The Magic of those Fictional Reads from Malayalam’s Celluloid book shelves.

Novels in Malayalam Cinema

Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard are sweeter
Read books are great, but those unread are greater.

Movie lovers ! Cinephiles ! It’s time to bring to your attention some books, some classics which redefined the way we watched movies. May I welcome you on a journey across my celluloid shelf ? As I riffle through, the first title that catches my eye is Palunku written by Ravi ¹ in 1969. This book has an interesting history. The book had falsely been claimed to be written by a police officer named Madhu, but ultimately the real author surfaced and the imposter was chastened. Anyways, Palunku ultimately was heralded in the national level. A good book- but not suitable for a holiday read, is what I feel. On the same rack, furthur down, is a collection of poetry by a blind poet Jayadevan ² titled Kavyamela (1965) . Like Palunku, this poetry collection also has a chequered history and had been falsely claimed to be written by one Vikraman, before its fatherhood was rightly restored. Kavyamela had won for the author the Sahithya Academy award – but Jayadevan had snubbed the same. Some of the poems in the collection are so eloquent, especially “Swapnangal, Swapnangale”. But, then again, poetry is not exactly what I am in the mood for, right now.

Across the room, in another shelf, rests classics from the past two decades. Jayadevante Krithikal (1986) ³ stands out amongst the others, if you ask me. Jayadevan aka Padmashree Jayadevan (not to be confused with the earlier blind poet), who ultimately won the Jnanapeedam Award was a boon to Malayalam literature- though his untimely death created a big void in Malayalam literature. I have with me Moonnaam Yaamam and Innale – two of his classic reads. Innale proved interesting reading and I finished the same within an hour or so. And when I placed the book back in the rack, I found another hit of the Eighties. The debut novel of poet laureate Rajalekshmi 4 – Shantigramathile Amma (1988) – which narrates the plights of a single mother reduced to penury after an ill-fated marital life. Rajalakshmi Teacher really deserved the Kerala Sahithya Academy Award for this one, no doubt. A quick read- I finished the same in double quick time. Alongside rests another Sahithya Academy winner written by a former jail inmate Ben Narendran 5 titled Sharanalayam (1989) . Advocate Nenmara gifted me this book. It seems Ben Narendran was his client. Ben Narendran is a maverick, a man who welcomes death with both hands- and that shows in his writing.

On similar vein is Aayshmann Bhava (1998) by Sooryan, another Sahithya Academy winner. He too seems to be a person eagerly waiting for death to come and take him away. Setunath’s Swantham (2007) is another of my favorites, and I urge you to read it. In fact, the book was virtually unknown till its English translation took the world by storm ultimately winning for its author the coveted Commonwealth award. However, Sethu, it seems was not happy with the award as he had no idea who the translator was. But I think Sethu would be the first to confess that the spirit of the book was kept tight and intact during translation.

My attention now shifts to Malavika Varma’s8 Ente Muttathe Nanmaram (2005). This semi-biographic work about a young girl who gets fascinated and infatuated with the “man Friday” of her erstwhile tharavadu won a lot of critical acclaim, and at the same time a lot of flak for the author within her family circles for being too personal. Though not award winners – the highly popular works by Rajani9 including Jalakam, Neelaakaasham, Swapnangal, Venal and Kanneerdalangal take up a good portion of my shelf. These were gifted to me by Nandinikutty and her husband Ravi. Nandinikutty was a big fan of Rajani the author – but when she she said that after meeting him personally, she began to detest Rajani the person. Anway the couple had gifted me these books. Mazhathullikal (2009) by Jnanapeedam awardee Palazhee Shivasankara Pillai 10 is a great read. It’s a magnum opus- and will take some time to read. The evening calls for something light.

I now turned to my large collection of pulp fiction. And I was confused. Which should I read? Got with me three works by Sagar Kottappuram 11 – Akalumthorum Adukkunnavar, Ullaasa Thenmazha and his classic Oru Gazetted Yekshi (circa 1998). I must also mention that I have with me Mandaarapushpangal written by Sagar himself under the pseudonym C.V. Rajamama. I am a self proclaimed Sagar fan. And those who know me would have read my fan mail about his works in the letters page in the magazine “Manchadi” and “Poonkili”. Like Sagar another author whom I like a lot is Varghese Valavil.12  His works include Poocha Karutha Poocha, Oru Balaalsanghathinte Ormaykku and the hit novel Chilanthivalakaley Tata (circa 1990). Valavil has a zany sense of humour- which was a lot appreciated during the late Eighties and early Nineties. However, he has lost track during the past few years.

I believe the creative decline of Valavil became a blessing for Manoharan Mangalodaym 13 the author of hit works like Chekuthaane Snehicha Maalakha, Muscleman Thalarthiya Dambathyam, Kannimaasathile Kamithaakkal and the romantic novel Manassil Oru Kulirmazha (2008). I think Manoharan Mangalodayam will be the in-thing in pulp literature for Malayalam in the coming years. Leaning towards the far-end, I can see Urakkamillaatha Rathrikal by Subhramaniam Thonnakkal 14 and the more recent anthology of Vinayachandran 15 – Chettakkudilile Pranayam and Pathirakozhi. At the risk of pompousness, allow me to show off my complete Pappan collection 16 too. Novelist Pappan has now settled in Spain and is with the Indian Embassy over there. However, his literary outputs continue as strong as ever. Classic works include Koottilaaya Chundeli, Karutha Manasulla Velutha Manushyan and Chessu Kalikkunna Changaathi. So much to read, and so little time ( before sleep, I mean ). I have finally decided to re-read the evergreen semi-biographical classic Chirakodinja Kinakkal by the tailor-novelist N.P. Ambujakshan. 17 A poignant tale of love lost featuring a protagonist tailor and his lady love, the book is surpassed only by Devadas. And no one can read this tragic tale without breaking down. I loved this book.

My attention now turns to the detective – horror novels and whodunits. Manthrika kuthira by lawyer novelist Sunny Kuruvilla 18 is a hot favourite. Shikari is another hot favorite in this genre – but the copy I have is a tattered one – the last few pages are missing. The author is one Gopalakrishnan Pillai 19 who had settled somewhere in Karnataka. My friend Keshu 20gifted me a copy of his father’s unpublished novel Currency. It’s a thriller of the first order- and I wonder whether Keshu has taken an idea or two from the book – there is something fishy about him nowadays. But the icing in my collection of thrillers is Varikkuzhiyile Kolapaathakam by Hitchcock Kanjikkuzhy. 21 Haven’t you read it? Ace business tycoon Tony Kurishinkal and politician Kumbalam Hari have all raved a lot about this murder mystery. In fact Kanjikkuzhi had a plan to make a movie out of the book with Mammootty in the lead. But the project has not materialised till date.

How about reading some good poetry of the last twenty odd years Yuvajanotsavam by Maya 22 is a great collection of poetry centred around college campus life. Vibyor, a collection of poems in English by Susan Mary Thomas 23 is also good and so is Mayookham by Indira Balakrishnan. 24 Chandrahasante Kavithakal by the young poet Chandrahasan 25 is also an interesting read. I remember catching a musical adaptation of his poems at the local bus station, where two blind men and their sister rendered a beautiful, memorable version. I assume you are also not that averse to abstract and ultra-modern poetry, are you ? The ones like Manjil Virinja Pookkal Vaadiyappol by O.P. Olassa. 26  Who can ever forget his :

“ഭീമനും യുധിഷ്ഠിരനും  ബീഡി വലിച്ചു
സീതയുടെ മാറ് പിളർന്നു
രക്തം കുടിച്ചു ദുര്യോധനൻ
ഗുരുവായൂരപ്പന് ജലദോഷമായിരുന്നു അന്ന് !”

Kavi Kunji, 27 of  “Kallu Kudichal Pallu Vilikkum” and “Kadalu Kada Kandu” fame, is another favorite.  If you have not read the same- you should read it. Amazing to say the least. I also read Promethues by Chandradas. 28  The blurb of the book makes interesting reading. Critic Raghavan had given a resounding review when it came out, I still recall – “മലയാള കവിതയ്ക്ക് കിട്ടിയ വരപ്രസാദം .ഒറ്റ കൃതി കൊണ്ട് മലയാളത്തെ ഞെട്ടിച്ച പെരുന്തച്ചൻ ”.

My attention now turn to the drams in the shelf. I see in my shelf  Thuni Kettiya Sathyam and Arival Chuttika Lathi by S.K. Pallipuram. 29 The first drama was staged at Paleri sometime during the late Fifties. I also have with me some new age dramas written by Shakespeare Pavithran. 30 Amma Oru Kovil and Prakasham parathunna penkutty are his most famous works – the latter becoming the best-seller of the year, if I remember right.

Now my eyes go through another section of the shelf- a few English works. They include My Bloody Mistakes (2012) by Sreedhar Krishna 31 and Seasons (2009) by Sharath. 32 Of these, Seasons is the better one. It’s about love lost, fragile friendships and how some relations always stand the test of time. Sreedhar Krishna though scored big with his debut work- lost esteem before his adoring fans after trying to pass off another novel Jailile Ormakal as his own. However, he soon rectified his mistake. Dhwani Nambiar’s 33 graphic work Trivandrum Lodge (2012) also occupies pride of place in the section. The book is heavy in illustrations and is a coffee table book. But I was in the mood for a thriller. So I finally read Dam 999 by Captain Frederick Brown. 34 A chilling read- a work which hits you close to home if you are living in and around Mullaperiyar.

If you think you have had enough of poetry and novels,  how about I quickly take you through some inspirational reads before your retire ? Mathruka Manushyan  (1972) written by Vishwanathan Thambi 35 is my personal favourite. Thambi has taken care to imbibe into his personal life his teachings and concept of life. A more modern work is Gandhiye Ariyaan by Prabhakaran 36– a self-confessed Gandhian and idealist. I also have with me a lesser known work Bhumikku ethra prayamaayi, Jathikku ethra vayassayi. A pity this book has not been reprinted. The new generation ought to read and enjoy Mathruka Manushyan.

Now to mention some books which sadly I missed out. Publisher Shivadasan of Kilipattu Books of Kozhikkode had promised me a copy of debutant novelist Balachandran’s 37 novel. But unfortunately the author and the only available handwritten manuscript got lost forever in a bomb blast at Kozhikkode. G.K. Raja 38, if you recall, was a famed detective novelist of repute. He was eccentric and I remember him checking all four sides of a room and lobby in a hotel. Don’t remember the name of the hotel- but it was at the time a murder took place- where a young lady was drowned to death. Suspicion had initially fallen on the swimming instructor of the hotel- but the real culprit proved to be a 12 year old boy. Raja was on work on the novelisation of this event.

Anyway hope you all of you have a chance to read these books. Most of these books are available at that bookshop run by Shyamala Panicker. 39

[ Needless to say- even the least unobservant among us would have guessed that the books I mentioned are fictional works from some of our superhit movies. Please guess the name of the character (author) and the movie, without taking Google’s help and post the same over here.  Look forward to your discoveries. ]

21 thoughts on “The Magic of those Fictional Reads from Malayalam’s Celluloid book shelves.

  1. Also, among dramas can K K Pisharadi’s Agolavalkaranavum Athmahathyayum’ be considered? Not sure if this is in published form

  2. Cant resist adding a few lines to Olassa’s classic(this follows the lines given in the original post):
    അമ്പലത്തിന്റെ അകാല്‍ വിളക്കുകള്‍ തെളിയുന്ന സന്ധ്യയില്‍ അവള്‍ അവനോടു ചോദിച്ചു:
    “ഇനിയും നീ ഇത് വഴി വരില്ലേ, ആനകളെയും തെളിച്ചു കൊണ്ട്?”

  3. 2 – Kavyamela
    5 – Artham
    8 – Rappakal
    10 – Swa Le
    11 – Ayal Kathaezhuthunnu
    16 – Spanish Masala
    17 – Azhakiya Ravanan
    20 – Currency
    21 – No 20 Madras Mail
    25 – Sathyam Shivam Sundaram
    26 – Boeing Boeing
    28 – Patheyam
    29 – Paleri Manikyam: Oru Pathira Kolapathakathinte Katha
    30 – Shakespeare MA Malayalam

    Mainly wife’s contributions; a little weak at remembering most of these myself..

  4. There is a character played by Mamukoya in Pavakoothu. Not sure if he has written any books but he gives one line insights into his stories. 2 I remember:
    1) About a Muslim family whose elder son is asked to move out of his house for 14 years by his step mother(something in that line)
    2) About a student who betrayed his teacher for 30 rupees etc

    1. I have read novelist Kanjirakutti’s stories. there was a spldnid melodrama about a koopu muthalali- a Hajiyar- who had three wives of which he had begotten 4 children. he wanted his elder son Hassan to take over the business; but his second wife oppossed the same- and because of a promise the Hajiyar had given his wife, sends Hassan and his wife to the forest for fourteen years…
      Kanjirakutti had planned his second novel to be telvision serial. set in the background of the arabian sea it was the story of Achankunju and his lovely daughter Elsamma. Elsamma and a young man Ashraf are in love and Ashraf even helps Achankunju buy a boat. But when he becomes rich, Achankunju gives no regard to Ashraf and decides to get Elsamma married to one kuriachan. the serail was about the clamour that follows.
      I also gave a copy of this article to detective3 novelsit Kuriachan. But he was in the midst of writing a story and asked me to “remove the adhikarathinte kuppayam and come before him as a a pacha manushyan”. I immediately escaped from his presence.

      1. Friends, does anybody have with you the stories of Karunan Kalamukku. “manushyamansinne kondu ammanamadunna” Karunan had written a story based on a ghost he had met a boat jetty. Does anybody have this novel

        1. picked up another Sahithaya Academy winner yesterday. Dr. Sandeep Menon’s CHITRASHALABHAM. The protagonist of this story, Devan, is a man who upon coming to know that death is close at hand decides to make the most out of his life. Incidentally, Devan was an old friend of the author Dr. Menon. A good copy, and Ms. Shyamala Panicker from whosebshop i picked up the book told me that a Hindi version of the book had already been published in the Seventies.

  5. yup should have included Agnidevan and Manichitrathazhu. also just had a call from famed poet Das vadakkemuri . He lambasted me for not reading and buying his poems. I immediately rushed to Shyamala’s shop and got hold of his various poems. The evergreen classic he created as a tribute to Barber Balan of Melukavu Village- the lesser known poem as a tribute to Eachappan..oops Eappachan muthalali of Melukavu and the songs he composed – though unused-for the movie Pakshikal Paranotte (starring Ahsok Raj) warrants mention herein

    1. Isnt it Pakshikal Parakatte?
      While at it, Can you name the movie in which Ashok Raj acted which created some controversy resulting in a uniformed group(commando/spg?) providing security for him during the shooting of the above mentioned movie

    2. And I did not get the ans for Varghese Valvil in the ans set sent by CM. Can you please add that and send it to me please?Was more curious to see that ans than anything else as I feel i just missed it.

  6. Great idea. Know very few and they have already been answered except :

    1. Mooladhanam. Sathyan as Ravi and Ummar (“njan oru vikarajeeviyaanu”) as Madhu

    Btw, in some movie Indrans talked about the novel “Paapiyaaya Punyalan” by Kottayam Pushpanath ! Is it (the book) fictitious ?

  7. Wonderful write up Narayanji. Can imagine the effort put behind this compilation. How many movies you had to see again for this?

    Notable omission – Mahadevans collection of poems in Manichithrathazhu.(Or did I miss it here?)

    Also I believe there is a mention on Agnidevan as well. Can get from clues

    My tries.

    11)Ayal Kathayezhuthukayanu
    12)Cant get this. though Chilanthivalakale Tata looks very familiar. Was it Jagathy?
    16)Spanish Masala
    17)Azhakiya Ravanan
    21)No 20 Madras Mail
    26)Boeing Boeing
    30)Shakespear MA?
    33)Trivandrum Lodge (?)
    34)Dam 999
    37)Kaiyoppu (?)

    1. Dear Rajesh,
      Was wondering when the Quiz Master would get here 🙂 Now that you have and gladly waded in, have send the Authors’ Key by e-mail. Regards, cinematters.

  8. It’s a shame, but I have lost touch with Malayalam literature (in Malayalam). 😦 There was a time when I devoured every book on my eldest brother’s shelves, and his taste was rather eclectic. Now, it is, WDIGTT (as another blogger, dustedoff, put it) – Where do I get the time?

    1. Dear Anu,
      You are not alone in that.This “cloaked quiz” being about the literary characters and their fictional creations onscreen is also a good yardstick on how well we remember those characters. 🙂 Give it a whirl, when you get time. Thanks, cinematters

  9. 1. –
    2. Kavyamela
    3. –
    4. –
    5. Artham
    6. Aayushman Bhava (?)
    7. –
    8. Rappakal
    9. –
    10. Swa. Le.
    11. Ayaal Kadha Ezhuthukayaanu
    12. –
    13. Pokkiriraja (?)
    14. –
    15. –
    16. Spanish Masala (?)
    17. Azhakiya Raavanan
    18. Manthrika kuthira (?)
    19. –
    20. Currency (?)
    21. No.20 Madras mail
    22. Yuvajanotsavam (?)
    23. –
    24. –
    25. –
    26. Boeing boeing
    27. –
    28. –
    29. –
    30. Shakespeare Malayalam MA
    31. –
    32. Seasons
    33. Trivandrum Lodge
    34. Dam 999
    36. Samasta Keralam PO (?)
    37. Kayyoppu
    38. –
    39. –

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