Here is one more reason to wax eloquent on one of my favorite movies, Kakkothikkavile Appooppan Thaadikal (1988). On a recent visit to Kerala, yours truly had the good fortune of making an unscheduled stop at Chamakkavu, the “Kakkothikkavu” that we are so familiar with, from the movie, where the Sacred grove becomes the central eco-system in which the characters enact their life’s roles with a delightful ending to the proceedings.
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.
This is fondly dedicated to a “Kanyakumari Evangelist “
Kanyakumari (1974), directed by KS Sethumadhavan based on MT Vasudevan Nair’s screenplay also had a unique pairing onscreen that was never repeated ever – Kamal Haasan with Rita Bhaduri ( NOT to be confused with the younger sister of Jaya Bhaduri), that too in a Malayalam film production! It was her second movie in her career having graduated from the Pune Film Institute in 1973. Zarina Wahab, her batch-mate, however decided to stick with Malayalam films along with her work in Hindi, and even started off paired opposite, guess whom – Kamal Haasan in Malayalam, in Madanolsavam (1978).
This was also Kamal Haasan’s first film in Malayalam in a leading (?) role, after his debut in Kannum Karalum (1961), which again was by KS Sethumadhavan. Kanyakumari (1974) portrays a brief increment in time, centred around the three focii – Kanyakaumari and its enduring myths, the main Rest House of the tourist destination and the vistors to the coastal town who stay there, the squalid tenement of the leading protagonist, Parvati and the events that bind them, riding on sheer chances and coincidences. In a way, as I see it, Kanyakumari is an interesting study of helplessness, sexual and spiritual – of the leading members of the cast pitted against unbridled virility without any morality, and the how destiny addresses each in its own celestial logic.
Iruttinte Athmavu ( The Soul of Darkness ) has to be probably the first mainstream Malayalam film which highlighted the travails of the unsound mind on the silver screen through its main protagonist, Velayudhan, brought to life by Prem Nazir. At a time when candyfloss romances and insanely skewed and delightful CID capers were ruling the marquee, P Bhaskaran’s attempt in bringing this “social malaise’’ was a daring effort, similar to what he attempted with Ramu Kariat in Neelakkuyil (1954), bringing untouchability to the fore. I say social malaise from a broad perspective, as, even in this age of advanced medicine, our basic mindset of an unsound mind is still a “life, doomed”, to be lived in chains.
Sri Ramachandra Babu, ISC – the Cinematographer of Padayottam was kind enough to share relevant information on the movie viz, scanned images of the movie Songbook (Pattupusthakam) that breaks down the phenomenon of 35mm, Cinemascope and 70mm to the viewer who is about to embark on this Big Screen experience for the first time. I think it was a first-of-its-kind initiative to bring the viewer up to speed in terms of the technical wizardry that he/she was just about to witness, subtly pushing up the USP of the film as a product.
Padayottam, (Military Advance / Military Assault ), unlike its Anglicized pasty synonym, carries with it a churning, lethal, powerful force of dynamism, more like a virtual, deadly juggernaut promising fury, death and destruction. N Govindankutty, in his inspired screenplay from Dumas‘ The Count of Monte Cristo, ingeniously packs it all under the weary, steely visage of a lone being, back from the dead.Its a one-man revenge-machine, and unlike its parent story, the stakes are higher, much higher. Also, the primary emotions are vengeance and justice. Hope, mercy and forgiveness which seemed to have been buried along with the ‘former life’ of Udayan Thamburan ( Prem Nazir) thankfully appears for a crucial moment and disappears forever. Even if you take the list of the costume dramas aka screen adaptations from the Vadakkan Pattukal that came out of Navodaya ( and Udaya for that matter), this walked the fine line between the clunky, kitschy opulence and a unique story line that actually engaged you.
Think Kamal Hassan, Rajinikanth, Gemini Ganesan, Thikkurissy Sukumaran Nair and Adoor Bhasi together in a movie😀, or Kamal Hassan and Rajinikanth together in a Malayalam film, that too in Cinemascope ! You could also think of it as Rajinikanth’s
only first Malayalam movie. Or the only Malayalam movie in the career portfolio of our legendary Helen . Thankfully, the movie just doesn’t arise over that. Allauddinum Albutha Vilakkum ( Alladin and his Magic Lamp), directed by IV Sasi, was a bi-lingual, made in Malayalam and Tamil ( that explains Gemini Ganesan too😛 ). If completed on time, this would have also become the FIRST MALAYALAM MOVIE IN CINEMASCOPE, but sadly got delayed due to post-production issues. And Thacholi Ambu took the credit of our first movie in Cinemascope. The story closely followed the first film adaptation of the Magic Lamp fable in Indian cinema, the Telugu box-office hit , which was also bi-lingual, ( Telugu and Tamil), Allauddin Adhbhuta Deepam, directed by TR Raghunath starring the one and only ANR as Alladin, released in 1957. This in turn, was more or less faithful on the main story line from the one in the story from the The Book of One Thousand and One Nights (Arabian Nights) to a certain point.
I know it doesn’t get cheesier than this. but just couldn’t help it I somehow felt that I really had to get my hands on this movie by Sasi Kumar and watch it this Onam. With the movie produced in the early 80’s, the color palette was another compelling reason, and of course another chance to see our leading men in tights ! Though Sreekumaran Thampi had directed and produced one called Thiruvonam (1975), I doubt whether it had anything to do with Kerala’s favorite myth.
Knowing him, he would have been metaphorically speaking. (Note to self : Need to watch that too.) I think this was one of the rare movies where you saw MG Soman in a mythological role.
CID Nazir (1971) is arguably the best (smiling here) movie of that genre – the script was the perfect template, the actors outdid themselves in their parts as ‘secret’ agents, moving around in costumes that were awesomely chucklicious and they mouthed lines that would send any self-respecting script-writer into self-loathing. But mind you, it was pure fun. As I mentioned earlier, this was Venu’s second attempt at the CID ( The Crime Investigation Department ) genre and he did get it right this time around. Every time I watch this movie, my desire to own a pair of that vintage Rayban Olympian II shades rides up a notch. Man, what a pair of exotic coolers is that !
The Beypore Sultan’s
only first Screenplay in Malayalam.
If only the Sultan wrote more Screenplays than short-stories and novellas. If only. This has to be one of the rare horror films in the history of cinema which is an absolute delight to watch with a half-smile on your lips. It is a movie that carries you away with its simplicity in narration ( yet regally eloquent if you think about it). Bhargavi Nilayam (Bhargavi’s Mansion), produced by PK Pareekkutty‘s Chandrathara Productions, was the debut directorial venture of the legendary cinematographer A Vincent, and had the screenplay written by the one and only Sultan of Beypore, Vaikom Muhammed Basheer. Shobhana Parameshwaran Nair, fondly recalls the journey they took to meet Vaikom Muhammed Basheer and coerce him to write a screenplay for them in the seminal documentary, Cinemayudey Kaalpadkual (more on that later!).
The First Successful Jungle Movie in Malayalam.
I guess I got scammed again by the VCD Mafia . Aana Valarthiya Vanambadi (1960) is said to have been made simultaneously in two languages, Malayalam and Tamil and it also holds the howlarious distinction of having had the Tamil version [ Yaana Valartha Vanambadi (1959) ] released in Kerala BEFORE the Malayalam version, according to Vijay ji. The VCD copy I have has the title cards in Malayalam, but the soundtrack is clearly the Malayalam dubbed version for the lip-movement which is undoubtedly in Tamil! Which makes me come to the conclusion that the actual Malayalam version originally released must have been the same or else they have lost the original Malayalam version. Oh, the fiends.