Thank God for James Bond and Dr No in 1962!
Else, as a genre, we would have terribly missed the Indian version of the 007 brand of bravado and panache, though by the time it transferred onto our Malayalam cinema screens, it was more of frothy, kitschy, cheesy, senseless, crazy mayhem ! It was, in all respects, a far cry from the ‘controlled exaggeration’ of the Hollywood version. By the time our directors finished with their versions, one left the hall seriously questioning one’s sanity and social tolerance levels. Our desi James Bonds were a sight to see, literally.
Allow me to make something very clear right here, at the beginning itself. I absolutely love all of them. Absolutely.
To me, the early movies in the James Bond genre, Dr No (1962), From Russia, with love (1963), Goldfinger (1964), Thunderball (1965), You live only twice (1967) and OHM’s Secret Service (1969) seem to be the chief inspirations in the ‘budget, desi’ versions of Her majesty’s sexiest and bravest Secret Agent, and it was atrend that seems to have been happily embraced by all the chief production factories in India. If in Kannada, Dr.Raj Kumar was CID 999, Tamil had Jai Shankar as CID Shankar (1970), and in Malayalam , we had our own CID Nazir(1971).
I think it was Sasi Kumar who ‘rose up’ to the challenge of making the Malayalam version of the CID genre with Love in Kerala in 1968, with a little help from Merryland Studios ( the villian’s hideout had to be the studio, am sure). Though it was CID Jayachandran that started the manic string of movies of that genre, what would immortalize it would come from Venu, who interestingly learned the ropes from Merryland studios !
Though Venu’s CID Nazir is considered the most popular in the CID genre in Malayalam , it was his 2nd CID movie, close on the heels of his Detective 909 Keralathil in 1970.
A CID romancing her beau, just across the Kerala border in 1970.
[ Jaishankar as CID Shankar in the Tamil movie CID Shankar(1970) ]
It is interesting that the core team behind the CID Nazir was the same from his previous movie. The screenplay was by PJ Antony ( I am amazed at the bizarrely diametric opposites that PJ could reach with his pen – this would have been the ‘stoned end’ !), music was by MK Arjun, and in the acting (action ?!) department, KP Ummer, TS Muthaiah, Jayabharathi, Sadhana let it rip in both the movies. Maybe KP Ummer didn’t pack the suave, sexy punch in Detective 909 Keralathil, and so Venu decided to repackage the whole thing with the ummm..errr..sauve, sexy Prem Nazir and even named it as CID Prem Nazir as if to underline his convictions.
James does his thing, the Real Mc’Coy’ that he is.
Though there were minor ‘irritations’ to the narrative, the main plot was the same. The CID goes undercover with the most outlandish disguises to infiltrate the Syndicate (an outrageously hilarious and tacky version of the expansive, glitzy, inventively original lairs from James Bond movies), mostly dealing in money laundering (കള്ളനാട്ട്, മൈ ഗാഡ് !), smuggling high-worth diamonds (‘മി. പെരേരയുടെ വജ്രങ്ങള്’!) and other incredulous anti-nationalist activities. There was usually Adoor Bhasi, bosom pal and a junior CID officer riding shotgun, usually on a parallel plot-line, mostly buried in another long line of amusing disguises, and usually meet-up with the undercover CID ( no prizes for guessing who it would be ! ) in the last 3 minutes of the movie, while the entire audience knew all along that it was Adoor Bhasi in disguise ! ( How cute).
The villian’s lair was usually a poor man’s version of the inventive headquarters of the original, with the tackiest and kitschiest props ever appeared in world cinema. The Boss (usually addressed as ‘ബാസ്’ ) moved around in borrowed Ku Klux Klan outfits and mostly spoke in monosyllables, or when pushed into a corner, with a severely restricted vocabulary. There was a ‘buxom blonde’ , mostly a double-agent ( pun intended), and usually took part in the good-versus-evil-fight-to-the-death in the lair in the end. All said, it was a fabulous experience.
I want to feature my three favorites in the genre, Love in Kerala ( 1968 ), CID Nazir (1971) and Lankadahanam (1971) next, though there are a whole lot of movies that usually took parts of the standard plotline and welded it with other sub-plots ( those ruffians ! ), which ended up in making you feeling ‘short-changed.’