many of his movies.

I intend to write about each one of them, as most of them are bound to bring a whole lot of memories associated with it gushing through. Regardless, it would be fun to revisit those moments in movies that  curiously share a strange relationship with incidents as one came of age, that are incomplete without the other.

Here is one of them, which still is a part of the ‘Fraternity’s Spirited Discussions.’

Kavalam Narayana Panicker’s Athiru Kaakkum..

Related : Venu Nagavally | A Tribute
Related : Venu Nagavally | The Actor

23 thoughts on “Venu Nagavally | The Director | The List

    1. Cinematters, your words echoes from my heart, I felt. Thanks for making my day. Continue writing. I await more from you.

      Warm wishes, Manju

  1. I came across your site only today, and what a gem it is. Keep up the good work, your unalloyed joy and passion for our Malayalam cinema shines through this site.

    I too love Venu Nagavally! The first movie of his that I had seen was Lal Salaam, and though it was cinematically brilliant, the ones that remain close to my heart are Sukhamo Devi and Swagatham (it was the first and only Mallu CD I owned for a long time) . I will try to see Sarvakalshala at the earliest opportunity. Yes, he celebrates friendships like not many other, it seems his heart and soul were such friendships, and he also seems to have had an idealistic vision of romantic relationships. The love and the lover are treated with something bordering on reverence. That I find is charming, old-fashioned, and alluring. I have heard him speak at a college function and also heard of his real life love story from people who knew him, so somehow it all seems more real and close to me. Yet, that lost love is only one part of the movies he has directed, and maybe what he was as a person. What pervades his work is a sense of goodness, in persons and their relationships, and how life events play out and change them, like a kaleidoscope. Yes, some people do not seem impressed by his movies, but they have spoken volumes to myself, and I m glad to see there are fellow admirers! Isn’t it curious how different and similar people’s tastes are!

    Finally, a word of concern – I am taking a liberty here, but when I see you responding patiently to all the comments, I feel like telling you to not spend too much energy on them…I hope your day-job or free time does not suffer in any way! Many people won’t mind even if you don’t respond so well, and no need to feel guilty about it either! If I have crossed a boundary, forgive me!
    But all in all, what I want to tell you is that reading posts like yours can bridge gaps between minds, worlds apart. Because not only did I discover like minded views, I felt I met with some innate goodness, humanity and kindness.

    1. Hi Lakshmi,

      You are very kind 🙂 Venu Nagavally, to me, was one of a kind, as a film maker and an actor, not to forget the singer and the litterateur. In the current scheme of things , he would even be a relic, for all the things that he held good which were suitably reflected in his onscreen creations too.

      And thank you for your concern, it isn’t a bother really. I think its civility. 🙂 Look forward to see more of you in these parts. Thanks. cinematters.

  2. i always like to remember VENU NAGAVALLI as the script writer of a classic MOHANLAL film called AHAM and the director of SARVAKALASALA.. he did his final work in Satyan anthikkad’s BHAGYADEVATHA and i met him on that set. his body weight was 35kgs only then..

  3. Nice post about a great director who gave a bunch of movies to treasure forever. I can only pity those people who are unable to appreciate the finesse with which he has handled human relationships.

    1. Hi Manju,
      The “finesse with which he has handled human relationships” is something that seems to have been replaced by more angst and ‘grunge.’ Maybe it is the sign of the times. At times it amazes you that it was this same craftsman who conceived the epic Kilukkam. Thank you so much for passing through and writing in. Hope to see more of you in these parts..regards, cinematters

      1. That shows his versatility. People tend to typecast the the roles he played and the movies that he directed, but like you aptly said, Kilukkam is his answer to everyone who thinks of him as the craftsman of pathos.

        As one of his characters (Maniyan Pilla Raju) in Sarvakalasala puts it, over the past few days, “i am in a venu nagavalli mood.” Unable to wean out of the Sukhamo devi effect!

  4. Any Idea on the story line of Swagatham?
    I faintly remember a movie which to the best of my belief, was directed by Venu Nagavally and had a similar story like Sukhamo Devi. Only thing i remember is that Urvashi was paired with Sreenath.

    1. Dear Rajesh,
      Swagatham was the only Venu Nagavalli movie with Jayaram as the lead, and it was a story about this orphaned Brahmin siblings, played by Jayaram and Parvathy [ 🙂 ], who fall in love with the sibling duo Urvasi and Ashokan, who hail from a X ‘ian family. There is as usual, Jagathy playing the faithful Man Friday, and Soman as the gregarious and tormented dad. Parvathy falls in love with Ashokan, and Urvasi is in love with Sreenath. In typical Venu fashion, both lose their loved ones. Jayram had always loved Urvasi, and still pines for her. Tragedy strikes parvathy’s life too. And it ends in typical Venu fashion 🙂 . Get that VCD and watch, will you ? 😀

  5. Do you know, I haven’t seen a *single* film from this list? And this was during my college days when I seemed to spend every Friday evening in one of Trichur’s three main cinema theatres, accompanied by my sister and cousins! Maybe my fear of Venu Nagavally kept me away from the movie he directed also. 🙂 Really – every time I saw his face (or Jalaja’s) on the posters, I felt like whipping out a hanky. I even met Jalaja once – a long ago when she had come to college for some function or the other. I honestly wanted to go and ask her whether she knew to laugh! (Even then, she looked like she was going to cry.)

    1. Oh, on second reading, I’m mistaken. I did see Agni Devan, and liked it *a lot*. After a very long time, there was a strong role for a woman in Malayalam Cinema – which had deteriorated in the interim period. This also had a very strong script. And I *think* I have seen Lal Salaam, though I do not remember anything about it now. (Pazhaya SFI alle? Kaanathe pattuvo? 😉 )

    2. Hi Anu,
      I would urge you to watch every single one of them, specially Sukhamo Devi, based on his real friends. All his movies speak of delightful friendships, though an under current of pathos is evident..Sarvakalasala is a must watch if I may say so. Jalaja, was another victim to the typecasting, a sort of female version of the celluloid Venu. But she was one woman who was lucky enough to be a part of some of the landmark movies of Malayalam cinema.Remember watching an exhaustive interview recently on Kairali TV. She came across as very intelligent, atriculate, modest but so sure of herself and the roles she played onscreen. .Settled in the US.regards..cinematters

      1. Cinematters, I am very reluctant to classify any of the movies directed by Venu Nagavally as memorable ones which I will carry for a long time with me, except of course ‘Lal Salaam’. ‘Sarvakalasala’ works primarily only at the level of nostalgia but if the college nostalgia fades away, it does not really hold much of a cinematic merit. Don’t think I have seen ‘Aayirappara’ though… Also at a time when Malayalam cinema was its peak in terms of its quality (80s), Venu Nagavally’s contribution as a director will not stand out.

        1. Dear Pradeep,
          I would say each to his own 🙂 As I mentioned , the way he spoke about friendships, relationships was unique in itself, it was more or less his signature. And they were also able to find commercial successes with all his movies. He was equally at ease with grief and glee, the way I see it, afterall its the same person who thought up Kilukkam 🙂 ..Thanks again for writing in with your thoughts..regards..cinematters

      2. I agree with you completely about Jalaja. Happened to listen to couple of her interviews and she came across as a very sensible, no-nonsense lady. It is really unfortunate that people are judged on the roles they play!

      3. Today,9 September 2015, is Venu’s 5th Remembrance Day and I came across this! Venu was brilliant at everything he did, be it acting, Directing films or Script writing, he did it rather well! One doesn’t need anything else to vouch for his brilliance, but ‘Kiluukkam’, which is a ‘University’ in itself for script writing! May his gentle soul Rest in Peace! I think it was Venu who brought ‘Super Stardom’ to Mohanlal, through his films, Sukhamo Devi, Aye Auto, Sarvakalasala, Agni Devan, Lal salam, Raktha Saakshikal Sinthabad, KIzhakkunarum Pakshi, Ayitham and Kalippaattam, but of course one shouldn’t forget Mohanlal’s versatility!
        (I agree with you on Jalaja! I was surprised to see a totally different ‘Jalaja’ on Kairali TV — she was actually smiling that transformed her as a person!)
        I shall be ever so grateful if you could send me the link for Venu’s ‘Maanikyaveena’ from ‘Chottaanikkara Amma’! Thank you in advance!

  6. Thanks for the offer. I’d love to write about few films that I keep going back to every now and then. However, I’m just a cinema lover with no formal cinema education just like most people around. Just that I like devouring all serious cinema literature. Let me see whether I can apply some of my bookish knowledge in analysing malayalam cinema. 🙂

    Anyway, thanks for the blog.

  7. “enikku vishakunu lale…manushyane pole vishakunu”

    i wish there were in-depth studies on the style and themes of malayalam directors like padmarajan, bharathan, venu nagavally…….

    your article is good as starters. keep up the good work. i’m liking your blog.

    1. Dear Vinjk,
      This was meant as a listing of his movies as a director which could be used as a base for one’s personal observations, trends and commonalities that feature in his movies. No one has employed the poetic idiom and pain (read impending death) as effectively as Venu Nagavally in Malayalam Cinema. For his death was what all his stories snowballed towards at furious velocity. You realised in the early stages, but you were too hooked to jump off the ride. Yes, there needs to be in-depth studies and I know there should be a few in the offline space, but here, online its still found wanting.

      If ever you want to put them across, just let me know. This space is yours too. 🙂


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