Canned Stories – the unfinished and unreleased films from Malayalam cinema

Abandoned Film Cans - Shivendra Singh Dungarpur
Pix Credit & Rights : Shivendra Singh Dungarpur

{ The first in a 3-part series by Narayan Radhakrishnan with additional inputs from Gopalakrishnan Nair, Radhakrishnan P.S., Prabhakaran Nair, Sajith Bhaskaran & Sibi Salam. }

For every movie that reaches the cinema – there are tales of more than a dozen stories that never made it . Some were killed even before germination took place; some were aborted midway; and some still are imprisoned, for a lifetime hoping that someday at some time – they will be released. പെട്ടിയിലായപടം the phrase itself originated along with the release of the first movie in Malayalam. History has it that Vigathakumaran and Marthtandavarma were relegated to the cans days after its release. Thankfully, at least they got to be released at least for 2 or 3 days. The first Malayalam movie that attained the status of “പെട്ടിയിലായത്” ? must be Bhootarayyar – (1939 – 40) made by the same team that brought us Balan. KK Aroor, M.K. Kamalam and a young comedian named SP Pillai acted in this movie – but the movie was shelved due to the death of its producer.

Character Sketches-APPAN THAMBURAN'S-BOOTHARAAYAR -Bindu Menon-4
Bootharayar Character Sketches / Courtesy : Bindu Menon

Luck also did not favour two of the actors of Balan. Gopinath who acted as Kittu Panicker in Balan tried his hands in production with a movie called Aakasha Paravakal; and Aleppy Vincent invested money for a project called Mathavu and later Kedavilakku– but all these projects were dropped midway due to financial constraints.

1950s – 80s : of the movies of Sathyan, Nazeer, Madhu, Jayan et al

During 1950-51, novelist Balakrishnan, son of former Travancore chief Minister C. Kesavan  got enamoured by the tinsel world and decided to make a movie. Two youngsters – one with a rugged look and the other with a chocolate boy look were cast in the lead. But turbulent politics and finally the fall of the Kesavan ministry also marked the end of Balakrishnan’s dream. But the two heroes subsequently created waves in Malayalam cinema. They were Sathyan and Prem Nazeer and the movie was Thyagaseema. Another dream project pairing Sathyan and Nazeer was Ettuveettil Pillamar  (dir. Veliyam Chandran) but the project was revamped with the director shown the door and Panchavankadu came in its place, with Kunchacko himself directing the movie. In fact the first three movies of Sathyan failed to see the light of the day. They include other than Thyagaseema, Kedavilkakku and The Pious.

Kallippalakal Poothu – Panchavan Kaadu ( 1971 )

During the late Sixties – a versatile young director decided to make a movie called Kamuki (1966 – 67). An equally versatile art director joined him- and the movie was supposed to be a commercial one with songs and all that. Madhu, Adoor Bhasi, PJ Antony and Sarada were in the movie and it was based on a story by C.N. Sreekantan Nair. However, differences between the writer and the director crept up and the project was shelved. The said director also faced a problem with his next movie Prathisandhi (1971). The said movie was completed and it came up for consideration before the State Award Committee in 1971, but unfortunately did not get a commercial theatrical release. But the director’s third movie became a classic and heralded in a new era of film making in Kerala. The director was Adoor Gopalakrishnan and the art director was G. Aravindan.  Had Kamuki been completed –  this would have become the only movie in which Adoor and Aravindan collaborated. Another interesting trivia is that nowhere does Adoor mention that Prathisandhi is his first completed movie – and each official filmography lists Swayamvaram as his debut outing.

SL Puram Sadanandan-Malayalam Screenplays
SL Puram

Madhu, Sheela and Sattar had joined hands for a movie to be directed by SL Puram. Based on his drama Nidhi, the movie version was named Poya Dinangale Vannittu Pokoo, but that too was abandoned midway. The 70s showed some interesting Prem Nazir projects being abandoned midway. One of the major movie projects which was announced with much fanfare but didn’t materialise was CID Nazir Kochiyil  (1972-73) which should have been the third part of the CID trilogy by Venu. However, differences between Venu and Nazir crept up and this movie didn’t happen. Venu went on to make Prethangalude Thazhvara with Raghavan in the lead and Adoor Bhasi reprising his role as CID Bhasi, but the film bombed in the box  office ending once and for all the CID series.

Anthaman Abdullah was a project announced with much hullabaloo by Melattoor Ravivarma – but it failed to take-off. So was the fate of Gangayar Ozhukunna Nadu planned by Hariharan with Nazir, Soman and Unnimary in the lead and of Anyar directed by Thoppil Surendran pairing Nazir and Jayabharathi. Suvarnakshetram directed by K.S. Gopalakrishnan with Nazir, Jayabharathi and Kalaranjini has been completed – but legal wrangles stand in the way of it being released. Other Nazir projects which failed to see the light of the day are Chitariya Pookkal, Kaamashastram, Eeswara Jagadeeswara, Anthassu, Gurudevan, Kunjikoonnan etc. But the major Nazir project- rather his dream project which reached only the poster level was the one he planned to produce and direct –  Kanyakumari to Kashmir.  Likewise save for the posters nothing further materialised in three Udaya movies Pattalkkarante Premakatha, Chandanathiri and Naladamayanti which were to star  Nazir. General Pictures had announced a movie adaption of Basheer’s Mathilukal  featuring Nazeer and Lakshmi in the lead – but it never took off.  Another pairing of Nazir and Lakshmi, tentatively titled  Manju (dir. Sreekumaran Thampi) also stopped at the song recording stage. Another movie titled Valarthumrigangal was initially planned with Nazeer and Jayalalitha in the lead – and noting materialised save for the announcement. Other shelved projects of the late Seventies include  Thidambu (Nazir and Swapna), Adharangal Vithumbunnu (Soman) and Mayilpeeli (Sukumaran and Jayabharathi).

Moving to the 80’s – the major movie – which still remains in the cans is Pancha Pandavar –  the last movie of the legendary Jayan. Ambily, a Jayan fan from Trivandrum has made it his mission to see that this movie finally get released. My prayers are with him. Panchapandavar is the story of 5 friends portrayed by Jayan, Raghavan, Poojappura Ravi and two others who reach Bombay in search of a job. They come into contact with a beautiful nurse (played by Saumini) and the movie is about the hullabaloo followed by a pentagular love story.

The untimely death of Jayan also shelved some major projects. These include Ormakal Olangal, Nisheedhini (in which Jayan, Kamalhassan and Sukumaran were to join hands), Sreedevi Darshanam (Jayan and Ambika – a mythology story with Jayan in a non-macho role), Vazhikal Yatharakkar ( Jayan and Soman ) and Karnanan. A project announced with much  fanfare – the first multi starrer in Malayalam which would have beaten the record created by Udyogastha was Devadasi, by Sasikumar. Prem Nazir, Madhu, Jayan, Soman, Sukumaran and Kamal Hassan were roped in to play the important roles. Adoor Padmakumar was supposed to be its producer. ‘പൊന്നലയിൽ അമ്മാനമാടി’ is a song from this unmade movie. Sasikumar’s another unreleased project was Theerathinu Ariyumo Thirayude Vedana – featuring Nazir and Jayan. An interesting trivia, some of us had the privilege to see part of this movie when it was shown as a movie within the movie Komaram. Mala Aravinadan appears in Komaram as a producer who had lost everything after investing in Kodunkattinu Shesham ! This was the last movie made by Sasikumar, in 1995 – but still has not been released.

Ponnalayil from Devdasi (1979) – unreleased

Joshi’s debut work was to be a movie called Aayiram Vasanthangal – starring Vincent. But that never happened. Sathayan Anthikkadu’s debut outing was to be a movie called Chamayam. Kamal Hassan and Nedumudi Venu were supposed to join hands. But days before the shooting was to start the producer Majeendran was shot dead by his erstwhile partner. The murder created ripples in the film circles and no one came to Sathyan’s rescue. And till date Sathyan Anthikkadu has not worked with Kamal Hassan. Likewise during the early 80’s, Sathyan Anthikkadu had planned another movie titled Chicagoyil Cheenthiya Raktham based on a story by Cochin Haneefa. All was set and the crew had reached America – save for the lead actor Nedumudi Venu. The project was scrapped and Nedumudi Venu recently confessed that it took Sathyan Anthikkadu about 20 years to get back in speaking terms with him. Another Anthikkad project which was dropped after the audio record was released is Abhimanyu.

Evidayo Oru Shatru  ( based on a screenplay by M.T. Vasudevan Nair ) is yet another movie which still stays in the cans. Sukumaran and Venu Nagavally were the lead actors in this movie made  in the late Seventies. The recent movie Ezhamathe Varavu starring Indrajith and Vineeth is virtually the same story of Evidayo Oru Shatru – adapted to the present day. Another project announced with Thilakan and Soman in the mid-80’s was Puzhayorathu Oru Poojari. The audio cassette was released – but the movie reached nowhere. N. Govindankutty – legendary screen villain and scriptwriter known for his vadakkan pattu movies had his career high when Padayottam reached the screen.

After that megahit – none of Govindankutty’s stories reached the screen. Some were dropped midway and some were announced and not started at all. Movies include Attummanammele Unniyaracha, Vadakkuninnoru Pennu, Kudamalam Kunki, Ayyappaswamiyum Vavarum, Kombanaana, Goorkha, Parayipetta Panthirukulam, Iniyethra Dooram and Bhoomi.

Next The Superstar Movies – that never made it to the big screen 

23 thoughts on “Canned Stories – the unfinished and unreleased films from Malayalam cinema

  1. Narayan great work… some of this stuff we talked about last time we met :0) good to see such discussions out in public domain so this knowledge can be shared. “Thidambu” was released in 1983 if I am not mistaken. Can someone clarify..Met with Thoppil Surendran in 2013. According to him he went overseas to make money to invest in a movie with PN in the lead. Since he was the secretary of PN fans association it was easy to get PNs dates. PN still discouraged him from investing in a film project. Still he came back from Dubai and started his project “Sooryane mohicha penkutti” which was canned after shooting a couple of reels. He fell short of finance. He dint mention”Anyar” then. About KtoK, Adv.P.R Nair told me PN was a good singer and a good mimicry artist too, and he was generally interested in directing a movie. In 1977 he announced the project, but later on realized that all minutes of his days ( except for his sleeping hours) were sold out till 1981, so he had no choice but to drop the project.

    1. Sibi- thanks for the kind words….shall recheck on Thoppil Surendran’s other efforts. Thidambu does not feature in the lsit of released movies since 1980’s (references:_ Perunthani Balachandran Nair’s MALAYALA CINEMA INNALE INNU- 2009) and PREM NAZIR by Vinil Malayilkkada (2014)

  2. Dear Narayan
    Thanks for the excellent write up. Hats off for the pains you took to collate information on these lost art works. This is rather a project work than an article on the incomplete or unreleased films of malayalam.
    I remember KPAC Films announcing their next venture as Mapplia Lahala after Enippadikal (or Neelakannukal ?). One source of in the making at that period is the song books. If you go through the back pages of these song books, you will get lot many information about these films.
    Some of the films you introduced here do have excellent themes – ex. Ettuveettil pillamaar – a very interesting episode from the Travancore history that needs cinematic interpretation but failed due to some flimsy reasons. It was also read that it was later brought into the film Panchavankaadu. But i dont think that Panchavankaadu did justice to the theme.
    Looking forward the next installment of information from you

    Foot note: Narayan, Shri K Balakrishnan is well known as a Journalist and a speaker rather than a novelist. He was also the MP of the erstwhile Ambalapuzha Constituency. His Kaumudi weekly was very very popular at that time than his novels such as Kalayalavu Oru Varsham etc. Right?


    B Sajith

  3. താഴെ കാണുന്ന വാചകങ്ങള്‍ താങ്കളുടെ ലേഖനത്തിലെയാണ് നാരായന്‍ ജി..

    “Sasikumar’s another unreleased project was Theerathinu Ariyumo Thirayude Vedana – featuring Nazir and Jayan. An interesting trivia, some of us had the privilege to see part of this movie when it was shown as a movie within the movie Komaram. Mala Aravinadan appears in Komaram as a producer who had lost everything after investing in Kodunkattinu Shesham ! This was the last movie made by Sasikumar, in 1995 – but still has not been released.”

    കോമരം എന്ന സിനിമയിലെ മാളയുടെ റോള്‍ താങ്കള്‍ പറഞ്ഞ പോലെ തന്നെയാണ്.. പക്ഷെ അതില്‍ കാണിക്കുന്ന ജയന്‍ അഭിനയിച്ച സീനുകള്‍ കൊടുംകാറ്റിനു ശേഷം എന്ന സിനിമയിലെയാണ്.. അല്ലാതെ താങ്കള്‍ സൂചിപ്പിച്ച പോലെ തീരത്തിന് അറിയുമോ തിരയുടെ വേദന എന്ന സിനിമയിലെ അല്ല.. { ഈ ഒരു സിനിമ ആലോചന ഘട്ടത്തില്‍ തന്നെ ഇല്ലാതായ സിനിമയാണ്.. } അതുപോലെ കൊടുംകാറ്റിനു ശേഷം ശശികുമാര്‍ സിനിമയല്ല.. അദ്ദേഹത്തിന്‍റെ അവസാന സിനിമയുമല്ല.. ഈ ലേഖനത്തിലേക്ക് കുറെ കാര്യങ്ങള്‍ താങ്കളോട് പറഞ്ഞു തന്ന ആളെന്ന നിലയില്‍ ചില വ്യക്തതയില്ലാത്ത കാര്യങ്ങള്‍ താങ്കളുടെ ശ്രദ്ധയില്‍ പെടുത്തിയെന്നെ ഉള്ളു..

    1. Gopalji- I must mention my sincere thanks to Gopalakrishnan, Sajith Bhaskaran, Sibi Salam, Radhakrishnan PS and Prabhakaran Nair- who had raked their memories to help me in this venture.
      Gopalji-what you said is correct-it seems a couple of lines had been inadvertently edited out- this is what I had originally written – “Sasikumar’s another unreleased project was Theerathinu Ariyumo Thirayude Vedana-. This was the last movie made by Sasikumar in 1995- but still has not been released. Also got with me the bits and pieces of the print of Kodunkattinu Shesham. An interesting trivia, some of us had the privilege to see part of this movie when it was shown as a movie within the movie Komaram. Mala Aravinadan appears in Komaram as a producer who lost everything after investing in Kodunkattinu Shesham.”
      The information that Theerathinu Ariyumo……was based on the information I got from various newspapers at the time of Shri. Sasikumar’s death.
      In fact- due to the the fact that my article was toooooooooooo long- too long even to be called an article- our moderator had a hard time trying to edit it and make it concise. I had started this article as if it is a first person account by Manikunju, the son of the director of the movie Vellaripravinte Changathi…a movie that languished in the cans for more than 45 years. With a big effort on his part, he succeeded in releasing this movie. The original article was about the various pettiyilayamovies, posters, disks, pattu pusthaknagal that Manikunju comes across in the lab….and the article was titled VELLARIPRAVINTE CHANGATHIMAR. it ran to around 6700 words. So you can guess- the amount of editing that had to be done to fix the said article within the format of OMC

    2. thherathinariyumo thirayde vedana shooting start cheytha cinemayanu, g k sreevidya, soman etc. abhinayichu, C L JOSE nte Jwalanam enna nadakathinte cinema roopam alle G K?

  4. Impressive amount of info here about movies which did not materialise.
    Are any more details available about the movie “Bhootharaayar”?

    1. Checi- thank you…..and I had help in compiling the data. The main information about Bhootharayyar I got was from the book by R. Gopalakrishnan- Good Luck to Everybody- the making of Balan
      shall try to see if more info can be received….but again no one keeps safe the jathakam of a dead child

  5. Wow…terrific post. Keep the good work going. The amount of detailed research gone into this article is brilliant. Hats off to you Narayanan. Just a quick update on Jayan documentary. After 4 years I have started working on the final edit. Will keep you posted.

  6. dear narayan I would like you to confirm whether the film Aaaramanikkoor ever got released,which I think was Ilayarajas first movie in Malayalam.rgds

    1. Visvanatahn Sir- havent heard about Aararamanikkoor- i talked with our mutual friend Gopalakrishnan- he informed me that this is actually the dubbed version of a tamil movie- not sure whether the dubbed movie had been released. shall check and revert.

      1. dear Narayan , Aara Manikoor is not a dubbed movie. Think it was a remake if the Tamil film of the 60s named Policekaaran Magal directed by C V Sridhar.
        The songs of aaramanikoor particularly Oru Naal ullasa thirunaal Was the same tune as The Tamil film Uravaadum Nenjam released in 1976 For which music by Ilayaraaja. But Aara Manikoor had a different song Raagam Mulachunnu By Yesudas and Janaki which was not in Tamil.
        Uravadum Nenjam Had the Tamil devotional thiruppaavai song Margazhi Thingal but it was not in Malayalam. Hooe you guys could add more. rgds

    2. Sir
      This is a new information. Thanks. What i learned is that the film Vyamoham was the first film of Ilayaraja with sweet melodies such as Poo Vaadikalil (Two versions – sung by S Janaki) and Neeyo Njaano?

      B Sajith

      1. Sajith Sir- wonder if you can add more information….Shri, Visvanathan is speaking about ARAMANIKKUR (half an hour)….whearas I confused it with AARU MANIKKUR (meaning 6 hours)…apologies
        And trust I am writing to the same Shri. Visvanathan from Chennai who has made it his aim in life to be the biggest collector of Ilayaraja songs……and Ilayaraja movies

      2. dear sajith, i have this lingering doubt whether it was aara manikkoor or vyamoham being Rajas first malayalam film. But read somewhere Raja saying he wasnt paid for his malayalam movie by the producer! So it could bd Aara Manikkoor. but now There seems to be a dispute in the title itself! Aara manikkoor and Aaru manikoor meanings are different !’ For me they are one and the same! Though i feel six hours Aaru Manikkoor is the right one!Rgds

      3. Dear sajith and narayananji, what about the unreleased film Chaitram produced sometime in 1989. Think it had Mohanlal and Gouthami? Music by ilaiyaraaja. It had two fabulous songs. Could you please share any info.rgds

  7. Nice to see OMC active again and that too with an unusual subject.Thanks to all the contributors for the well researched write up.Will come back and read with full attention

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