The Sathyan Tribute | Ravi from Mooladhanam (1969)

Sathyan and Sarada in Mooladhanam  (1969)

All the characters Sathyan played on screen were of strong men, all imbued with the special “Sathyan” touch which made them unforgettable. Most roles were, in my memory, tragic. However, one memorable character that he played, with the story ending on a positive note, was in Thoppil Bhasi‘s Mooladhanam (meaning Capital, as in Wealth). The story is based on Thoppil Bhasi’s own life experiences as a Communist Party worker during 1944-1946, of the sacrifices he had to make, in order for the mass struggle against the unjust rule of the Diwan be a success. Sathyan plays the role of the hero, Ravi, and Prem Nazir takes the role of Mammootty, his comrade, working for the same cause. The pair, both super stars of their time, appearing side by side at the beginning and also at the end of the movie, highlights their stark contrast in appearance and acting style. There is no contest, Sathyan wins hands down.

KP Ummer and Sarada in Mooladhanam (1969)

Apart from being a fervent member of the party, Ravi is also a loving husband to Sarada, and father to two children, Appu and Ammini (played brilliantly by two bright child actors, sadly not credited in the titles – could not find their names). Political circumstances force Ravi and Mammootty to go into hiding. As it has only been a week since his wedding to Nabeesa (Jayabharathi), Mammootty defies Ravi’s instructions to go and meet Nabeesa in a sneaky rendezvous. Unfortunately, he gets arrested by the police. Ravi continues his activism from hiding. In spite of missing his dear wife and kids, he holds fast to his beliefs and principles, preferring to have no contact with them rather than put other activists’ life at risk. Police ransack his home, carrying away everything they possess. they break the framed photograph of Ravi and take away the photograph, leaving the broken glass and an empty frame and cardboard backing. The police place Sarada in custody until they find Ravi. The kids are orphaned, and leave the house. Hoping for her sexual favours, Madhu (KP Ummer) gets her released from jail (“ഞാന്‍ ഒരു വികാരജീവിയായ മനുഷ്യനാണ് !“). Sarada tells him to get lost, and Madhu leaves.

Sathyan and Ambika in Mooladhanam (1969)

Meanwhile, Ravi entrusts a manuscript of a book to Madhu for publishing under a pseudonym, Soman. Ravi is in hiding under an assumed name, Prabha, a tuition master, in Malathi’s (Ambika) home. Ironically, Appu and Ammini reach Malathi’s house where their father is in hiding. Malathi gives Ammini a place to stay. (Strangely, the kids fail to recognise their father, who they had been separated from just three years ago). Ravi witnesses his child Ammini being beaten for some small offense of which Malathi wrongly accuses her. His son Appu gets arrested. When Ravi’s book, “Palunku“, gets published, Madhu appropriates all the accolades and even a National Award to be presented in New Delhi. Sathyan endured his family being destroyed; his wife arrested; his kids turned into beggars; his son arrested and tortured; but when the book he wrote with his life-blood being wrongly claimed by Madhu he explodes. He confronts Madhu and confesses to Malathi that he is Ravi, the activist who police is looking for, and not Prabha the tuition master. He gets arrested.

Sarada’s life during this time, is hell. She is pestered by Madhu’s unwelcome advances and the police. Finally she is forced to succumb to Madhu, in order to save her son being tortured, and to prevent Nabeesa from being arrested. Shocked and disgusted at finding Sarada in a compromising situation with Madhu, Appu takes Ammini and runs away from home again. Malathi organises a defence committte to free Ravi and other freedom fighters, and they are finally freed. Mammootty returns to Nabeesa to resume their interrupted honeymoon. And Ravi is heart broken to find that his wife has been unfaithful. Sarada confesses and agrees to leave. But Ravi and Nabeesa pleads Ravi to call Sarada back. After all, Sarada yielded to Madhu only to save her own son, and to prevent Nabeesa from being arrested. Ravi realises the magnitude of her sacrifice, and calls Sarada back into his life.

Sarada and Sathyan in Mooladhanam (1969)

There are several poignant moments all through the movie. Ravi’s gratitude to a poor family who dug out their kitchen to make place for Ravi to stay, while his rich friend with a house with plenty of rooms refuses to let him stay there; Steeling himself to send his wife and kids away for fear of betraying his friends; Seeing his kids as beggars, even seeing his daughter being beaten for a crime she did not commit; hearing that his son was in custody and was being tortured by police, feeling over the moon when his novel was appreciated critically, then furious when he found out that Madhu was claiming it as his own; finding out that his wife had been unfaithful,and then finally realising the extent of her sacrifice for her son, and also for the cause that he himself believed in – a myriad of expressions flit across Sathyan’s face in these situations. All these consistently reminding you that there has been no-one to equal Sathyan in Malayalam Cinema, either before, or after, his time.

Post Script:

Just a note on Sathyan’s attention to detail: In one of the final scenes, when Sathyan and Adoor Bhasi are being garlanded and felicitated by the public, Adoor Bhasi takes off one of his garlands and throws it carelessly; it falls on the floor. On his way down, Sathyan bends down, retrieves the garland, and places it on the table, while Adoor Bhasi stands watching, non-plussed. 🙂

Swarga gaayikey from Mooladhanam (1969)

14 thoughts on “The Sathyan Tribute | Ravi from Mooladhanam (1969)

  1. Greatest actor, great website, great comments….wow.

    Sathyan’s double role in Kadalpalam is also excellent. He got the first Kerala state government award in that film.

    1. Hi Sunny,
      We all wax eloquent, when it comes to conferring epithets on our favorite actors on screen, don’t we ? 🙂 He was a brilliant actor, no doubt about it.With regards to Kadalpaalma, it is right up there amongst his greatest performances – who can ever forget the Kaimal-Raghu duo?Thanks for writing in..regards, cinematters.

      PS. This is not yet a website, its just a personal blog, but equally active and functional,thanks to a lot of like-minded ones who relive their years of movies of their times, and ofcourse, a great platform called WordPress. Thanks.

  2. I ABSOLUTELY AGREE WITHN SAJITH BHAI.. … SATHYAN was simply superb in ORU PENNINTE KATHA.. the villain character that he portrayed in that film at a time when he was considered as the super star of malayala cinema, MADHAVAN THAMPI is a must watch. soon i will start my article about some less mentioned films of sathyan starting from his 1st released film AATMASAKHI to his last released CHECK POST (in fact that was also a detective genre film)…

  3. Satyan was the master of understatement. I loved the scene in Chemmeen where he is sitting down to eat a meal and gets all fussy about finishing it. 🙂

    Hated the character in Mooladhanam; nothing to do with Satyan’s acting, of course, which was first-class; but the sort of idealist who is willing to sacrifice his whole family to protect an ideology has no business starting a family in the first place.

    Secondly, are we supposed to applaud him for exploding when his novel is usurped? Bah! A book is more important to him than his wife and children? When he excoriates his wife for being ‘unfaithful’ (she had a choice??), does he realise that it is he who is responsible for her breaking the boundaries?


    Makes me all the more convinced that I’d much rather share my life with a flawed spouse than a rigid idealist.

  4. Susy
    Is the story of Mooladanam based on the real story of Thoppil Bhasi? I think the answer you can find somewhere in the pages of Olivile Ormaal of Thoppil Bhasi. In the film, there is a scene in which Ravi sees his child getting beaten. The same experience but in a different manner is narrated in the book olivile ormakal. In fact, the scenes that we saw in Mooladhanam, Punnapra Vailar, Ningalenne Communistakki are nothing but stark reality of the period in between 1940 – 1960, and there is no exaggeration.
    Regarding Sathyan as an actor, there is no doubt that he is the master. However, regarding the best, i vote for Oru Penninte Katha and the second place to Vaazhvemaayam. Just one scene in vaazhvemayam – when sudhi, for the first time sees his daughter who is going to get married, his divorced wife with contentment softly whispers to him
    Our daughter…see how beautiful she is…

    When sudhi hears it… just see how Satyan reacts it…

    One of my friend,while on a visit to Madras, happened to meet K S Setumadhavan at Madras.The great director listened the praises showered by my friend on the performance of Sathyan in Vaazhvemaayam. Sethumadhavan replied like this
    Aniyan Oru Penninte Katha Kandirinno?Illenkil kaananam. Aa chitrathil SAthyante prakadanam camerakke pinnil nerittu kandataanu njaan !. The exact comment from the:master director. Do you agree?


    1. Dear Sajith,
      It mostly is so, for me, and I think fact and fiction seem to be interspersed and at times even repeated across the first plays that he wrote and the politically charged screenplays he wrote for Malayalam cinema. The “Book” reminds you of the actual manuscript of “Ningalenne Communistaakki” which he had completed while on the run and had it smuggled out through the party cadres into making it the full-blown production as we know now. But thankfully though it never fell into the bourgeois hands anytime !Also the pseudonym that Ravi adopts seems to be the same that Thoppil Bhasi adopted as the author of the play – Soman. One can also see parallels of the “buddy” narrative in almost all the movies that have stuck to the revolution – Punnapra Vayalar, Ningalemnne Communistakki even till Lal Salam and Rakthasaakshikal Zindabad. Vazhve Maayam is one amongst my top favorites of Sathyan and hope to write on it soon.

    2. I have only seen song clips of Oru Penninte Kadha. It would have been a superlative performance for a great man to make that comment.

      BTW, I have also seen similarities of Mooladhanam to Anubhavangal Palichakal – idealism, going into hiding inder the name Prabha (Prabhaakaran in Anubhavangal….) etc.


      1. Yes Sathyan was the consummate artist, the best Malayalam has seen.One look, one glance, his famous ”IRUTHIYULLA MOOLAL”, who can forget that.Yes, I agreee with Sajith that that scene from ‘Vazhve mayam’ was superb, but then the maestro’s career is choke full mof such great scenes.Who can forget his expression in “Anubhavangal PALICHAKAL” when he returns from jail and asks for his favourite child Kumari and the sibling’s response”Aval chathu poyi’ sATHYAN’S FACE IS A KALEIDOSCOPE OF TURBULENT EMOTIONS.The Cassanova in Pakalkinavu,

        1. Thanks for your comments. Paulose. Sathyan was definitely one of the best. In all the movies he chose characters which suited him.

          The only one I thought a bit funny was the grandfather in Ningalenne Communistaakki. Sathyan’s bright black eyes belied his geriatric makeup, especially in close-up!

          1. Susie
            I agree with your comment on the role of Sathyan in Ningalenne Communistaakki. I feel that the best in the film was K P Ummer. Such a powerful character… you agree?


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