Padayottam (1982) | A Sketch in Vengeful Grey

Padayottam - Film Title

Padayottam, (Military Advance / Military Assault ), unlike its Anglicized pasty synonym, carries with it a churning, lethal, powerful force of dynamism, more like a virtual, deadly juggernaut promising fury, death and destruction. N Govindankutty, in his inspired screenplay from DumasThe Count of Monte Cristo, ingeniously packs it all under the weary, steely visage of a lone being, back from the dead.Its a one-man revenge-machine, and unlike its parent story, the stakes are higher, much higher. Also, the primary emotions are vengeance and justice. Hope, mercy and forgiveness which seemed to have been buried along with the ‘former life’ of Udayan Thamburan ( Prem Nazir) thankfully appears for a crucial moment and disappears forever. Even if you take the list of the costume dramas aka screen adaptations from the Vadakkan Pattukal that came out of Navodaya  ( and Udaya for that matter), this walked the fine line between the clunky, kitschy opulence and a unique story line that actually engaged you.

Padayottam, the movie was, for its time, a celluloid celebration of grandeur – the biggest starcast of the times in a costume drama played out on the biggest screen of the times ( a technical marvel of those times ) – how more superlative can you get ?🙂 Speaking of the technical aspect of the movie ( the ingeniously processed 70mm film of our own, a first for India ), I was able to clarify much of the nagging doubts on that aspect from the Director of Cinematography of the film, Sri  Ramachandra Babu, one of those ‘quiet’ revolutionaries, ( and a wizard at his craft ) and he happily send across a lot of  archival details which I have shared in a separate post, here. There was also the maverick genius, J Williams who pitched in with his crafty, ingenious solutions for the ‘action scenes’ and captured them for posterity, which is also discussed here.

Padayottam was also the first  movie (?) I guess ( please correct me if I am wrong here) to have the technical aspect of the film woven into the title, as a part of the film title itself ! Navodaya followed the practise for My Dear Kuttichathan too, with the 3D aspect embedded along with the film title.

Padayottam was clearly a Prem Nazir film, I mean, he owned the screen. But the marked difference was that never before, or actor had he been presented in such a manner in a ‘period’ drama wreaking vengeance in the way Padayottam showed you. That was ‘fundamentally refreshing’, at least for me.🙂 .

So, as the lights dimmed and the special, extended audio tracks with custom speakers roared to life  for the first time on August 6, 1982, for  our very own 70mm spectacle, this was what was narrated onscreen.

Padayottam - Udayan and Moidootty surveys the battle

Prince Udayan  ( Prem Nazir in leathers), younger nephew to the king  of the provincial Kolathiri Nadu, ruled by the ageing Kolathiri Raja ( Thikkurissy Sukumaran Nair ) is  out on a  ‘sit-rep’, along with his trusted bosom-pal Moidootty ( Sathar ). The battle against the marauding Kodumalakoottam – vandals ganged up under the ferocious Kungkan ( Ceylon Manoharan ) has been giving the Kolathiri army hell since the past six days, and they seem to be almost decimated. Kungkan can almost taste victory and ransom but the wizened abd battle-hardy Commander-in-Chief Vayanadan Gurukkal ( GK Pillai) rouses them for a final assault. He does after his second-in-command Kammaran ( Mammootty in leathers ) questions his authority and the sense in prolonging this losing battle. The  Chief can sense  treason and berates him, but in the next few minutes, in a perverse twist of  fate, Kammaran gets his ‘revenge.’ The C-in-C is mortally wounded and taken inside, where he hastily scribbles out a note expressing his suspicions on Kammaran’s loyalty, lest he fail to make it alive. But Kammaran, manages to intercept it right inside the tent, murders the C-in-C  and keeps it away for ‘future reference.’ The note fortunately, only mentions sedition in the high ranks but does not mention any name.The retreating army by now has won the battle but is shocked to find their C-in-C dead of his wounds. It is Kammaran who breaks the sad news to the Prince.

Padayottam--The victor returns home

The victorious army returns home. Kolathiri is safe for the moment but one never knows. The  young Prince can’t wait to meet his elder brother Devan ( Madhu), the perceived heir to the throne, a man of letters and of a fickle heart. There is also the love of his life Parvathy Devi ( Lakshmi in silk and tears), who also holds a secret place of adulation, unknown to her, in the elder prince’s heart, but like his demanour, its quiet. But Kammaran has his doubts. The elated Raja announces prince Udayan to take over the throne. The elder Devan feels almost relived. He can, now, be with his academic pursuits and marry the woman of his dreams, while his young brother takes on the heavy responsibility. But, deep within the palace walls, conspiracy and anger is rife, and simmering.

Padayottam- Conspiracy is rife at the Palace

Perumana Kurup, the royal treasurer is bristling with rage. He expected the meek and pliable Devan to be the natural heir to the throne but this called for more machinations to make his favorite, Kammaran, to the Royal Seat. Kammaran is equally perturbed, but is consoled. Opportunities will present itself, all one has to do is wait. The crown prince, meanwhile can’t wait to spend some quality time with the love of his life. he also feels it to be the right time to present the ‘case’ to his elders, which includes his elder brother, of their life together.Perumana kurup almost walks in on the two lovebirds at the local temple festival, and files it away for future use.
Padayottam--The-Blushing, searching, pining Udayanan Devan’s secret love gets a well-aimed, hard kick in the face with the families coming together for the grand wedding of the crown prince and Parvathi Thamburatti, and with one day left for the royal union, the Devious Duo hit upon a plan to remove the prince and instate Devan as the king in one clever move. The Kodumalakoottam has regrouped again and is wreaking havoc at the borders of the province. The crown Prince doesn’t even think twice to rush to the border much to the consternation of the entire well-wishers. But Devan will have none of it, his inexperience not withstanding, and a ‘concerned’ Kammaran agrees to accompany him, managing to poison his mind enroute, eliciting a silent affirmation in having his ‘traitor of a brother’ punished. It isn’t soon that  a ‘message’ is received from the battle front mentioning Kongkan and his gang has had a change of heart and wants a truce agreement, a final settlement of gold  and a royal pardon signed, only by Prince Udayan. He leaves for the battle front for the Final Settlement, ransom, and rides straight into an ambush. Captured, bound and gagged, he is sold off to the deep-sea renegade pirates, specifically to the Pirate-with-No-Name ( Achenkunju in spike-hair, leather micro-skirts ). Thus starts the second phase of Udayan’s eventful life.

Padayottam- A defiant slave

Showing remarkable defiance to the Pirate leader’s authority, remarkable restraint to the 90’s style ‘cabaret’ by the on-board beauties, and throwing caution to the winds in fraternizing with other prisoners, he meets Kunjali (Nellikode Bhaskaran), the faithful Man Friday to the greatest diamond trader of the Malabar coast Ali Raja ( Balan K Nair in a thawb, ghutra and the perfect cocky sneer to go with it ). Kunjali, emaciated,  a shadow of his former ferocious self and at death’s door shares with Udayan, a similar tale of deceit and ambush which killed Ali Raja and destroyed his family, save for his daughter whom he has cleverly ensured a secure life. Surprisingly, the evildoers are the same – Kungkan and his hordes, and Perumana Kurup.  There is also the island which Kunjali shares the location where Ali Raja has stashed away his life’s fortunes. All he asks for is revenge. After all, that’s the only emotion that helps keep Udayan alive in the hellhole.

Padayottam- Udayanan meets Kunjali

Kunjali passes away-there is a mutiny on board the slave ship in the dead of the night and in the ensuing bloody battle, The Spiked One and almost all his crew are killed. Udayan is free. The dawn breaks. Its a new beginning. The narrative shifts to Kolathiri Nadu, and a majestic ‘Floating palace’ that sets anchor across from the Raja’s palace, on the river. The whole province is above themselves with excitement. Rumors fly fast. Some say its a millionaire from the Persian lands, “even beyond !”, suggest others. But everyone agrees on one aspect, whoever owns the flotilla had to be rich beyond even the Raja’s imagination, and by virtue, power.

Padayottam -  Udayanan's new Avatar

The new ‘Persian trader’ surveys a Kolathiri Nadu that seems like a pale ghost of its once-bounden riches. The ruler of the land, Devan, married to Parvati, now sees the future of his lineage and the land in the crown prince Chandru (a lean, haggard Shankar). The crown prince has his best friend in Kamaran’s son Kannan ( an equally raw Mohanlal ) – who are practically thick as thieves in everything. Udayan takes a ride around the countryside, visits his old manor, now in ruins, comes to know that his family was forcefully evicted and his mother died a painful death. His dear comrade Moidutty is dead and long gone, but Moidutty’s sister, little Ayseha, another one from his heart’s neighborhood, is now grown up and looks at him with hazy, forlorn eyes. Does his face and the burning eyes remind her of someone from years past ? She just can’t seem to put her finger on it. The Persian Trader, his ‘beautiful daughter’  along with his anchored floating palace has by now become the favorite topic of discussion in Kolathiri Nadu. But vengeance has already unsheathed its flaming sword.

Padayottam - Udayan goes after Perumana KurupUdayan comes to know about the Royal Sceptre and the Crown Jewels missing since the assassination of Kolathiri Raja and has a deep suspicion that it would be in the Royal Treasurer’s possession. He surmises he would be in a bit of a bind as he has been unable to sell it as the new King has by now declared it stolen from the palace. Also, years on, the two fellow-conspirators seem to disagree more and resentment is now the favorite emotion amongst them.The King, Devan, is merely a pawn in their scheme of things in the impoverished Province. The ‘Persian Trader’ sends/spread word about his willingness to buy anything in antique jewelery and Perumana Kurup bites it, hook, line and sinker. They decide on a secret rendezvous for the trade-off, but not before the ‘Persian Trader’ has got the entire population around in the dark, waiting, as witness to the treachery.

The scenes that follow after being caught by the people, as an ashamed, terrified, angry and scared-of-the-Royal-wrath Perumnana Kurup tries to wiggle free in front of the King, protesting his innocence, should be one of the finest moments in the onscreen career of N Govindan Kutty as an actor ! You just got to watch it. His nemesis comes at the hand of the Princess Laila (Poornima Jayram), who appears to testify at the trial to reveal her identity as Ali Raja’s daughter, about his involvement in her family’s murder.

Padayottam- Princess Laila testifies Princess Laila also manages to make prince Chandru fall helplesslyin love with her. With Perumana Kurup out of the picture, Udayan now trains his guns on Kammaran. And it isn’t soon that an opportunity presents itself.The old war-horse with the King’s tacit approval, approaches the Persian Trader for his generosity in filling the state’s almost-empty coffers, as a long term loan. Udayan agrees, but on one condition – he would want Kammaran to become King. It doesn’t take long for the rusty wheels to whir in action and he has a plan to bump off the King. Well, an old plan that always worked. In the mean time, Prince Chandru drops on his own , to check the possibility of financial aid for the state  and Udayan agrees. Chandru’s anger is rising. The King had just been double-crossed by his Senapati. Unperturbed, Kammaran recycles the same ‘message’ to the King that the Kodumalakkoottam wants to enter into a final peace treaty where they would take the money and will go away for ever, but they need the King in person for the treaty ! But the ambush just got  a new script along the way.

Padayottam - The beginning of Kammaran's End The Commander-in-Chief outruns his own band of soldiers who give chase, flees into the forest where his dutiful son finds him and prepares for his last stand, while enabling his father flee furthur. It isn’t soon that prince Chandru appears along with the soldiers and the thicker-than-thieves are engaged in a mortal swordfight, and end up Chandru killing Kannan. But Kannan has mentioned something to his dear friend in his final moments that enrages Chandru, who is now beyond himself, as he rushes to confront the ‘double-crossing Persian trader’, and challenge him to a Duel to Death. Little does  he know that he is about to endanger his very life. The smiling Udayan, calmly accepts the challenge and the matter seems of little consequence to him. But the Queen Mother knows the danger that has befallen on her son and pays a visit to the Floating palace in the middle of the night.

Padayottam - Secrets Unravelled

Does the once-love-of-her-life listen to her heartfelt plea to save her son’s – the crown prince of the land’s,  life ? What happens to Kammaran in the end? Does he get his comeuppance like  Perumanna Kurup ? What about the King himself ? Does he recognise his younger brother at some point? What happens then ? How does the crown prince react to his father’s treachery that cost his uncle his youth ? And above all, there is a dark secret that is going to shatter the very being of Udayan’s life, that is known to the King and the Queen. How does Udayan react when he come to know that ? I sincerely recommend you watch the movie to find that out.

So, is there a copy of the movie available commercially ?

Yes. You could get the VCD here.

Related :Padayottam | In conversation with Cinematographer K.Ramachandra Babu, ISC

Related : Padayottam | The Magic and Machinery of 70 MM

Related :  Padayottam ( 1982 ) | French Count, Chinese Dragon, Malayali infantry in lush Purple Lungis

Related: Remembering Navodaya Appachan (1924 – 23 April 2012 )

16 thoughts on “Padayottam (1982) | A Sketch in Vengeful Grey

  1. I am ashamed to say that I haven’t seen the movie.Somehow I never had an idea that it is an exceptional movie anything different from the usual song-dance-stunt-drama dish the producer regularly churns out.
    Thanks a lot CM for putting it all in the right perspective along with a lot of valuable information.
    Let me grab a VCD right away
    And a big salute for the habitual great effort you take to bring back frames from the old era.

    1. Jayachechy,
      The VCD version that is available in the market now is the mutilated, mercilessly chopped version of the classic, thanks to the myopic, self-serving, idiotic mindset of our so-called producers of these digital versions. Regardless, its a keepsake.Thanks, cinematters

  2. അലക്‌സാണ്ടര്‍ ഡൂമയുടെ “മോണ്ടിക്രിസ്ടോ പ്രഭു” എന്ന വിശ്വ വിഖ്യാത നോവലിനെ അടിസ്ഥാനമാക്കി പ്രിയദര്‍ശന്‍ എഴുതിയ തിരക്കഥയായിരുന്നു “പടയോട്ടം”.
    തന്നെ നായകനാക്കാന്‍ വന്ന പ്രിയദര്‍ശനോട് കഥ കേട്ട സോമന്‍ പറഞ്ഞു ഈ കഥ എനിക്കല്ല മറിച്ച് നസീറിനാണ് അനുയോജ്യമായത് എന്നാണു

    തങ്ങള്‍ നിര്‍മ്മിക്കുന്ന ബൃഹത്തായ ചിത്രത്തിന് പ്രിയദര്‍ശന്‍ എന്ന പുതുമുഖ എഴുതുക്കാരന്‍ “മാര്‍ക്കറ്റ്‌””” അല്ല എന്നുള്ള നവോദയയുടെ നിലപാടാണ് ഇതിന്‍റെ കഥ, തിരക്കഥ, സംഭാഷണം എന്‍.. ഗോവിന്ദന്‍ കുട്ടിയുടെ പെരിലാവാന്‍ കാരണം.
    ഔദാര്യമായി ചിത്രതിന്‍റെ ടൈറ്റിലില്‍ “കഥ ഡിസ്കഷന്‍”” പ്രിയദര്‍ശന്‍ എന്ന് കൂട്ടി ചേര്‍ത്തു.

    1. പ്രിയ അഞ്ഞൂറാന്‍ ,

      പ്രിയദര്‍ശന്‍ ഈ സിനിമയുടെ ഒരു ഭാഗമായിരുന്നു എന്ന് അറിഞ്ഞിരുന്നുവെങ്കിലും യഥാര്‍ത്ഥ പങ്കിനെക്കുറിച്ച് ഇപ്പോഴാണ് ബോധ്യമായത്. വളരെ, വളരെ നന്ദി.പ്രേം നസീറിന്റെ സ്ഥാനത്തു സോമന്‍ – ആലോചിക്കാന്‍ കൂടി വയ്യാ🙂 രണ്ടു പേരുടെയും അരങ്ങിലെ ആര്‍ജ്ജവം രണ്ടു തലങ്ങളിലായിരുന്നു.പുതുമുഖങ്ങളെ ഉള്‍പ്പെടുത്തി ഒരു മഞ്ഞില്‍ വിരിഞ്ഞ പൂക്കളും എന്റെ മാമാട്ടിക്കുട്ടി അമ്മയും വിജയിപ്പിച്ചവര്‍ തന്നെയല്ലേ നവോദയ ? പിന്നെന്തായിരുന്നുവോ പാവം പ്രിയനെക്കുറിച്ചു ഒരു വിശ്വാസമില്ലായ്മ🙂. – cinematters

      1. പ്രിയന്‍റെ ആദ്യ തിരക്കഥകളില്‍ ഒന്നായ “കടത്ത്” പി.ജി. വിശ്വംഭരന്‍ സംവിധാനം ചെയ്തിരുന്നു. എന്നാല്‍., “കടത്തി”ന്‍റെ തിരക്കഥ പി.ജി.വിശ്വംഭരന്‍ സ്വന്തം പേരിലാക്കി.
        “ഹരേ രാമ ഹരേ കൃഷ്ണ” എന്ന വന്‍ വിജയം നേടിയ ഹിന്ദി സിനിമയെ “സന്ധ്യക്ക എന്തിന്‌ സിന്ദൂരം” എന്ന പേരില്‍ പ്രിയന്‍ മലയാളത്തില്‍ എഴുതി. ഐ.വി. ശശി സംവിധാനം ചെയ്ത ആ ചിത്രത്തിന്‍റെ തിരക്കഥയുടെ “ക്രെഡിറ്റ്‌” വേറെ ആള് കൊണ്ട് പോയി.

    1. Hi Madhav,
      This was written last May,as we compiled ( a micro-blogathon of sorts ) in featuring this movie🙂 Felt this should be an apt bookmark to celebrate the memory of the legend. And yes, AB would be a great choice, and with the production qualities and the resources he can command at his disposal, it would be a great period saga. Thanks, cinematters

    2. ഈ ചിത്രത്തിന്‍റെ തെലുങ്ക് പതിപ്പ്‌ ചിരഞ്ജീവി അഭിനയിച്ചതുണ്ട്. “അഗ്നിയാണ് ഞാന്‍ അഗ്നി”- മഹാ ബോറായി ആയിരുന്നു എനിക്ക് അനുഭവപ്പെട്ടത്.

  3. Thank you so much CM..This is awsome. I really appreciate the effort. Special thanks for the chat with RB.

    1. Ah.Glad it took you back Sibi. The Chat with RB was invaluable, and am really thankful for him to take his time out and actually put it down in words and send it across. Speaks volumes about his graciousness and warmth..regards..cm

  4. Are there other movies where Mammooty played a real Villain (Not considering Tharadas etc). One that comes to mind is Vidheyan

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