Dances from Ponkathir (1953)

Lalitha in Ponkathir (1953)
Lalitha in Ponkathir (1953)

Lalitha and Ragini together in Malayalam movie ! 🙂

On that thought we will get jiggy with Ponkathir (1953). Ponkathir was the second movie to come out of  Merryland Studios and they  needed this to reclaim everything that they lost via that burning wreck of a movie called Athmasakhi (1952), their debut production. KP Kottarakkara, who wrote the script also ensured he plugged in every single melodramatic overkill moment into it to make sure it chugged on at the box-office. He was dead-on. It was a weep-fest, the likes of which, Malayalam films had never witnessed till then.

We will deal with that later. We are here for the dances, aren’t we ? The credit titles show Ragini and Lalitha credited for the dances, choreographed by  Guru Gopinath.

Dance Credits  of Ponkathir (1953)
Dances : Lalitha & Padmini | Choreography : Guru Gopinath

Ragini appears only for a song sequence with dear sister, and I guess that is more than enough for me 🙂 There are also two dances by Bharathi Menon – supposedly very vampish, but looks equally graceful and wonderful as the ones by Lalitha. In the movie, Lalitha plays the clinically-teary-eyed beloved, while Bharati Menon played the ‘evil’ seductress, on a mission to snare the wimpy ‘hero’ and dunk him in the honeypot. Almost all the dance songs seems to have been borrowed from the existing Hindi ‘super-hits’ of the times, to me, save for the densely patriotic Povuka Naam, Povuka Naam, filmed on Ragini and Lalitha. The reason being the structure seems so contrived and welded together. Hey, I may be wrong, but this is just intuition talking.

Prem Nazir in  Ponkathir (1953)
Prem Nazir with his signature “മണ്ടി പെണ്ണെ !” pose.

Nagging doubt : Does  മണ്ടി പെണ്ണെ! = Silly Lass ? 🙂

Aanandavaasam Amaravilasam.

This is the opening song of the movie, and to borrow a phrase from Stephen King, looks like a dance sequence that “has no earthly business” in the teary-weepy-melodrama that is about to follow.

Lyrics : Thirunayinaarkurichi Madhavan Nair
Music : Br Lakshman
Singer : N Lalitha & Chorus

The song sequence seems to have been forcibly planted on to the southern landscape from its Hindi original from Baiju Bawra (1952), along with the alteration to the attire and of course the water-pot styles. Wonder how disorienting’ it would be to have the entire village belles going to the nearest  river to fetch water in  choreographed moves, with the same patriotic song on their lips :D. The composition is a song of praise of their homeland, Kerala and the way it has nourished and sustained them with her over-abundant natural resources. The group singing flawlessly moves on to the indigenous Thiruvathirakkali at 1:08, making it forever a Malayalam dance composition 🙂 While the original is the usual ‘General-Tease-by-Friends-who-are-great-dancers’ song, there is absolutely nothing of that sort in the Malayalam version. This is pure patriotism, Sir.
Checkout the song here.

Here is the original Door Koi Gaye from Baiju Bawra (1952).
Singers : Shamshad Begum, Lata Mangeshkar & Mohd Rafi.

Sukhame Sukhame Swarga Sukhame.

Lyrics : Thirunayinaarkurichi Madhavan Nair
Music : Br Lakshman
Singers : Kaviyoor Revamma & Lalitha

TR OmanaFeaturing a very young, lithe and graceful ( undoubtedly) TR Omana, it is a duet in parts and a solo recital in parts. Its the latter that  makes it all the more interesting. TR Omana, is another actress who got herself relegated to one of the most popular ‘Screen Matriarch” in Malayalam films. She is an accomplished classical dancer and Kathakali artiste, and in her heydays was more popular as a dancer than a movie artiste. TR Omana‘s lead as Poothana in Poothanamoksham was a highly sought afer act in her popular days as a dancer. The expertise and the ease shines through as she expresses happiness through her little routine, glad for the fact that the two main people in her lives are at last together, and the home is filled with joy.

Checkout the song here.

Kaliyaadumpoove Varu Kaananathil.

[ Leading Lady in Love ‘Domestic’ Dance  1 ]
Lyrics : Thirunayinaarkurichi Madhavan Nair
Music : Br Lakshman
Singers : Jikky

Definitely from Hindi. I have sirens flashing inside, but the database is still searching 🙂 ( Anu has send across a very convincing source ! ) . But nothing matters as long its Lalitha on screen. ( Sigh). While on Lalitha, do you know that  ‘Lalitha  danseuse’  one of those phrases that you throw at Google images that makes it throw up its hands in despair and give you a saddening look. We need to change that, don’t we ?

Checkout the song here.

Till a note-for-note source comes in, Mujhe kisise pyar ho gaya from Barsaat stands as the best ‘inspiration’. Thanks Anu !

Paadoo Maanasame.

[ Leading Lady in Love ‘Domestic’ Dance  2 ]
Lyrics : Thirunayinaarkurichi Madhavan Nair
Music : Br Lakshman
Singers : Jikky

The leading lady in love just can’t seem to keep her happiness reined post her meeting  with her beloved. Another take on the “Sing, my hear Sing” theme, this takes it literally, going by the starting of the lyrics. Its a pity that we got to see Lalitha in so very few movies.Just like her dances, she was a natural when it came to acting too.
Checkout the song here.

The Inspiration – Lataji’s classic Laage Jabse Nain Laage from Daag (1952) !

Povuka Naam Povuka Naam

Lyrics : Thirunayinaarkurichi Madhavan Nair
Music : Br Lakshman
Singers : Gokulapalan & P Leela

My favorite amongst all, just for the fact that it features Lalitha and Ragini, and its over 7 minutes of choreography. Though dated, I Ragini in Ponkathir (1953)feel its still relevant way of expressing one’s undiluted love for his/her motherland. The whole composition is a bundle of cliche’s, but I don’t think  I can recall something similar from 50 years ago that has withstood the test of time. Patriotism is a relative term, these days.  So over-rated that you have almost started questioning it . Well, in my case, surely.

I am curious as to whether anyone has picked up on the song  for the young ‘uns for their innumerable school cultural shows ? It would be wonderful, am sure. Just the right mix of rhythm and respect. Don’t forget to send in a video link of the adaptaion to OMC if you ever think of recreating it for the school cultural show. Would love to see that 🙂

The song which exhorts the community to join in and fight ‘Inequality and Social Justice’ ( the song goes “Onwards lets march, onwards” ) has Ragini in her only appearance in the movie, is the ‘Male’, while Lalitha plays the leader of the agitators.The rich male questions their objectives and vision and their methods to reach their goal – whether it would be violent or the path of peace ?  Lalitha‘s path is clear – its Ahimsa. The Bourgeois also has his bit to add – dignity of labor and the will to work. Put together, this would beget Utopia. If only !

Nagging doubt : Remember seeing Ragini in a lot of ‘male roles in dances. Even in the famed Gitopedasam sequence in Umminithanka, she sports  the reedy moustache, and is Arjun. The examples in Tamil are many. She looked a wee bit masculine in structure, didn’t she ? Or is it just me ?
Checkout the song here.

Aanandaroopan Aarivanaaro

Lyrics : Thirunayinaarkurichi Madhavan Nair
Music : Br Lakshman
Singers : Jikky

Enter the vamp, the grand seductress – Bharathi Menon, to entice the leading man, get him wrapped around her finger. Bharathi Menon seems to be another actress whose details are still hard to come by, specially in Malayalam films. I have heard that she played an active part in the Tamil films of the 50’s – any details welcome.

Checkout the song here.

Do write in .

Previous : Jeevitha Nouka (1951)                 Next :  Neelakkuyil (1954)


18 thoughts on “Dances from Ponkathir (1953)

    1. They truly are, Prageeth, specially because the old-world charm of classical-influenced dance compositions always somehow live longer in our memories. Thank you for writing in. Regards, cinematters

  1. Dear All,

    Its me Manu J.Krishnan back after a break.S…I was waiting here to get settled.Anyway,Iam sincerely thank ful to Cine Matters for comments on Ponkathir(infact the very first colloboration of Prem Naseer and Mery Land).Ragini and Lalitha has done a good dance perfomance in Madurai Veeran,starring Padmini.Again Kavery has a wonderful dance sequence in which Ragini dance for Lalitha.Ragini(Rakki)the ever loved actress,as u said had done tremendous dance in male attire.Cabera in Raaman Thedi Seethay(with Jayalalitha),Ezhai Padum Paadu(with Padmini and Lalitha),as Narada in Ponni(with Ambika,Lalitha &Padmini),in Marumakal(along with Padmini&Kushala Kumari) etc are only a few.
    Also Viju,sorry that I missed u badly.My exibit went on nice.Pradyu,for ur knowledge print of Adhyapika is floating around in Kerala.Hope it will reach soon.

    Thanks all
    Manu J.Krishnan

  2. very good for writing about ponkatir.
    i am a padmini fan .i want to know whether the prints of film adyapika (1968) and sabarimala sri ayyapan (1961),are available.please give a reply.

    1. Dear Pradyumanan,
      To the best of my belief Sabarimala Sri Ayyappan (1961) is not available as a commercial release – you could try with private collectors. Webmall India, an online music/movies marketplace has a listing of Adyapila, which mentions its not available currently with them. You could access the listing here... Regards..cinematters

  3. ah or iravu…. i remember watching that movie ages ago on Sri Lanka’s Rupavahini… all through this post I kept trying to jog my memory for that name and finally I find it among the comments. thanks Viju.
    The lalita ragini dance sequence also brought to mind the famed padmini- vyjayanti dance in vanchikottai valiban, their onscreen and off screen rivalry and how neither wanted to be the loser in that onscreen contest… they solved it very diplomatically… Ragini is my fav among the three.. maybe its to do with the Nagercoil connection.. somewhere at home there’s a pic of my mom and sisters posing very 70s ishtyle with the beauty.

    1. Dear Remitha,
      Vanjikottai Valiban’s dance show-down was legendary, and I still feel, though an equally versatile and graceful dancer she was, Vyjayanthimala couldn’t exactly equal her in the Hindi version, Rajtilak.Ragini is the favorite ( pssst..its a secret) amongst the three for yours truly also and I happen to watch an interview of Sukumari where she is asked to name the person whom she is indebted for her career -and the way things had turned out for her in life – and she says without batting an eyelid – “Ragini akkan “.Also, let me get this straight, YOU HAVE A PICTURE OF YOUR MOM AND SISTERS POSING WITH RAGINI AT HOME !”Dear God. Please book mark that ‘retrieval’ on your next trip down, Remitha. It will be criminal ( 😀 ), if it is left to fade away. That makes two of OMC’s friends who have a cosmic connection to the Travancore Sisters :)..Thanks..cinematters

    2. Dear Remitha,

      Happy that u too is a fan of Rakki.I too am a great fan of Ragini and Lalitha (ofcourse of Padmini too).I have been doing exibition on rare moments of Travancore Sisters especially that of Ragini and Lalitha for the last two years and also supporting Breast Cancer Patients.I may be happy if u could please /dont mind to forward me those pix with Travancore Sisters.

      I am always ready to share any movie of Travancore Sisters if u r in need.Also can u make the clarity of Nagercoil relations that u have mentioned.As far as I knew Rakki was at Kollam(Kadavoor-their ancestorral house),Katakada and Poojapura.And hasnt heard on her Nrecoil relations.Could u please tell on that ,so that I could travel to Nagercoil and get in touch with her early friends(I have been doing this for the past four years)
      With Regards,
      Manu J.Krishnan

  4. Cinematters, I *think* the song you are looking for (the Hindi equivalent of Kaliyaadumpoove Varu Kaananathil) is Mujhe kisise pyar ho gaya from Barsaat. The musical interludes sound like they have definitely been inspired from this song.

  5. good article cine mattersjee..

    do watch PONKATHIR viju bhai.. prem nazir has done a villain role and remarkably well..

    1. Dear Gopalji,
      Prem nazir’s wimpy roles had it’s first debut through Ponkathir, I suppose. I was watching that movie with a half-smile, mainly looking at the very, very young Prem Nazir, his gait, his posture and his body language onscreen. I think he had a clear idea of how to behave in front of the camera. Also, all the very best for the Prem nazir Tribute program. Look forward to your report :)

        1. am running a Counselling Centre in Trichur.I stay in Muthuvara.Kindly collect my number fron Viju.Am not sending it here. I am a great fan of Rakki and Lalli(Ragini and Lalitha)
          Love to meet u…soon

  6. Thanks CM for this wonderful write up. Though I have Ponkathir in the digital format, yet to watch it… Will watch soon and come back… I was first drawn into watching the Travancore sisters dances through a blog by Richard… If I remember right, it was a sequence by Lalitha in Or Iravu…After a lot of search, got Or Iaravu recently in the digital format…(yet to watch!!!!! sigh) Time is the villain here…. 😦 As a kid, I vividly remember the Travancore sisters in my house after one of their ballet performances in Malaysia… all three of them!!!! And ever since been interested in their career… I agree with you CM about Ragini and her masculine built…. in fact all three of them almost had the same built, though Ragini was taller…. So its natural that she be cast as the male dancer 🙂 Anyways this again is my feeling… I can be wrong….Will come back after watching Ponkathir… Thanks a ton again CM…. keep going…..

    1. Dear Viju,
      Richard is a dear friend.You had the Travancore Sisters at your place ? WoW ! Any photographs from those time?As in, anything about the program from the local media that has come your way or even a fuzzy photograph ? ( I am hoping against hope here 🙂 ).Look forward to your thoughts on Ponkathir. Trust you would be at the Prem Nazir Tribute Retrospective at Calicut. Wish I could be there. Send across a few photographs of the event if you can. Regards..cinematters

      1. Dear CM,
        Maybe I can get you some pictures soon. Will be there with my aunt in Malaysia… 🙂
        Now coming to the ballet, from what my mom said, it was the story of Kannagi and Kovalan… Obviously Kannagi was Padmini and Kovalan…. Ragini… 🙂 Padmini was my mom’s fav and she wanted to name her daughter after her…. But she had to wait for many years for that….. she was only blessed with boys(4 of them), by that time my aunt grabbed the name Lol!!!! Still haven’t watched Ponkathir…. will surely come up with my comments….. Regards….. Viju 🙂

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