KS Sethumadhavan’s Kanyakumari (1974) had 2 songs in Malayalam written by Vayalar, set to music by MB Sreenivasan. There is an English song credited for its lyrics and music to MB Srinivasan but I strongly contest that and feel a collaborator on the lyrics have been left out. There are two instrumental pieces, catering to two disparate forms of dance as it were, a Shiv Parvati Lasya piece, and a music montage of Jayan’s memories of his Bohemian life, of a life-time of drugs, sex and rock-n-roll.
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.
MT Vasudevan Nair’s screenplay of Iruttinte Athmavu (1967), though written based on his short story which was published even earlier, sounds as incisive and at some levels, visonary, in the way he has made his characters speak on the issue of the Unsound Mind in our social structure.
Rarely do I come across a movie with all the songs picturised on the lead female protagonist, sung for her by the same playback singer as solo renderings. With Iruttinte Athmavu (1967), it rises a couple of more levels as each one of them, with its perfect picturisation and lyrics, becomes a cherished treasure in its own right.
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.
[ This is a guest post by Prakash Rajan, from Bangalore India, now residing in New Jersey, USA. Prakash is an inveterate cinephile and an 80’s -era Malayalam films junkie.”I love Sathyan Anthikad, Satajit Ray and Stanley Kubrick“, says Prakash. Touch base with Prakash here.]
‘Sarvakalshala’ is quintessential Venu Nagavalli. Why? This is because, like the man himself, the film is philosophical and brooding. There is a pervading sense of melancholy in the movie, just like our man who is known for his pensive image. However, there is more to Venu Nagavalli than what meets the eye.
[ Remitha brings up the lighter side of the Oh-So-Serious-70 MM Movie making and the grandeur of Padayottam (1982) ]
When The Count of Monte Christo, Alexander Dumas’ sweeping tale of love, betrayal, revenge and eventually forgiveness, was adapted for the Malayalam audience, the result was a melting pot of the international kind. From sartorial ‘elegance’ to home décor, what ended upon the screen was a potpourri of colour and pageantry with influences drawn from around the world.
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.
[ In the course of putting together whatever information I could on the movie, I had always felt nothing could ever come close to capturing the spirit of the production than from the stalwarts who were at the helm, who actually made it possible. Legendary DOC K Ramachandra Babu, who was the DOC of Padayottam, was gracious enough to respond to the short note I had send him on his recollection from the production times of Padayottam (1982). Thank you Sir. ]
This is how it went.
With Padayottam, it was your first project with Navodaya Studios, which, in my opinion was a reflection of your own wild, daring spirit in pushing the frontiers of film-making in Malayalam film industry. How did you become a part of the project?