The Kerala Movie Studio Legacy | JC Daniel’s The Travancore National Pictures

JC Daniel - Founder of Malayalam Film Industry
Courtesy :

It seems  strange and sad that  every mention of the glorious film production history of Malayalam hinges around the obvious two – P Subramaniam‘s Merryland and Kunchacko‘s Udaya Studio, while the one that literally forged the path for them, a soul whose daring laid the very foundations of  the Malayalam film industry as we know it – Dr JC Daniel‘s  Travancore National Pictures always seem to be conveniently forgotten. Long before the technical and the artistic lot of the Malayalam industry working out of Coimbatore and Chennai yearned for a similar set of working conditions in the comfort of their homeland, a committed, lanky lad besotted by the potential of this new medium and fuelled by passion had already built a studio right at the heart of erstwhile Trivandrum, at Pattom, right across the Pattom Palace. But the story of Travancore National Pictures is more than that, and the whole credit for archiving that part of history ( or whatever was possible of it ) should go to Chelangatt Gopalakrishnan, the veteran journalist.

For the seventh amongst the eleven  children of Dr NJ Daniel and Njanambal, born  November 28th, 1900, Joseph Chellaiah Daniel,  came into this world, you could say, holding the  the proverbial silver spoon, at Neyyattinkara. The affluent family  shifted to their hometown Agasteeswaram by 1905, into their palatial house that was an architectural landmark of the times. Growing up to be a dashing, handsome lad who stood at  5′ 11”, the captain of his  high school football team, athletic, deeply interested in martial arts  (even publishing a book titled Indian Art of Fencing and Sword Play in 1915, when he was 22 ) and a voracious reader, he was everything a conventional movie producer of our collective perception wasn’t. Initially planning to make an hour long talkie on the indigenous martial art-forms of Kerala of his times, from his perspective, and his initial inquiries on the cost-aspects of film production were to this effect. Vel Picture Studio, Guindy  quoted an astronomical 40,000 rupees for his dream project, and a defiant Daniel set out to check out the ‘prices in Mumbai’. In Mumbai he visited the production studios of the times, one of which even permitted him to hang around  for a full day and night, allowing him to to grasp the fundamentals of the production processes in close range, and the bright and alert mind was quickly, systematically filing away everything he observed for future use.

Recharged, on his return, he sold off his share of the family inheritance ( 108 acres ) at Neyyattinkara for Rs 30,000/- and even managed to bring in a partner for his venture, named Sundaram. Initially enthusiastic, once he came to know of the fervor and passion of young Daniel to realise his project, his focused approach, Sundaram developed cold feet and slinked away. Undeterred, he borrowed some more, and with this capital, traveled to Mumbai and bought the first set of  studio equipment to Kerala. He sold off more land, organised another Rs 40,000/- and this time headed out to Calcutta where he got his cinematography equipment.

On JC Daniel’s Cinematography equipment.

This has been something that has always piqued my curiosity – on the type of movie camera that he would have filmed Malayalam’s first movie. As I am given to understand, the actual technical details of the production are sketchy to say the least. I have asked around a bit, and kept asking myself on the type of cinematography equipment, I could be looking at, presumably in 1925-26, with Rs 40,000 in my kitty and a fairly good understanding of what exactly I want in terms of my cinematography equipment. The popular ones of those times, what I am given to understand, were the Debrie Le Parvo, the Moy ( Moy & Bastie ), the Bell & Howel 2709, the legendary Mitchell Standard and the Eyemo. The Mitchell Standard and the Eyemo were astronomically priced, even for those times for an individual, and maybe the young film maker decided upon the next best option which must have been the Debrie, as the Moy and the B &H weren’t as popular or as available as the others. ( Assumptions, assumptions ! ) I came across this production still from  Kamal’s Celluloid, the biopic on JC Daniel of a movie camera that  seemed to have been inspired by the  Debrie Le Parvo, but glossed over with a lot of imagination and kitsch. I have no idea where the creators of the movie have based their assumptions on this being JC Daniel’s cinematography equipment, but I am sure they must have their reasons ( ! ). 🙂

Movie camera replica in Celluloid, biopic of JC Daniel
Movie camera replica ( ! ) in Celluloid, biopic of JC Daniel

The Debrie Le Parvo actual.

The Wood Debrie Parvo Movie Camera
Credit & Rights :

According to CINEMATOGRAPHERS.NL, The wooden casing was an enclosing shell. The gears, film gate, etc. were mounted on, and contained within a metal chassis. On the front panel was a brass knob to open the front of the camera and a further brass knob to unlock the shutter mechanism. The camera had a fold-out Newton finder and eyepiece. The rear of the camera featured a footage counter dial marked in feet, a cranking speed indicator marked 16fps and 24fps and a pull-out focusing eyepiece with diopter adjustment and an eyepiece light-trap cover.

Also on the rear panel was a spirit level to level the camera on a tripod. The camera front lifted up and the side panels were hinged to reveal the very impressive movement and two 400 feet co-axial metal film magazines. The hand-cranked Le Parvo was at one time the most popular European made camera. Even in the early 1920’s, the Le Parvo was the most used camera in the world.

The Debrie was one of the most popular models of the times, according to acclaimed senior DOP Jayanan Vincent, and says “the Debrie, Mitchell NC and Newall are  still available at AVM studios, Chennai !

A Video of the metal-jacketed, advanced version of the Debrie.

The Travancore National Pictures Movie Studio.

Sarada Vilas Building
Pix Credit : Malayala Manorama

After getting back to Kerala with his cinematography equipment, JC Daniel sold off some more of his remaining property, and with the money, bought two acres of land at Pattom, from Nagappan Nair, a lawyer from the city, that included a house names Sarada Vilas, along with which he also built a two-roomed structure that would also double up as his living quarters. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to call these two buildings, Sarada Vilas and this new annexe, the First Film Production Studio of Malayalam Film Industry. The name of the studio, was borne out of JC Daniel’s deep sense of bonding and love for his state and wanted his business venture to reflect it too.JC Daniel had almost exhausted his resources by now with no money left for the actual shooting process. So he did what he did best, dipped into the pockets of his close relatives and friends to find another round of capital and the shooting began, based on a story board he himself had put together, as feature film, shelving his idea of the initial plan for a later date.

JC Daniel's Biography by Chelangatt Gopalakrishnan
A Must Buy !

According to Chelangatt Gopalakrishnan’s biography of JC Daniel, the debut production of the debut studio in Malayalam cinema was done in two schedules, the first in Ceylon and the second at Pattom, mostly brought out and done in natural sunlight, as the director/cinematographer found the Sarada Vilas interiors too dark for normal shooting. The details on the Ceylon trip and the shooting there are unavailable yet, but it was a fact that JC Daniel himself cranked the camera, and in the night, after a days work, he processed the film himself in the studio, assessing his work and getting ready for next day’s shoot. The cast of the movie ( The Lost Child aka Vigatha Kumaran ) was a smattering of family members, rank amateurs and professional theatre artists, with the lead actress PK Rosy ( whose actual identity and her years post the movie remain an mystery even now ) also taking care of catering for the crew. Yes, she and her family cooked for the crew, and she acted in the movie ! There was no editing and the shooting was done as a continuous process keeping in mind the roll of raw stock in each cartridge, which was around 1000 feet. The crew themselves took care of the costumes and the makeup. The shooting started at sun up at places around the studio and Pattom palace with JC Daniel multi-tasking . The ENTIRE cast and crew were from Kerala, a daring initiative when one considered the prevailing conditions of movie-making in south India of those times.

Suffice to say, The Lost Child took two years to complete and was  released on November 7, 1928 at Capitol Theatre and was a disaster – not because the movie was sub-standard, but the pseudo-orthodox, senselessly conservative local population could never take a lady from their own land “acting onscreen.” To them, it was akin to prostitution! It ran for 4 days and had to be withdrawn ultimately, as the irate mob, incensed at the sheer audacity of PK Rosy to act in a moving picture, had by then, torn down the projection screen.

Capitol Theatre-Trivandrum
Capitol Theatre-Trivandrum (1930) / courtesy : Manorama Online

The movie, released in 5 more centres never fared any better and The Travancore National Pictures went under. It was only a matter of time. The equipment and the premises were sold at a pittance to recoup losses and repay his lenders, but that never sufficed. He had to sell of his wife’s remaining jewelry and the rest of his property to make good the losses. JC Daniel, Malayalam cinema’s first producer, bankrupt and broken, would relocate to Madurai, learn dentistry, open a clinic that would soon blossom into a flourishing practice and reclaim his life in the next 5 years.

The Capitol Cinema recreated in Kamal's Celluloid
The Capitol Cinema recreated in Kamal’s Celluloid

But his love for film -making remained, which was rekindled with a chance meeting with PU Chinnappa, one of the “megastars” of the times, who enticed him to make another movie, this time, bigger in budget, bigger in everything. He could get him in touch with some great money-men who would finance the project, and he himself would play the lead ! And that led to chain of events that decimated JC Daniel completely, condemning himself and his wife to a life of penury that they never recovered from, ever.

In retrospect, our first Film Studio’s only production was a path breaker in many respects. It was the first production that had an overseas shooting schedule, the studio owner was also the script-writer, cinematographer, lead actor, processing technician, director and distributor.The Lost Child aka Vigathakumaran also starred an all-Malayali cast and crew speaking of volumes of the righteous sense of purpose and initiative of JC Daniel, now considered the father of Malayalam cinema.

Next : Kunchacko’s Udaya Studio.

43 thoughts on “The Kerala Movie Studio Legacy | JC Daniel’s The Travancore National Pictures

  1. sir,
    it’s a kind information for new generation and also we want discover the first film heroine …………..where wat happended… days

  2. Dear readers , thank you very much for your comments, unfortunately there is no pictures on this , my great grand father sisu hasan was a mopila poet , and lived his most of the time in nagercoil, a place called edalakudy ,as i hear from my grand father MA RAZAK another mopila poet , sri daniel came to Alleppey with the help of hasan and showed the film in star thetare in Alleppey(some one claimed that the thetre is near vazhicheri palam and now it is a petrol bunk) ,it is a wrong information the theater was near the saw mill ,owned by poopaaly family ),
    However the film done well , the friendship of mr daniel and hasan was good , ,Even hasan helped him in Bombay too ,through Uncle of my father ,PALGHAR MOHAMMED ,(palghar is a suburb in Paidhoni
    unfortunately, there is no photo or any printed evidence are avilable with me too ,
    even being a great mopila poets sisu hasan (who was equally with mahakavi moieen kutty vaidyar or greater than him), and M.A razak my grand father was eradicated by the malabar muslims domination on the mopila poetry , died in poverty and forgotten by entire mopila community,
    Most of there songs had been copied and reproduced by poets in malabar ,and still its going on almost all the mopila songs reality shows

  3. Dear all
    good works ,by kamal,at the time of making of vigathakumaran, one person name sisu hasan was closely associate with him too for making this film vigathakumaran,he was my great grand father, my grnad father had closely associate with him too, that was one of the reason it had been showed in alleppey,when he went to mumbai to get the camera,the uncle of my father palghar kunjukutty (palghar is a suburb in mumbainow) assisted him too, so history is too long and it will remember

    1. good news arman…have you any photos of the good ‘ol days of the team behind vigathakumaran..thats not in public domain

    2. Hi Aman,
      This is a apart of the making of Vigathakumaran that has not yet been documented, for all I know and thank you so much for writing in. As Narayan mentioned, would it be possible to share any historical material, names, dates, details passed on as you know it about that journey by your great grandfather? It would help shed more light on the muddles state of affairs as it is, and maybe get one stop to the truth as it were.Thanks so much again. cinematters

  4. I hope justice is done through J.C.Daniel award instituted in 1992, equal to Phadke award in it’s Kerala version (belated justice)
    Print has to be procured from Sundharam Daniel’s wife or children and handed over to Pune Archives (Yes it will be with him or his family, bidding time to capitalize on it)
    Celluloid has done historical duty, though some dogs are barking at the full moon
    Three cheers to all related

    1. Hi Sen,
      Somehow I seem to have missed your responses here.Apologies for this belated reply.One can only hope against hope that some “part” of the film making legacy still rests with Sundaram Daniel’s family. To think that Sundaram Daniel carried atleast a couple of reels all the way to Ceylon, by steamer along with his personal possessions and from then onwards to Australia where he settled down after his retirement would be close to improbable than possible, but there could be a chance. We are trying to rule out all options in our little ways.Thats all.Thanks, cinematters

      1. Todays manorama Sunday supplement has an article named Nashtanayakan, in which Mr Haris Daniel and Mrs Lalita Henry recalls about JC Daniel. Hope CM have archived it.

    1. Hi Kevin,
      If it helps clarify or for that matter dispel some amount of doubt on that aspect, that’s fine by me.And thats just a part of this huge jigsaw puzzle that everyone’s trying to piece together on the events and people that led to the creation of the first movie in Malayalam. More the information, more the ways to weighand come to conclusions. 🙂 Thanks, cinematters.

  5. What a wealth of information you have here! Thanks CM for putting the records straight on the initial pangs of Malayalam cinema coming into life.

    1. Chechi,
      Think of it as a scrounger getting lucky 🙂 All that is there is what has already been said in print and a few of my assumptions. Rhank you for passing

  6. CM

    Without avid historians like those mentioned in your article, and the readers comments, this critical chapter and even JC Daniel would have been buried forever in the abyss of time. Knowing about Daniel’s struggles to realise his dreams, and his life and death was an eye opener for me. i hope one day I will be able to read his biography by Gopalakrishnan.

    I was never even aware of this pioneer studio in Trivandrum, in spite of being born and bred there. It was never mentioned in the media as far as I can remember.



    1. Hi Susie,
      These are the ones who ensured that their voices were heard above the din to get credit where it was long overdue. I am sure there is a silent majority out there, quietly going about their work, in their pursuit of unearthing and preserving the past for tomorrow’s generations. The Sarada Vilas is no more as far as I can recall from my conversation with R Gopalakrishnan, in its place stands a multi-storeyed apartment complex, I guess. So much for our heritage.Than you for writing in, cinematters

    1. Dear Rajesh,
      Have already archived the pdf version from the e-paper. There was also a write-up on Balan by TP Sasthamangalam, which seemed to be liberally quoted from Gopalkrishnan’s seminal “GoodLuck to Everybody”. 🙂 Thanks, cm

  7. I met Gopalakrishnan Sir (GK for short) for the first time about 6 years back. Since then i had been in infrequent contact with him. At that time he was working on an encyclopedia of Malayalam cinema chronicling each and every malayalam movie ever released- in his words “from Adoor’s Elipathayam to Shakeela’s Ennathoni”. the material by that time itself had crossed more than 14 volumes. When we met him about 2 months back- GK informed me that the book version was now becoming less viable and he was concentrating on developing a website. with lots and lots and lots of photos, dvds old magazines- his is a life totally devoted to Malayalam cinram. High time that he got the recognition from the Govt. What we can do is to appreciate him and spread the good word about GK.
    And Chelangattu doesn’t mince words when he mentions about Daniel’s family and how “loved” he was. Did you read the letter written by Janet Daniel to Chelangatu (given in the last page of the biography). She says that they are living in poverty.
    But (subject to correction) I think CELLULOID portrays the children of JC Daniel in good light with Prithviraj portraying both JC Daniel and Harris Daniel.
    And one more interesting coincidence. The collectors, chroniclers, die-hard researchers of Malayalam Cinema are named Gopalakrishnan. I know 4 such Gopalakrishnans….Chelangattu Gopalakrishnan was one such savior (he would have been 81 had he been alive today); R. Gopalajkrishnan is in his mid Fifties and another Gopalakrishnan whom we both know has not yet touched 30. Another Goapalkrishnan now in his late Seventies or early Eighties is Palode Gopalakrishnan- a collector of malayalam records, songs and pattupusthakams.

    1. Dear Narayan,
      I really hope his dream project comes alive. In fact I had volunteered for any help from my part on it but as I mentioned earlier, somehow the haven’t been able to get in touch with him after that.I have a copy of a feature on him done by Malayala Manorama in 2006, including a photo of him by JC’s tomb, as a cover feature of their Shree pullouts that they had for a year or so.Hope to get in touch with him again soon.I could sense the estrangement within the Daniels family, but I guess when it comes to the fictional bio-pic ( ?) I guess some things have to be glossed over, else you need to have b***s of steel.About that coincidence, its interesting, no doubt, but I’ll reserve my comments 🙂 Thanks so much, cinematters

    2. another book has just been released titled JC DANIEL: MALAYALA CINEMAYUDE VIGATHAKUAMRAN- its edited by Prof. D. Premlal and Dr. S. Chandramohan. the book is published by Raven Books, Poojappura, Trivandrum.its just a collection of articles about Daniel written by those who “knew him”- including his relatives. a common thread is that he was most beloved by his family and the epitome of a model grandfather…wonder why this beloved man was not so beloved till hes proclaimed as the father of malayalam cinema.
      does the book offer something new…nothing whatsoever. Save for a picture of Daniel, his wife and a child tat i have not seen in other books there is no new info about daniel. there are some photos of janet in her old age (without daniel).
      a photo of the erstwhile manager of the capital theater Reddiar which was wrongly identified as Daniel sometime back in a leading malayalam magazine is reprinted over here with the mistake intact. Manarcad Mathew, Vijayakrishnan, Vinu Abraham’s and Kowdiar Das’s article are the best among the collection. I sure wold have liked to read an article by Shri. . Gopalakrishnan also

      1. Would love to lay my hands on a copy Narayan, even though, as you mentioned, it is recycled data. Is it available in the book shops circuit or again, a case of “private circulation” only? Thanks , cinematters

      2. close on the heels of our Sen Joseph’s book work in English about JC DANIEL (THE PIONEER) here comes a news about a forthcoming work about JC Daniel to be published in English. the author is Professor Jayanthy and English teacher at Bethany College, Nalanchira, Trivandrum and author of two collections of poetry EVERGREEN RHYTHMS and VOICES OF THE SOUL.
        She is the sister-in-law of Harris Daniel (sister of Harris Daniel’s wife Suseela).I contacted the author over phone- and requested her to read the various posts and comments about Vigathakumaran and JC Daniel over here in OMC.
        And Sen Joseph- I owe you an apology- my review of The Pioneer is long overdue. shall be back soon

  8. And Viju- for the last two months I have been hearing a rumor that a limited edn of MARTHANDAVARMA would be released by Poona national film archives as part of 100 years of Indian cinema. but the same has not been materialized. i would be the first in line to buy a copy of the Marthandavarma- if it is released.

  9. This is an amazing write up!!! I could only go through the content with goose bumps and tears in my eyes… Felt really little when I came to know that the first ever studio in Kerala was Tranvancore National Pictures!!!All this while thought is was only Merryland, Udaya and Uma!! CM please let me know where I can get hold of a copy of the Chelangat Gopalakrishnan’s Biography of JCD!!! And Narayan, that was a superb write up you gave!!! Really appreciate the perspectives you gave. That would be amazing if you could unearth a copy of Vigatha kumaran. So you mean to say Poona Film Institute has a copy of Marthanda Varma? That would be really great!!! Thanks both of you for all the info!!!

    1. Dear Viju,
      All thanks to Chelangatt Gopalakrishnan’s Biography and conversations with R Gopalakrishnan two years back.The image of the Book Jacket is linked to the Online store, Viju. All you need is click 🙂 It would be historic if Narayan manages to unearth atleast a part of it. Oh, the thrill of it !Regards, cinematters

  10. CM, Brilliantly profiled.
    I hope Celluloid will do justice to the mans story rather than trying to copy the brilliantly made ‘Harishchandrachi Factory’

    1. Dear Rajesh,
      That is with a lot of help from Chelangatt’s biography too. With regard to Kamal’s venture, I have my serious doubts on the time they had invested in research, other than the two books they relied on for the screenplay. Everytime I look at Prithviraj’s makeup, I cringe – his wig looks like it has bought off from a yardsale at Udaya.The costumes are another story.I have highlighted the glaring differences of the Capitol theatre in the post itself. Regardless, when done by a A-list set of cast and helmed by a director of that stature, it will reach out to more.Thanks, cinematters

      1. The life of JC Daniel is truly stranger than fiction. I read JC DANIELINTE JEEVITHAKATHA and I was impressed by the way Chelangattu struggled to do justice to JC and VIGATHAKUMARAN. but the date of the release of the movie VIGATHAKUMARAN still remains in controversy. In all articles Chelangattu wrote it was mentioned as 1928. The book JC Danielinte Jeevithakatha was published after his death- and it was for the first time the date is mentioned as 1930. Possibly, the editors might have been influenced by a letter/ pamphlet produced by historian Kunnukuzhy Mani in which the mention is made about 1930. However, Kunnukuzhy Mani has recently gone on record doubting the veracity of the letter/pamphlet and that the year of release is 1928 itself. Support has also come from Director Vijayakrishnan lambasting the correcting of the dates in JC DANIELINTE JEEVITHAKATHA after the death of the author.
        I have seen 2 documentaries about JC Daniel- one by Shri. R. Gopalakrishnan (walking encyclopedia of Malayalam cinema) who categorically says that the date of release is 1930. the second documentary is one by Kiran Ravindran who supports the theory of 1928. the first documentary is avaialble online and I think is titled LOST LIFE.
        CELLULOID is based on Chelangattu’s book and the novel NASHTA NAYIKA by Vinu Abraham. It is a fictional account of JC’s life- so some literary licence can be taken by the makers- but I hope it doesnt deviate too much away from reality.
        Regarding whether a print of VIGATAHKUMARAN will surface one day????- I still have hope. The print of Marthandavarma (1933) was retrieved from the go down of Kamalayalaym book depot and taken to Poona film archives in 1973. Similarly, I think, somewhere in the world a print of Vigathakumaran might by lying in oblivion. I have infact made an attempt to see whether one such print exist (The movie was screened in Nagercoil, Alappuzha and Trivandrum simultaneously. One print was destroyed by JC’s youngest son Harris Daniel. By that time Sundaram Daniel (elder son of JC Daniel who had acted as the young boy) had shifted to Australia and had retired from Trinity College Melbourne .He was known as CJS Daniel. Would he have taken with him a print of the movie? Sundram Daniel died in 2002. I emailed Trinity College, wrote a snail mail letter…but no success with Trinity College. However, I found details of Sundaram Daniel’s son Rohan Daniel…but unfortunately he too passed away in 2006. Thenfrom his obituary I got the name of his sister and brother in law and subsequently wrote an email to whom I belive is the bro-in-law of Rohan Daniel. There was no reply whatsoever. If only I could get into contact with Olive Daniel- widow of Sundram Daniel- whom I believe is still alive- I could get some solid answers…at least I am hopeful of getting some snaps of the said movie.(touch wood).
        Here is the news item from which I started my research. If any of you could get at least one step further in this research, it would be blessing for Malayalam cinema history

        DANIEL ¬ C.J.S. (Retired Vice Principal – Trinity College Kandy) passed away peacefully in Australia. Beloved husband of Olive, loving father of Rohan and Lilani, father-in-law of Robin Ratnam and papa of Andrea, son of the late Dr & Mrs J.C. Daniel of India, brother of Sulochana, Vijaya, Lalitha and Harris, brother-in-law of late G. Justin, Fred David, late Henry John, Susila, the late Dr Arthur and of Muriel Pandian of UK. Cremation was held on Saturday 5th October. 4/3, Grandview, St Glenroy, Victoria 3046, Australia.

        1. Dear Narayan,
          Thank you, as usual, for your comprehensive perspectives 🙂 I had a chance to speak to R Gopalakrishnan, truly a “walking encyclopedia of Malayalam cinema” two years back, and we had a couple of conversations on this subject too.Unfortunately the calls made later to him remained unanswered for reasons unknown. I am willing to put my money on his findings rather than anyone else, for the simple fact that his lucid, systematic and logical way of approaching topics like these are in itself proof of the research he has done. After all, the history of Balan, our first talkie would have been forever lost, if not for him.Though R Gopalakrishnan promised to send a DVD of the documentary, it never materialised, so thank you so much for pointing me in that direction. Could only watch it with a lump in my throat. I recall him telling about the public advert on the release of The Lost Child that he has verified with his own in the Deepika Newspaper. I rely on R Gopalakrishnan more than Vijaykrishnan and Kiran Ravindran – the latter’sbook History on Malayalam Playback is replete with inaccuracies, from what I was given to understand by an enthusiastic cinephile who bought the book right on the day it was out, and hasn’t stopped swearing since. The fact that the CG’s book’s dates were edited to read 1930 is news to me ! How dare can any publisher do that without the consent of the author or his next of kin , however inaccurate it might be ? The letter/ pamphlet in question – is that the one there in the Photo Gallery annexe of the book, which clearly says 1930 ? Appreciate your doggedness in pursuing the Daniels Family in quest of that Lost Print. But wouldn’t it be easier contacting Harris Daniel who is now contactable, thanks to the makers of Celluloid . Surely he could be the best person to get the details of his eldest sister-in-law, how ever “distant” they might be. Would be a pleasure to pitch in alongside 🙂 Thanks again, cinematters

          1. Regarding the controversy of 1928 or 1930- the movie might have been released in 1930- that might be the truth. But the question is whether one can tamper with the manuscript of a person after his death. Chelangattu rightly or wrongly believed 1928 to be the date of release of the movie. its seen so in an article he wrote in 2004 itself. By that time R. Gopalakrishnan’s documentary had been released- yet chelangattu persisted with his theory of 1928. The editors of the book might have changed the date for historical accuracy in the better interest of history- but is it fair to Chelangattu himself. these are not my words but that of director Vijaykrishnan who voices the same in Kiran ravindran’s documentary. I shall email Krian and ask him whether an online link to the documentary is available. Gopalakrishnan Sir’s documentary is an independent one and is not based on Chelangattu’s research alone.
            I know both Gopalakrishnan Sir and Kiran Ravindran personally. (I am not sure whether they know each other). II have also with me a copy of Playback in Malayalam Cinema. As a layman to the nuances of music and playback, i found the book useful- but a scholar of Malayalam cinema music might disagree.
            From what I understand, Harris Daniel had been estranged from his brothers and sister for quite a long time. in fact, he was not even informed about the death of his father. the fact is that JC Daniel’s children never cared for him and he lived a life in penury till his death. Only after the Govt. declared him to be the father of Malayalam cinema did the “close relatives” surface. If Harris had with him any of these details, or contact with Sundram Daniel’s family the picture/photos would (if any) have resurfaced by now. But frankly, who cared about JC Daniel within his family until the efforts of Chelangattu paved way for the Govt. to declare him as the father of Malayalam cinema. After the hullabaloo surrounding CELLULOID dies of, I dont think anybody will try to doggedly pursue for a copy of VIGATAHKUMARAN. I think only a genuine passionate researcher truly interested in Malayalam cinema would attempt the same…and where else would we find such a passionate person other than over here in OMC.
            I have also wondered if Internet was common 20 years back, and had Chelangattu been net savyy..what would have happened????
            Another interesting trivia which Gopalakrishnan Sir shared with me. The first studio was Sarada Vilasam opposite PSC Office in Pattom, TVM. from the mid nineties onwards Goplakrishnan Sir was trying to pursue the govt. of Kerala to purchase the same and house the office of kerala chalachitra academy. But to no avail…finally the building itself was demolished sometime back. And chalachitra academy still hasnt got a building of its own and is on a rented premises..
            I also have with me the “recreated Balan titled GOOD LUCK TO EVERYBODY by Gopalakrishnan Sir. An amazing work.
            I have invited Gopalakrishnan sir to OMC- and i think he is a discreet viewer of all posts in this forum, but has not yet actively come to the front.

          2. Dear Narayan,
            Please correct the newspaper that was Gopalakrishnan’s reference to Deepika and NOT Kerala Kaumudi.I would totally agree with Vijaykrishnan on that – as in how dare they? With regards to the Daniels, one can read between the lines as one goes furthur into JC’s life and times, and it seemed so strange ( don’t know whether you have noticed it ) listening to Harris Daniel speak of life events that was ALREADY mentioned in Chelangatt’s biography, and NOTHING more.There wasn’t ONE incident from his childhood or their lives which wasn’t in print .I found that strangely unsettling. It seemed as if he had read the biography and was just mouthing the events. Then again, its just me. With public memory short, what you said is absolutely right – these won’t make a dime’s worth of difference once the movie “event” passes.R Gopalakrishnan had also mentioned this in our conversations about the Sarada Vilas legacy and how KCA seemed least bothered.It is with relief that I came across the video byte of the place in the short film too, and am sure he will have a lot more of the premises in his raw footage. Thank God for that.At least, it would be safe in his hands and we have video archive of the studio.I do have a copy of GoodLuck to Everybody which I consider one of the most invaluable printed works ever published on Malayalam cinema.Gopalakrishnan had also mentioned of his desire to put the history of Malayalam cinema online and had said he had already started work on it, but have no idea what happened after that.Thanks so much Narayan, again.Regards, cinematters

          3. I called up Shri. Saju Chelangattu- son of Shri. Chelangattu Gopalakrishnan earlier today and asked him about the controversy surrounding 1928 and 1930- and which is the actual date of release of the movie. In fact it was Shri. Saju who took the yeoman task of publishing JC DANIELINTE JEEVITHAKATHA which is the basis for the upcoming Kamal movie CELLULOID. Saju apologetically pointed out that the year of release of the movie was November 7, 1928 itself and not October 23, 1930 as pointed out in the book. As like others Saju also got carried away by the pamphlet (given in the book itself) which was retrieved only around 10 or 12 years back. It was Shri. Kunnukuzhy Mani who had obtained the said pamphlet and thus movie history was re-written as 1930.
            Kunnukuzhy Mani himself recently doubted the veracity of the said pamphlet and he pointed out that JC Daniel had been given an award by Public Mirror in 1929. (information from the documentary about JC Daniel by Kiran Ravindran). That would mean that 1928 was the actual year of release of the movie. After that Shri. Saju began researching more and more and also got hold of a book written about Malayalam cinema history by his father in 1968 (when JC Daniel was still alive), wherein the year is mentioned as 1928 itself. Saju pointed out that in all articles written about JC Daniel by his father the year was 1928 itself.
            I then asked him, what prompted him to correct the year on the basis of a pamphlet. Saju candidly replied that all other information about 1928 was based solely on what his father had written based on conversations with JC Daniel. Here for the first time a documentary evidence was there showing it as 1930. By the early 2000’s his father was afflicted with several diseases including diabetes and memory also began to fail him. Chelangattu passed away in June 2010. On one hand Saju had the task of taking up publication of the book written by his father and on another hand he had also to present history as it is. Would his father have wanted his book to reflect the true history or what he might have (falsely) believed to be true history? Saju thought that his father would have wanted history to be presented as it is- and being of the bonafide belief that his father might have been wrong- corrected the date in his book. From what I felt from the telephonic conversation is that Saju had done the same not out of any disrespect but out of more respect and love for his father- and in better interest of both Chelangattu and of Malayalam cinematic history. I also felt the grief in his words about tampering with what his father had written….
            Further research has convinced Saju that his father was correct. Saju also told me about the Deepika news item. He says that it is only a two line news about the movie and doesn’t mention it as being the date of first release. The next edition of JC DANIELINTE JEEVITHA KATHA would bear the correct date and the pamphlet purportedly to be published in 1930 would be avoided.
            However, Kamal’s Celluloid would state the date as 1930 October 23rd- the damage has already been done. Kamal had also relied on NASHTA NAYIKA by Vinu Abraham- in that book also 1930 is given as the date of release. Like others, Vinu Abraham might also have been carried away by the pamphlet showing date as 1930.
            I have also informed Shri. Saju about and asked him to join the same. Shri. Saju can be contacted at 9895209243 or by email
            In a way I welcome CELLULOID- whatever be the shortcomings, misinformation if any it contains. It is a great attempt to preserve the legacy of JC Daniel, the legacy of Malayalam Cinema…and for the first time acknowledging the legacy of film historians like Chelangattu Gopalakrishnan….the truly unsung heroes of Malayalam film history.
            The life time achievement award is given in the name of JC Daniel….hope the Govt. would wake up (there is a proposal to name the best actress award in name of Rosie) and institute the award for the best book about Malayalam cinema in the name of Chelangattu Gopalakrishnan. Likewise articles about Malayalam cinema can be in the name of Kozhikkodan or Cinic. That would be the best way of acknowledging these legendary figures for their contribution to our cinema legacy.
            I am also happy that Shri. Ganesh Kumar has gone on record asking for prints of old movies for preservation by Chalachitra Academy. A step which I believe has come too late. I had earlier written about the attempt made by Shri. R. Gopalakrishnan to preserve our first studio Sarada Vilasam and what happened to it.
            And another good news- most books about Malayalam cinema by Chelangattu is on the anvil to be republished including CHALCHITRA VYAVASAYAM KERALATHIL.. MALAYALA CINIMAYILE VAANAVARUM VEENAVARUM has been recently republished by DC (and I was the first to buy it from DC books on 18th Jan- the day it was released).

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