Salil Choudhary had this amazing sensibility to really get under the skin of any genre of music that he was briefed to create according to the Director’s vision. Add to the sound tapestry that we are familiar with, when it comes to Salilda‘s contribution to Malayalam cinema, a Russian composition for Nellu (1974), and I would say the most perfect Christian harmonic church chorale I have ever heard onscreen was in Aparadhi ( 1977), Nanma Cherum Amma. It is also surprising that he never repeated that composition anywhere, maybe because it was so appropriate and unique, just perfect for that moment for that one film in Malayalam. I have had the misfortune to listen to countless versions ( really really horrible, terrible, scary covers) of the song available in the market, and I chuckle to myself when you realise that even with the latest cut-and-paste sound engineering magic in recording studios these days, NO ONE has been able to replicate the haunting harmony of the song!
All the 9 songs in Bharya (1962) were super hits. Starting from Periyare by AM Raja, and ending with the dirge Dayaaparanaya Karthave, between themselves ensured that M Kunchacko laughed and danced all the way to the box-office.
Presumably based on the real-life incident of an illicit affair gone horribly wrong involving a college professor’s family, there were three songs that could be termed as Christian devotional songs. Written by Vayalar and set to tune by G.Devarajan, maybe they remain classic and timeless, even today, for the simplicity and unique structures of the songs. Speaking of uniqueness, nothing could beat Kanivolum from Snehaseema (1954) composed by Dakshinamurthi. That and more, as we go down the sepia lane.
Umma (1960), was a movie that could be remembered for many reasons. The first mainstream Malayalam film that successfully integrated the Muslim social fabric into “the commercially existing family drama format” in Malayalam Cinema and made a high-voltage potboiler out of it. It also rescued Udaya Studios from going under, and saw the debut of M.Kunchako as a director.
But it was the 12 songs (!) from the MS Baburaj – P.Bhaskaran team that I think made it all the more memorable, and amongst them, the funky Kadalivazha Kaiyyilirunnu sung by Jikky.
In the annals of immortalising the Kerala Samurai onscreen, Navodaya Appachen was no less in contributing his vision on kitschy celluloid.
Maliampurackal Chacko Punnoose, known as Navodaya Appachan, I believe, came into the limelight ( literally) starting off from where his illustrious and legendary Kunchako left after Kannappanunni (1977), which was Udaya’s 75th film. Appachen started off with his multi-starrer Thacholi Ambu (1978), bringing MN Nambiar as the arch nemesis in the costume-drama (and what a costume-drama it was, folks! ), followed by Kadathanattu Makkam in the same year!
Though the Northern Ballads and its variations had been adapted to local folk theater, I think the reigning God of Malayalam film production Sri. Kunchacko who owned the biggest studio of those times, Udaya saw the mother lode of a possibility by translating them on screen. Sri.Kunchacko, I think, was the Yash Chopra of the Malayalam film industry.He started off the filmi ballads with Unniarcha, a B& W production, in 1961.
Sri.Kunchacko added variations, brought in new characters, spun off sub-stories, all of them wrapped up in the same gaudy, kitschy costume trains and ornaments borrowed straight from the local theater. I always thought there was a divine connection between the bright and flaring silk embellishments to its ‘original’ counterparts across the sea, the Samurais of Japan! 🙂
Way back in the mid-60’s, Clint Eastwood and Sergio Leone transformed spaghetti westerns to such a degree that these movies walked right out of Hollywood and caught the fancy of millions of cine-goers all around the world. It still maintains its chunk of admirers in India – the Texan drawl, the ‘fastest draw’ and a fancy for Louis L’Amour – all of them pointers to the fascination for the sheer effect of incredulity and larger-than-life characters who were progeny of a harsh, unforgiving landscape and glorified the underdog’s tilt at social class windmills.