Kuthiravattam Pappu and Priyadarshan | Screwball comedy redefined

This is dedicated to Binu Pappu. 🙂

Kuthiravattam Pappu in Mithunam (1993) The camera jump cuts and zooms in on to  a face with blood-shot eyes mostly hidden behind a disobedient ‘Subedar’ moustache, there is absolute silence on the soundtrack for a split second that feels longer, as if the camera is waiting for the seasoned actor, live. In the next moment, the hall explodes in laughter as the  acerbic lashing starts in earnest with ceremonial honors, “Ksheenicho mvaaneeeeeyyy“?

Though he would go on to be instrumental in getting the leading character at the crossroads, Kuthiravattam Pappu didn’t have to featured  in every second scene in Priyadarshan’s Mithunam (1993) to establish his importance in the story. Three scenes were enough. It was more that what he needed to blow you away.  If Priyadarshan is known as the best screwball/goofball comedy director in Malayalam and maybe India, I think, he would have had two brilliant actors to thank for, whose chemistry reaffirmed  that  fact movie after movie – Jagathy Sreekumar and Kuthiravattam Pappu ! With the latter, it was like adding a catalyst into a volatile mix. Explosion was a given.

Priyadarshan’s association with Kuthiravattam Pappu started with his first commercial release, Poochakkoru Mookkuthi in 1984, and it was a warm and winning collaboration that lasted till Chandralekha (1997). With Priyadarshan, Pappu could confidently push his limits in being goofy, or raving mad-cap. revel in buffoonery, and in most cases do a combination of all of these. It is fairly obvious in their early years, but with Vellanakaludey Naadu in 1988, things took a deliciously delightful turn. That, and more as I take you through my favorites in their collaborations in Malayalam cinema.

Poochakkoru Mookkuthi (1984)

Kuthiravattam Pappu in Poochakkoru MookkuthyCherian Nair aka Kuttettan was a new goofball in Malayalam cinema’s comedy domain – here was a character who shifted from bizarreness to slapstick to buffonery without a care and seemed to enjoy doing it whole-heartedly. With Kuthiravattom Pappu onscreen, ‘loud acting’ took on a different meaning altogether. It wasn’t some thing you now detested, rather, he made you actually like it, and before you knew, you really looked forward to Kuthiravattam Pappu‘s characters that usually came on screen resembling those Korean wind up toys hat run on power cells that keep going on and on. The only difference was he could make you enjoy every minute of it, regardless of it being loud.

Cherian Nair raising holy hell as the ‘mental’ fiance’ caught in a mix-up.

Mazha Peyyunnu Maddalam Kottunnu (1986)

Kuthiravattam Pappu in Mazha Peyyunnu Madhalam KottunnuBased on a story by Jagadish, scripted by Sreenivasan who also played the arch-nemesis MA Dhavan( !) , this cult, insane comedy caper surely belonged to the two Kurups of the the movie, Sardar Krishna Kurup ( Jagathy Sreekumar) and Koma Kurup ( Kuthiravattam Pappu). If Krishna Kurup was insane, Koma Kurup was insane to the point he was toxic. Never before had two over bearing, pompous, garrulous, senseless middle-agers unleashed so much havoc on the Malayalam screen. Never again, I’m sure. Everything  about the story was eligible for ‘academic psychiatry evaluation’, and THAT was the fun part. Pappu brought a strange vocal quality to his conversational style that made most of his  conversations end up as  questions at the other ! The only time the two enjoyed themselves in a similar environment of insanity would have been  Prassi Malloor‘s Loose, Loose, Arappiri Loose (1988) which was all the more incredulously looney, since there wasn’t any script for the movie from what I could gather. More on that later.

Koma Kurup  barely escapes an ‘assassination’ attempt!

Vellanakaludey Naadu (1988)

Kuthiravattam Pappu in Vellanakaludey NaaduEx-PWD driver Suleiman, in his allocated 10-odd minutes in a black-comedy with dead-serious undertones, made the entire movie his own personal statement ! A first in world cinema, don’t you agree? Vellanakaludey Naadu does not exist without Thaamarassery Churam. Here is a test. Close your eyes and say “Thaamarassery Churam“. Check the image that pops in your mind. Now say ” Vellanakaludey Naadu“. Note the image in your head. Lastly, say “Road Roller“. I can say with reasonable conviction that never in any of those 3 queries, even for a moment, did any of its lead characters enter your head. Or for that matter, the names from its technical crew. Thereisn’t anything more to explain on what Kuthiravattam Pappu, as an actor, could do to a miniscule role. Vellanakaludey Naadu answers all your apprehensions. If “Ippo Sheriyakkitharam” makes you smile everytime you hear it or mouth it, you need to thank Kuthiravattam Pappu. Thamarassery Churam also had a sequel in another driver, in another movie. The driver was again Kuthiravattam Pappu, but it was a bus service, not a road roller, and you can read about it here.

Suleiman and the Art of Road Roller Maintenance.

Mithunam (1993)

Kuthiravattam Pappu in MithunamPithambra Kurup, the money-lender ( commonly referred to as the ‘Blade’) did not even have the same amount of screen time that Kuthiravattam Pappu got for immortalising the Road Roller. He flitted in and out of the movie in three scenes, I guess, but that was two scenes more for the brilliant actor. Scripted by Sreenivasan, brought to life by Pappu, Pithambara Kurup exuded every single quality of  the local money-lender in our neighborhood, and what he lacked in brawn, he managed it with a round-the-clock- muscle hire. There was no doubt about the intentions of the character, he had it out front, “my money above everything else, and make no mistake, I will go to any length to get it back, even at the cost of hammering you to near-death.” Though his demeanor made you chuckle, there was absolutely no doubt in what he was after, in the movie. I think this was one of the rare roles with malfeasance that he brought to life onscreen. I wish he had done more.

Check out Pithambara Kurup from Mithunam (1993). Starts at 8:53.

Thenmavin Kombath (1994)

Kuthiravattam Pappu Thenmavin Kombathu

Chaakkutty was the uncle you wished you never had. Playing Karthumbi’s ( Shobhana) distant-relative-hence-uncle-nuisance-magnet-cum-bodyguard, he was someone we were familiar with in our hamlet, our immediate family, someone we could identify with. But what raised the characterisation  higher onto the stratosphere, into being a cult favorite was the mannerisms  that he brought to life. Chaakkutty was a bundle of manic, nervous energy looking forward to misdirect it somewhere.

With the vulnerability of Karthumbi, the perceived security of Chaakkutty was more on the lines of walking around with a grenade with its detonator pin lost in transit. His incredulous logic on addressing one’s queries on ‘identity’ should be a classic sound byte in world cinema. Really. Who can ever forget the unshakeable, profound, classic logic of the roaring drunk Chaakkutty’s existentialist query, “താനാരെനെന്നു തനിക്കറിയാന്‍ മേലേല്‍ താന്‍ എന്നോട് ചോദിക്ക് താനാരാണെന്ന് ? തനിക്കു ഞാന്‍ പറഞ്ഞു തരാം താനാരാണെന്ന്. ഇനി ഞാനാരാന്ന് തനിക്കറിയാന്‍ മേലേല്‍ താന്‍ എന്നോട് ചോദിക്ക് ഞാനാരാണെന്ന്, അപ്പൊ ഞാന്‍ തനിക്കു പറഞ്ഞു തരാം താനാരാനെന്നും ഞാനാരാണെന്നും !”

The way he goes in an infinite loop, arching his body, splaying his limbs for effect, screaming “Nee taaaaaski viliyedaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhh” is an instruction one can never forget till Malayalam cinema is around.

Resolving most of the common queries in Logic and Philosophy.

Update : 8 June 2013.

A Twitter meme inspired by the rant.

Kuthiravattam Pappu's existentialist rant in Thenmavinkombathu
via @tuxerman

Minnaaram (1994)

Kuthiravattam Pappu in MinnaaramAnother of those brief appearances that left its indelible mark. Based on the story by Cheriyan Kalpakavaadi whose origins can be traced to Prem Nazir’s Brahmachari (1972), with the children ‘angle’ from Mary Poppins thrown in, Kuthiravattam Pappu‘s Hitleresque Tutor, who believes in torture and violence as essential tools of disciplining children was a laugh riot. It was loud, yes, but it was something only he could manage to execute with perfection. The Tutor is inevitably forced to flee, screaming his head off, jumping from the top storey, and run for his dear life, but as with every other role that came from Priyadarshan’s outre for Pappu, this stuck to your brain like a cork board-pin.

The Tutor gets a taste of his own medicine.

So, there you have it.

Look forward to your favorite moments from Priyadarshan’s movies with Kuthiravattam Pappu.

Related : Kuthiravattam Pappu | An eternal bookmark on simplicity and warmth onscreen

Related : Classic Picks | A Vincent | Bhargavi Nilayam (1964)

Related : Kuttyedathi (1971) | Memorable character sketches

Next : Kuthiravattam Pappu and Shaji Kailas

13 thoughts on “Kuthiravattam Pappu and Priyadarshan | Screwball comedy redefined

  1. i remember I V SASI movies like AHIMSA, where pappus’s charactor has got prominent role than the other heroes of that film, namely SUKUMARAN, MAMMOOTTY, JOSE, RATHISH, etc.. infact it was PAPPU’s charactor who killed the main villain (played by LALETTAN) in the end… PAPPU done a fabolous role in ANGAADI and AVALUDE RAAVUKAL also…

    but i remember another film more… the producer of famous KOLILAKKAM, Mr. C V HARIHARAN, directed a film called DWANTHA YUDHAM (1981) in that film PAPPU was the hero (infact he played dual role 1 0f a lunatic man and other of a GUNDA leader) jagathi sreekumar was the main villain of the film.. like KOLILAKKAM, which has almost all superstars of that time part of it, this film had included almost all leading comedians of that era..

  2. kuthiravattam pappu.an actor par excellence.legendary.there are no words to describe such greatness.it is one thing to be a goofer in real life,but to play such varied characters with so much of conviction required one to be highly intelligent and to make the audiences laugh with your mere presence is just amazing.Hats off to you for your brilliance”ippam shareeakam” mindblowing.

    1. Dear Roy,
      Kuthiravattam Pappu, in real life, was well-read, with strong ideological convictions and a person known in the industry for his unshakeable personal integrity, impish humor and affability, from what i have read about him and known from sources very close to him.It is only natural that he was able to portray those innumerable roles that made us laugh and cry with such ease.Why not share your favorites ? 🙂 Would love to hear them…regards..cinematters

  3. Kuthiravattom pappu acted as Kuthiravattom Pappu in A.Vincents “Bhargavi Nilayam” in 1964 .After that he had appeared in a lot of malayalam movies in small roles in 1960’s & 1970’s.He became so busy through I.V.sasi movies . Aarattu.Avalude Ravukal,Angadi,Meen,Ahimsa,Karimpana,Ee nadu ,John Jaffer janardhan ,Aal kootathil Thaniye,Innalenkin nale etc… increased his popularlity .Kozhikodan style of dialoge delivery was a different experience to the audience.Later from the mid of 1980’s till his death he moved his camp to Priyadarshan,Hariharan and Shaji kailas. Mazha peyunnu Maddalam kottunu,Aryan,Vellanakalude nadu,Vandhanam,Minnaram,Midhunam,Thenmavin kombathu,Chandralekha etc…. entertained the audience a lot. Once Mohanlal said if we remake a movie of Pappu in Hindi ,it is difficult to find a similar cast in Hindi. A big loss to the industry.

  4. Pappu was a legend…no doubt about it…
    in fact director Kamal said that he would have wanted Pappu to portray the gluttonish Hajiyar charachter in PERUMAZHAKKALAM- had he been alive- a role which later went to Salim Kumar. Salim Kumar had gone on record saying that the fact that Kamal wanted him to step into the shoes of a charachter meant for Pappu was a great honour for him

    1. Wow. Never knew that. I am sure it would have been a honor for Salim Kumar. Come to think of it, Kamal has to be the one who ‘rescued’ Salim and literally encouraged others to try out the actor in him than relegating him to mindless slapstick and buffoonery. Gramaphone( 2003), Perumazhakkaalam in (2004)am sure played a very significant part in him landing the lead role in Achanarungaatha Veedu in 2006. Not to forget that memorable role in Udayananu Thaaram in 2005. I guess in a way, that was Kuthiravattam Pappu’s benediction 🙂 ..regards..cinematters

  5. fantastic article. U missed chandranudikunna dhikkil where some fantastic scends with dileep.viantnam colony’s epic dialogues..ey auto’s hilarious moments.thanx alot

    1. Dear Anoop,
      Thanks for writing in. The post was a compilation of my favorites from the Kuthiravattam Pappu – Priyadarshan combination, and even then, I had to forego Adwaitham and Chandralekha, since I decided the featured ones meant much more than his roles in the ones left out. Chandranudikkunna Dikkil, Vietnam Colony, Aye Auto– they and other hundreds of roles form the body of work of this legend which simply refuses to be categorised or quantified. For that matter, how do you pick from a body of work that is presumed be over 1000 movies ? I am just trying to bring out some commonalities and in the process highlight whatever is possible 🙂 And I will get to his others slowly but surely. Thanks and regards..Cinematters

  6. Enjoyed the article. Was fun to read as those movie were 🙂
    You missed Vandanam where he played Sukumari’s son. There were couple of quarrel scenes between them shot in a comic way. Pappu also refers the stadium “which has 39 steps”. This I feel was a loose dedication to the Hitchcok movie

    1. Dear Rajesh,
      It wasn’t that I missed it, I just wanted to portray my favorites. There is also another movie that I thought the better of, Adwaitham. Now that you have brought it up ( I was half-hoping that it would go unnoticed), will do a honorable mention.. 🙂 Thanks again…cinematters

  7. A very well written article covering the most remembered hilarious moments from Priyadarsan’s films. Who can ever forget Kuttettan and Koma Kurup? Pappu was absolutely brilliant though I do feel he did not quite get his due as an actor.

    1. Hi Satish,
      Glad that you liked it. The fact about not quite get his due as an actor is absolutely true. But, that, in no way lessen the importance of the legend. He just went on doing what he did best. And here we are, movie junkies, discussing about his movies. What more can a consummate actor ask for ? 🙂 Thanks so much ..regards..cinematters

What do you think ?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.