Our Beautiful People | Malayalam films about, or those that featured animals

Kaadinte Makkal (1985) Malayalam film Poster
Courtesy : KK Vin

Do you remember watching the Shankar-Gowri love story-based on a screenplay by MT Vasudevan Nair unfolding on the big screen?

A poignant tale of two lovers kept in captivity, who were made to dance to the cruel tunes of their masters ? Two lovers who decided to escape from the chains and clutches of the evil villians, to everlasting freedom. Produced by Gandhimathi Balan, the movie was a runaway hit when released in 1985 and most probably every 33+ kid out here might have watched this movie. Shankar and Gowri- the hit pair, were newcomers and to the best of my knowledge, their only screen outing ever. Here is a clue if its still hazy – Shankar and Gowri were monkeys, and the movie was Kaadinte Makkal, released in 1985.

As a kid living in Thiruvananthapuram during the 80’s, the highlight was going to Sreekumar theatre to see live action movies in which animals were the stars. I remember seeing some of the Lassie movies, a few in the Benji series, The Ugly Dachshund, The Cat From Outer Space, Monkeys Go Home, The Horse in the Grey Flannel Suit, That Darn Cat, Zebra in the Kitchen, Clarence the Cross-eyed Lion, The Last Giraffe, Bedtime for Bonzo and its sequel Bonzo Goes to College, Digby: The Biggest Dog in the World, Born Free, Living Free, The Shaggy Dog and its sequel The Shaggy DA, The Million Dollar Duck, The Black Stallion Part I and II, The Golden Seal etc. Dean Jones (not the cricketer) was my Hollywood hero.

Dean Jones - Hollywood Actor
Dean Jones – Hollywood Actor

I also was a serious reader cum collector of the Enid Blyton animal books like Shadow the Sheepdog, Bimbo and Topsy, and of course of our Aithihyamala and Panchathantra stories. However, as I entered my teens, I deemed these things “kids stuff” and went into more serious movies! These days, I am a closet connoisseur of these types of movies- I buy them ‘for my kids’ and the movies that I ‘casually happened to buy’ include DVD’s of Black Beauty, Babe I & II, Racing Stripes, Bringing Up Baby, National Velvet, Beethoven Pentalogy, K-9 Trilogy, Dr. Dolittle series, Flipper, Horse Whisperer, Free Willy series, 101 Dalmatians, 102 Dalmatians, Dunston Checks In, Turner & Hooch, See Spot Run and more recently Furry Vengeance and Mr. Popper’s Penguins.

Dunston Checks In Movie Trailer (1996)

But animal movies, it seems, have been given a clean go by as far as the Malayalam film industry is concerned, and for that matter Indian film industry as a whole. This is most surprising because the most popular of the international animal movies – the classic Jungle Book (and a sequel Jungle Book II released almost 35 years after the original) is set in India. I still believe we haven’t yet exploited this genre to its fullest. Most often, animals were shown in the background of circus movies like Nayaru Pidicha Pulival (1958), Valarthu Mrugangal (1981)and Joker or in movies like My Dear Karadi, The Guard, Bhoomiyude Avakashikal, Ezhamathe Varavu etc. Actually, ‘background’ might be a phrase too mild to express their presence.

Who can imagine a movie like Itha Ivide Vare without the താറാവുകൾ; or Vijayanum Veeranum without Jose Prakash and his മുതല കുഞ്ഞുങ്ങൾ; My Dear Karadi without the കരടി and the recent movie Pigman without Suraj Venjaramoodu and the പന്നികൾ. How can one explain the psyche of one of the protagonists without the presence of the tiger in Ezhamathe Varavu? And who was the real anti-hero in Mrigaya- the leopard of course. And what made Ividam Swargamanu truly divine? It was Mathews (Mohanlal) and his farm with all types of cattle. Still remember Mohanlal’s dialogue “അവള്ക്കെ..ഒരു പശുവിൻറെ മുഖമോണ്ട്…അതാ എനിക്കവളെ ഇഷ്ടമായത്…” But in all these movies the animals themselves were never the stars- and sometimes (e.g.:- Nayaru Pidicha Pulival) they became a tool just to show the brawn and bravery of the hero. They were just there –  that’s it. That said; there have been sporadic instances in which animals became the real stars on screen.

Jose Praksh’s Epic Muthalakunju Scene

Which was our first “Beautiful People” starrer ? Subject to correction I believe that Aana Valarthiya Vanambadi (1959) was our first animal- jungle movie. Though Miss Kumari played the titular role- the honours went to Bheeman (elephant) and Pedro aka Aadiyappan the monkey. The movie was followed 12 years later with the sequel Aana Valarthiya Vanambadiyude Makan.

The ‘Elephant’ Decade in Malayalam cinema

The 70’s had some interesting ‘Elephant movies’ hitting the screen. Sindhooracheppu (1971) with Madhu in the lead; Aanappachan (1978) with Prem Nazir and the classic Guruvayur Keshavan (1977) won accolades and were super hits. And Malayalees have always had a special liking for elephants and every two or three years an elephant movie used to hit the screens. Later years had movies like Kolakkomban, Aanakkorumma, Adiverukal, Aanchantham, the classic Gajakesariyogam, Prayikkara Pappan, Gajarajamanthram, Pattabhishekam – all had elephants playing a very important role. The love that exists between the protagonist and the elephant; or the concept of “an elephant never forgets” (!) had been convincingly exploited by the makers of these movies. I must also mention that elephant movies have also been popular in other parts of India. Who can forget the classic Haathi Mera Sathi starring Rajesh Khanna and the 1990 Tamil movie Durga (starring Baby Shyamili); or the popular television serial Appu aur Pappu – but by and large it has been the Malayalam film industry which has exploited the psyche of elephant love.

Guruvayur Keshavan (1977)

Ramu Kariyattu experimented with Ammuvinte Aattinkutyy – released in 1978. As the title suggests- the love and affection between a young girl and her goat is the crux of the plot. Based on a poem by KSK Thalikkulam, the movie moved on sentimental lines – with the buyer of the goat who had intended to have it for supper returning it to Ammu seeing her love and affection for it. The upcoming movie Aadu Oru Bheekara Jeevi Alla  – it seems will also have a goat in the leading role. Let’s wait and see how the movie fares.

At this juncture, I must also mention a beautiful people movie that still languishing in the cans. ‘Snehapakshikal’ – a movie for kids, by the late Beypore Mani (2004 – his last movie) that couldn’t see the light of day because it was mired in Censor controversy was the tale of a warm, loving family and the three main protagonists – Chikku the rooster, Chinnu the hen, and Manikutty the calf. Problems over its release arose from the moment the film was submitted to the Censors – particularly over a scene where the character says that the hen has been killed and eaten. The Censor Board was insistent that the producer ‘produce’ the hen before them to show that no animals were harmed or killed during the shooting of the movie ! By that time the owner of the hen had sold the same, and nobody had any idea what happened to it – and to this day Snehapakshikal languishes in the can.

However, “Man’s best friend” –  the dog, has not been shown as heroes on screen. Save for Jimmy (1978) a horror-cum- investigative thriller in which the title role was portrayed by a dog; Mudramothiram ( 1978 ) with Julie the dog  who was the only friend of the orphaned child protagonist; and years later with CID Mososa- with the German Shepherd Arjun helping Moosa in his investigations – dogs seldom have taken centre space in Malayalam movies. Kummatti (1979) is another movie which deserves mention. A Kummatti, as part of his shape shifting magic changes children of a village into animals for a brief time. Within minutes he reverts them to their original- save for a young boy whom he misses out. How the boy/ dog – goes after the Kummatti to get back his original figure is the story of this Aravindan movie.

Daivathin Veedevide from Mudramothiram ( 1978 )

Kummatti and the aforementioned Ammuvinte Aattinkutty were a part of the double feature of Doordarshan way back in the Eighties on Children’s day – but am not sure that a Vcd/Dvd of the same is available. And as I write this, the Dileep movie Ringmaster is creating a box-office ruckus – with  Toby (a St. Bernard) and Diana (a German Shepherd) playing  a pivotal role in the success of this movie. Being a dog lover myself – I for one would sure like more canines onscreen in leading roles,  and frankly would welcome a movie franchise like that of Benji or Lassie in Malayalam.

But  the best ’Beautiful People’ movie in Malayalam, still happens to be  Kaadinte Makkal and will remain so. This is the best animal movie I saw – way back in the mid – 80’s as a 8 or 9 year old kid with my parents. And I hope one day I would be able to enjoy this movie with my kids – sooner than later.

12 thoughts on “Our Beautiful People | Malayalam films about, or those that featured animals

  1. Thank you for this treasure trove of information.
    I have used some of the information provided in an article written for Pink Lungi!
    I am still continuing to use multiple articles of yours as guiding stones to understand much of malayalam film history.
    Please find my article on Padayottam, again referencing your blogs

  2. Narayanjee, your article is good different concept.

    ITHU ENTE NEETHI was the remake of jackie shroff movie TERI MEHERBANIAN.
    In PALATTU KOMAN, an elephant was there as the the intimate pal of sathyan along with S P pillai.

    G K PILLAI’s pet dog was the killer dog in Udhaya’s AGNIMRUGAM ( an ugly remake of THE HOUND OF BASKERVILLE ).

    The elephant of AANAPPACHAN has got a lot of importance in the movie, while saving his elephant, Prem nazir ( he and jayan are playing the roles of AANAPAAPPAAN ) is pushed in between the legs of elephant by JAYAN and that elephant is killing nazir. there is another elephant oriented movie called AANAKKALRI by p g viswambharan where the business of elephant Tusk is the major theme. in that film there is a famous one line by K P UMMER, to one of the rowdy whose name is KADUVA PACHAN.. UMMER says… “” INI KADUVA PACHAN ALLA SAKSHAL AANAPPAACHAN vannalum njan pedikkilla… ” both AANAPPACHAN and AANAKKALARI was released around same time. and to your knowledge narayanjee.. BOTH AANAPPACHAN and ANAKKALARI were commercial disasters.

    there is also another called AVAL ORU DEVALAYAM, where sheela has a pet dog a BAHADUR has a monkey. these dog and monkey has a major role in the climax of the film. sheela fans will be happy to know that there are 4 stunt scenes for sheela in this movie, where prem nazir has a brief cameo role of a police inspector. K P UMMER in dual role of father and son. after hearing the script of this film prem nazir said that this film would become a disaster in the box office. he even made a bet with the producer of the movie that, if this film do good business he is ready to give him 1000 rupees. and in the end, prem nazir has to give the producer 1000 rupees on the occassion of 80th day celebration of the movie at kozhikode radha theatre.

  3. Sajith Sir- thank you for your comments. Have to check out the movies you mention. Nazeer as an invisible man- news to me….the only movie which I thought explored the concept of invisible man was i think titled DESHABANDHU- starring Nizhalgal Ravi (aka Kakka Ravi) as “Deshabandhu”. a rip off of Mr. India. the movie also starred Shari and Thilakan (who often calls Deshabandhu- doshabandhu)…and come to think of it….would that mean that Mr. India is inspired from Mr. Kerala!!!!!!!!!!!!
    And I must also thank Gopalakrishnan Navjeevan who reminded me or in some cases introduced me to some of our elephant movies- and also to the movie Jimmy.

    1. thank you narayan jee for your kind words.. and narayanjee, it is not desabandhu, the film you mentioned was JAITHRAYATRA. directed by none other than SASIKUMAR sir.
      but there was another MR INDIA released in early 60s having the theme similar to SEKHAR KAPOOR’s MR INDIA. also KISHORE KUMAR’s MR X IN BOMBAY having the same theme.

  4. What an interesting article. 🙂 I must confess to having seen only a few of the films mentioned here – and definitely not Kaadinte Makkal though we had moved to Trichur when that film was released. Sadly, I cannot remember even having heard of this film. 😦

    I can sympathise with your motives for buying films ‘for the children’. 🙂 🙂 I do that with books. Thanks for a nice weekend read.

  5. Dear Narayanan
    Thanks for presenting an unique theme of your so called beautiful people in films. Your article traverse through the length and breadth of our films and thanks for the new information in this regard. One film i vote to be the best in this genre is Kummatty. Hope you remember the film released in Kasthuri cinema (The present Remya) at Thiruvananthapuram. I am not sure whether the 35 mm print of the film is available.
    A little boy accidentally transforms into a dog and realise the hardships of the domestic animals – the domination of the pedigree over the unfortunate common breed. The boy finally regains his self and the next moment he rushes to home and open the cage of his parrot and joyfully smiles at the bird flying in the sky. Aravindan tried to present a great message packed in the petals of local legend in a rural setting. Hope you do agree with me.
    Your article, in fact, encourages to recollect the films we all saw in which the beautiful people are live. May i present two such films? One is Mr Kerala (A Science Fiction) released in the late sixties. The theme is taken from the idea of people getting invisible and prem nazir is the invisible man. The anti dote is invented but the villain finally seize it and tries to break the bottle by forcibly throwing it so as to doom prem nazir forever . But the pet dog of nazir, realising the gravity of the situation jump and seize the bottle and saves his master!
    The second film i would like to submit here is Puthri (Neela Productions). The dog is the messenger between the lovers and the poor beast get killed as the movie progresses. Not going into the detailed story line since the film was telecasted by Doordarshan some years back
    Once again, thanks for your post and am looking forward for such articles in the future.

    B Sajith

    1. Wow. Mr Kerala, and that too science-fiction ! How I would love to lay my hands on this one, Sajith 🙂 Really hope a copy surfaces sometime in the near future. Came to know in a casual conversation with some folks related to the State films dept about a plan to release G Aravindan’s entire filmography as a DVD set, but I take that with a huge shovel of salt. Puthri is yet another movie I would love to watch. Thanks Sajith for these rare inputs. Your little notes are much awaited on topics on old Malayalam cinema. Thanks, cinematters

      1. Dear cm
        Thanks for the encouraging words. The print of the film Mr Kerala is not available till date. As you mentioned, let’s hope that one day somebody will claim to have a copy of the film. In fact, chalachitra academy some years back announced that they are going to release the classics in Malayalam shortly. Let’s wait for it.
        B sajith

  6. Jay Sir
    sorry about ITHU ENTE NEETHI. I havent seen it nor was I aware of that movie.
    And a word about the title “beautiful people”Beautiful People (aka Animals are Beautiful People) is one of the best movies set in Africa on the life of animals- made by the same team who gave us Gods Must Be Crazy series.

    1. Another sepia trip as usual, Narayan. Thank you for this. Sindooracheppu (1971) also holds the credit for the first movie that explored in detail the mahout – elephant relationship to the best of my knowledge. Wonder where them pachyderms, canines and birds disappeared 🙂 Thanks, cinematters

  7. ശങ്കർ അഭിനയിച്ച ഇതെന്റെ നീതി എന്നാ ചിത്രം മറന്നു പോയോ. സ്വന്തം യജമാനന്റെ കൊലയാളികളെ കണ്ടു പിടിച്ചു കൊള്ളുന്ന നായ . പിന്നെ ഹാത്തി മേരാ സാത്തി ഇവയൊക്കെ എന്റെ ബാല്യങ്ങളെ രോമാഞ്ചം കൊള്ളിച്ചിരുന്നു

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