Kanyakumari (1974) | Weird dialects, a strange lucky mascot and melody time-travels

Kanyakumari (1974) -Title Card

After watching Kanyakumari (1974) by the KS Sethumadhavan – MT Vasudevan Nair duo, there are places your eyebrows go, at times in puzzlement, at times in amusement and at times with sheer curiosity. These are what I felt had to be put down in a separate, yet related note. Who knows, you would find more, once you have watched the movie, or recall it from the times you watched it four decades back.

The Valluvanadan dialect in Kanyakumari.

The last thing you would expect is finding the entire cast of a narrative based in Kanyakumari speaking in the typical Valluvanadan dialect – I mean you wouldn’t expect “പണിക്ക് പൂവാണ്ട് കള്ളി രാശിത്തരം കാട്ടി ഇരിക്ക്യാ, ല്ലേ ?” from a young girl born and brought up on the Kanyakumari coastline, if you ask me. I mean, the entire “literary content that weaves the fabric of the movie” is Valluvanadan, which has nothing to do with the coastal town.

A really marked deviation in casting.

The casting of Kamal Haasan, whose character Shankaran is described as “പതിനെട്ടു പത്തൊൻപത് വയസ്സ് പ്രായം വരുന്ന ശങ്കരൻ. കയ്യിൽ കല്ലുളിയും ചുറ്റികയും ഉള്ള സഞ്ചി.മുറിക്കയ്യൻ ഷർട്ട്‌, മുണ്ട്. കറുത്ത് കോമളനായ ആ ചെറുപ്പക്കാരന്റെ ശരീരം അധ്വാനം കൊണ്ട് ധാർഡ്ദ്യo വന്നതാണ്.” in the Screenplay almost makes you chuckle looking at Kamal Haasan in the movie. Then again, it must have been factored in by the duo, for all you know for reasons of its own.

A new character-duo that adds ummm.. nothing special.

The Hussy and her partner Pimp in Kanyakumar (1974)
The Hussy and her partner Pimp in Kanyakumar (1974)

KS Sethumadhavan introduces this hustler and her husband (?) pimp into the narrative, which,  frankly ( atleast for me) does not add anything to the flow of the narrative. The “why” of it is still beyond me.

A Song before its time.

There is an instance of  Parvati humming Kadali Chenkadali from Ramu Karyat‘s Nellu (1974) in one of her jaunts around the beach, which is amusing since Nellu was released on 23rd August 1974, whereas Kanyakumari was released on 26 July 1974 🙂 Maybe, just maybe, Parvati so liked the song that she got lucky enough to listen  in an early audio release of the movie and managed to buy an LP from Kanyakumari. 😀

Kadali from Nellu (1974)

The Urban Myth of Kanyakumari’s Mayamma

If you were around in the 70’s and early 80’s in Kanyakumari, or in southern Kerala, it would have been very difficult to not have heard of this “phenomenon” named Mayamma who wandered about half-naked on the beach-fronts of Kanyakumari, with her sagely toothless smile and a faithful pack of stray-dogs that tagged along wherever she went.  I was surprised to find a website on her, which waxed eloquent on her “divinity”.

No one knows when Mayamma first appeared on the sea shore. She walked on the hot sand, unaware of the heat or hunger. She was often seen swimming in the ocean or sitting on slippery rocks among the waves. Devotees who flocked to see her would wait for hours till she returned laughing from the sea. On land she was always surrounded by a pack of adoring dogs. She fed them whatever scraps of food she found, and with the same joyful look in her eyes, fed people too. Amma would collect cigarette butts, wet sea-weed and soaking plantain stems that littered the beach and miraculously set them ablaze into a crackling fire at night. Amma never claimed to be anything special. But everyone who came to her was enveloped by the mysterious waves of kindness and compassion which flowed from her gaze.

KS Sethumadhavan even worked her into the narrative !

Would love to learn more about this phenomenon and if your memories serve you right, do write in.

Do you remember the time ?

Kaleidoscopes from the Kanyakumari beach curio shops
Kaleidoscopes from the Kanyakumari beach curio shops

A fleeting short captured in the middle of the movie and I was stunned, as it brought a whole boat load of memories rushing back. This kaleidoscope, along with the sea-shell curtains and those six packets of colored sand was a common factor in all tourist baggages that returned from kanyakumari, including mine, especially from every visit in my childhood.

Do you remember yours?

RelatedClassic Picks | KS Sethumadhavan | Kanyakumari (1974)

RelatedThe Songs of Kanyakumari (1974)

4 thoughts on “Kanyakumari (1974) | Weird dialects, a strange lucky mascot and melody time-travels

  1. My memories of Kanyakumari are linked to Padmanabhapuram Palace, the salt heaps of Uppalam on the way there, and the final boat trip to Vivekanandappaara and back.

    And yes, the beautiful bead or shell necklaces and shell birds, and as you say, the multi-coloured sand in small plastic pouches, not to mention the Kaleidoscope. (Now I have one on my phone… 🙂 ) Fascinating, the designs they form themselves into.

    Mayamma is news to me. We had a character called “Sundari Chellamma” living on the streets in and around the Padmanabhaswamy Temple.

  2. a whole kaleidoscope of memories you have brought out with this post. those kaleidoscopes, those old jigsaw puzzles with pictures from panchatantra tales, those toy wooden cooking sets… the next time i go home, i plan to do some ‘touristy’ shopping.

  3. valluvanadan dialect in kanyakumari LOL! but then, don’t most malayalam films speak valluvanadan? dialects are coming into their own only now.
    mayamma in your post came as a pleasant surprise. with mongoloid features, a mundu that came to her knees and a lost look, i have seen her so many times, surrounded by her bunch of stray dogs and heard so many stories about her. an now, a website on her!!! i think most people there have forgotten about her. at one time, she was as much a part of that landscape as the gandhi mandapam and the three seas. thanks for that peep in to the past.

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