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Jeevitha Nouka
(1951)

Jeevitha Nauka(1951)
Sebastian Kunjukunju Bhagavathar, Thikkurissi, S. P. Pillai, Nanukuttan, Muthukulam Raghavan Pillai, Adhimoolam, B. S. Saroja, Pankajavalli

'Jeevithan Nauka' is considered the first Malayalam 'mega hit' film. It was simultaneously shot in Tamil and Telugu. The success of the different versions prompted the producers to dub the film in Hindi as 'Jeevan Nauka' (1952). The Hindi version also did well.

The film portrayed the life of simple folk in a small village in Kerala. The treatment is simple, straightforward and objective. At a time when most south Indian films told stories of kings and gods, 'Jeevitha Nauka' spoke of human sufferings. This was a new experience.

Soman (Thikkurissi) is brought up by his elder brother Raju (Sebastian Kunjukunju Bhagavthar) and his shrewish wife Janu (Pankajavalli). Soman is in love with Lakshmi (B. S. Saroja), the daughter of a poor village performer Kaniyan (Adhimoolam) who belongs to a lower caste. Raju, employed by the Minda (Nanukuttan) and Janu resent the inter- caste marriage between Soman and Lakshmi.

Lakshmi gives birth to a son and in the meanwhile Soman goes to the city in search of job. Lakshmi who is left behind in the village faces harassment at the hands of the villagers. In the city, Soman is hit by a car driven by a rich young woman who takes him home and also employs him as the manager of her estate. Janu starts receiving Soman's letters and remittances which start arriving. Janu does this by impersonating Lakshmi with the connivance of her brother Shanku (S.P.Pillai).

Meanwhile Lakshmi leaves the village in search of Soman. During her wanderings Lakshmi sees her husband with a woman and suspects him of being disloyal. The young woman is none other than his employer. Lakshmi tries to kill her child and commit suicide but what saves her is the instinct of motherhood. Lakshmi gets together a band of beggars and organizes a home for them. She uses her talent as an actress and collects funds for the home by staging plays. Back in the village life turns its tables on Raju and Janu, while her brother Shanku is killed. The real culprits, the Minda's advocate and his group of people mislead the police implicating Soman in the murder. During one her plays, Lakshmi recognizes her husband who is about to be arrested on the trumped up charge. Explanations follow and Soman is absolved of the false charge and the couple are reunited. Raju is helped out by Soman. Janu who has now become a beggar is recognized by Lakshmi. Regardless of what has happened in the past, Lakshmi takes Janu home. And all ends well.

There were 14 songs in the film. Music by Dakshinamoorthy followed the then prevailing trend of imitating popular Hindi tunes. Mehboob entered the cinema world by singing for this film. Though an imitation of the Mohammed Rafi song from the Hindi film 'Dulari' (1949) 'Suhani rat Dal chuki…' (Naushad), the soulful rendering by Mehboob made the song 'Akaale aarum kaividum…..' memorable. Other songs like, 'Aaanandamiyalum bale….' (P. Leela) , 'Thoraathasru dhaara….' (Revamma), imitations of tunes from 'Barsaat' (1949, Shanker- Jaikishen) failed to impress. A duet, 'Aanathalayolam venna tharameda…' sung by Sebastian Kunjukunju Bhagavathar and Alappuzha Pushpam, father and daughter, in real life, became a super hit.

Will be remembered: Noted singer Mehboob made his film debut in this film. It will also be remembered for the songs, 'Aanathalayolam venna tharameda…' (Bhagavathar, Pushpam) and 'Vana gayike vinnil varoo nayike...' (P. Leela, Mehboob).

Aasha Deepam
(1953)

Ashadeepam(1953)
Sathyan, Gemini Ganeshan, T. S. Balaiah, Padmini, B. S. Saroja

The grand success of the film ?Amma' produced by T E Vasudevan in 1952 in Malayalam and Tamil simultaneously encouraged him to produce ?Ashadeepam'. Like his earlier film, this one was also simultaneously produced in Tamil under the title ?Ashaimakan'. Both the Malayalam and Tamil versions were released on the same day, September 18, 1953.

The main characters in both the language versions were performed by almost the same artistes, Satyan, Gemini Ganeshan (as R Ganeshan in the title cards), T. S. Baliah, Padmini, B. S. Saroja, and Girija. ? Ashadeepam' was the Malayalam debut of Gemini Ganeshan, the romantic hero of Tamil cinema, who played a negative role in this film. Music director V. Dakshinamoorthy also acted in a minor role, that of a school teacher in the film.

The story of the film was a repetition of the social movies released earlier. The script and dialogues were written by the noted Malayalam novelist Ponkunnam Varkey. And the dialogues for the Tamil version were written by a Tamil scholar, Nagercoil Padmanabhan.

The film was shot at Vauhini Studios, Madras. The dances choreographed by K. R. Kumar were one of the main attractions of the film. A special dance performed by Padmini and her group turned a topic of discussion. A rotating multi-storied, expensive set was designed for the dance sequence. Rajagopal, Adhi.M. Irani and Venkittaraman, three noted technicians of the time, handled the camera. Editing was by M S Mani, and this was his debut film.

The South Indian film version of the Sarathchandra Chatterji's immortal love story, ?Devadas' (Tamil/Telugu) directed by Vedantam Raghaviah and starring Nageswara Rao and Savithri was released just a week before the release of ?Ashadeepam'. ?Devadas' was running to packed audiences in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. In spite of this ? Ashadeepam' and ? Ashaimakan' did well at the box office.

Panikkar (T. N. Gopinathan Nair), the wealthy landlord and his widowed sister Lakshmi Amma (Aranmula Ponnamma), live in the same town. Panikkar's son Shekhar (Gemini Ganeshan) is a city wastrel, one who is after wine, women and gambling. The company of Vikraman (T. S. Baliah) and a dancer Jayanthi (Padmini) only helps to make matters worse. They plays all sort of dirty tricks and loot Shekhar's wealth.

Lakshmi Amma struggles hard to bring up her children Chandran (Satyan) and Shantha (B. S. Saroja). Her wealthy brother and his wife Bhanu Amma (Pankajavalli) in no way help Lakshmi Amma. After completing his college studies, Chandran wanted to study Law and approaches Panikkar for financial help. Bhanu Amma insults him and sends him back empty handed. Chandran borrows money from his friends and leaves the town to study.

Bhanu Amma thinks that married life may change the character of her son Shekhar and with the help of her faithful servant Pankan (K. Ramaswami) go around searching for a match. But they find that no parents are prepared to give their daughters in marriage to a vagabond like Shekhar. Bhanu Amma plans to conduct the marriage of Shekhar with Shanta. A helpless Lakshmi Amma accedes to the request from her brother. Chandran rushes home when he comes to know about the secret plans of the marriage, but he fails to reach before the wedding.

Marriage does not change the character or Shekhar's way of life. All his wealth is manipulated and controlled by Jayanthi and Vikraman. Shantha is ill treated at her husband's house. She gives birth to a child, her health deteriorates and is falsely accused of having tuberculosis.

Chandran returns home after completing his studies. He brings Shanta back home. Chandran falls in love with Sarala (Girija), the daughter of the local postmaster. On the day of his wedding with Sarala, the palatial house of Panikkar, ?Kamalalayam' is attached by the court after people who had loaned huge amounts to Shekhar had moved the court. Chandran gives shelter to Bhanu Amma in his house. Shekhar who realizes the true nature of Jayanthi and Vikraman and their hidden agenda quarrels with them. In the ensuing fight Vikraman is killed. Vikraman's men murder Bhanu Amma. Shekhar is sentenced to seven years imprisonment.

A reformed Shekhar confesses before his wife Shantha and Chandran. Shantha forgives her husband and tells him she will wait for him to come back, giving Shekhar a flame of hope - Ashadeepam.

All the actors came out with impressive performances. Gemini Ganeshan in a negative role, and Padmini as a vamp were good in roles that were a total deviation from their usual roles. The film dispensed with comedy scenes.

The 10 songs written by P Bhaskaran were tuned by Dakshinamoorthy. Some of the songs became instant hits. The classical based numbers, ? Saranam mayilvahana?' (M. L. Vasantha Kumari) and ?Jananai kayak nee Malayalamey... (Vasanthakumari and P. Leela) became very popular. A lullaby sung by Leela, ?Kanmani VA VA VI...' was a direct copy of the popular Lata Mangeshkar number ?Dheere SE aaja re...' from the Hindi film ?Albela' (1951). The Malayalam copy of the Hindi tune composed by C. Ramachandra was also a hit. Another song, ?Gramathin hridayam..' is considered as one of Jikki's best in Malayalam. The romantic duet, ?Pandhalittu mele vaanam vishalmaai...' (A. M. Raja-Leela), and ?Poo veno pudu pookkal veno...' (Leela), and the dance number featuring the lovely sets specially designed for the song sequence ?Veeshi ponvala?' were other songs that went on to become popular.

Will be remembered: As the debut Malaylam film of Gemini Ganeshan and for the excellent music.

Vanamala
(1951)

Vanamala(1951)
P. A. Thomas, Neyyattinkara Komalam, S. P.Pillai, Kanchana, Kandiyoor Parameswarankutty etc.

'Vanamala' is considered the first 'jungle movie' in Malayalam. Movies of this genre were hugely inspired by Tarzan created by Edgar Rice Burroughs. The silent movie 'King of Forest' (1926) produced by Royal Arts with Jilloo Bai and Udvadia in the lead roles was probably the first Indian movie in this genre. 'Jungle Queen' (1936), 'Jungle King' (1939), 'Jungle Princess' (1942) etc. are some of the early Hindi films with similar plots. Most of these adventure movies did well at the box office. Stunt actors like John Cawas and 'Fearless' Nadia were integral parts of such movies.

The Tamil film 'Vanaraja Karzan' (1938) produced by Wadia Movietone jointly with Madras United Artists Corporation was the first 'jungle movie' from the South. The film was a hit and remade in Hindi as 'Jungle King.' John Cawas acted as hero in both the films. 'Vanamohini' (1941) produced by South Indian United Artists Corporation,' directed by the Hindi comedian-producer Bhagawan was a runaway hit. The glamor girl of the time K. Thavamani Devi's performance was a highpoint. The Tamil film 'Toofan Queen' (1940), though not strictly a 'jungle film' had a story set in the backdrop of the forest. The success of such film must have inspired the producers, V&C Productions, to make the Malayalam film 'Vanamala.' The story of the film was written by its director, G. Viswanath. The dialogs were by the popular playwright Munshi Paramu Pillai. The lyrics by the eminent writer P. Kunjukrishna Menon and music was composed by P. S. Divakar.

'Vanamala' had P. A. Thomas and débutant Neyyattinkara Komalam, who was cast in a Lady Tarzan kind of role. Stage artistes essayed the other important roles. The comic track that had S. P. Pillai was impressive. The film also had an elephant 'Baby Lakshmi' and most of the billboards of the film featured this elephant.

The film was shot at Udaya Studios using sets. Only a few scenes were shot near Pechippara Dam, near Marthandam. Most of the scenes involving wild animals were lifted from foreign films.

The story of the film revolved around the Zamindar of 'Vasantha Vilas' (Kandiyoor Parameswarankutty) and his daughter. The girl, named Mala, was born after many years of marriage. When Mala was born her father had a chain put on her neck with a locket engraved with her name. The Zamindar had once promised his Secretary Prasad (Muthukulam Karthikeyan Nair) that he would adopt his son Ashokan as his heir. But the birth of Mala changed the equations. Prasad engages his faithful servant Babu to kill Mala. But instead Babu abandons the girl in a forest.

Here Mala is looked after by a tribal couple and an elephant. They girl grows up as Nalini (Neyyattinkara Komalam). The elephant becomes her companion.

The Ramonda shifts his residence to his Sivalokam estate on the outskirts of the forest. Prasad and his son Ashokan (P. A. Thomas) also accompany the Zamindar. Ashokan and Nalini meet each other in the forest and fall in love. Prasad recognizes Nalini by the locket on her chain. He fears that if Nalini is left to live his son Ashokan would lose the right of inheritance. Prasad also comes to know that Ashokan and Nalini are in love. All his attempts to separate them are in vain. Prasad requests Ashokan to leave the estate but he stays in the forest in disguise.

Prasad makes an attempt to kill Nalini but is thwarted by Ashokan. In the melee that ensues Nalini stabs Prasad to death. Before he dies Prasad reveals to the Zamindar that Nalini is none other than his daughter Mala. The Zamindar gives his daughter's hand in marriage to Ashokan.

There were nine songs in the film. Most of them were copies of Hindi tunes. The solo by Jikki, 'Thalli thalli haa ...' was a direct lift of the popular duet 'Gore gore O baanke...' by Lata Mangeshkar and Ameerbai Karnataki from the Hindi film 'Samadhi' (1950). And incidentally this was Jikki's first Malayalam film song. The other hits were, 'Ullam thulli vilayodiyithu...' (Jikki), 'Aho vidhiyo...', 'Haa imbam kolka naam...' (by Jikki and Mehboob). .

Will be remembered: As the first 'jungle movie' in Malayalam. As the debut film of Neyyattinkara Komalam, director G .Viswanath, lyricist P. Kunjukrishna Menon, singer Jikki and cameraman Arumugham.

Prasanna
(1950)

Prasanna(1950)
T.S. Baliah, Kottarakkara Sreedharan Nair, Kandiyoor Parameswarankutty, P.A. Thomas, Lalitha, Padmini, Ragini

Sisters Lalitha, Padmini and Ragini, popular as the Travancore Sisters, enriched Indian cinema with their dances and acting. It was usual to include their dances in films and they often turned out to be the highpoints of the films. Producer and director Sreeramulu Naidu introduced the Travancore Sisters to Malayalam cinema through Prasanna, released on August 17, 1950. The film was a huge hit.

The film also introduced an array of artistes to Malayalam cinema like Kandiyoor Parameswarankutty, P. A. Thomas, Pappukutty Bhagavathar etc. This was also the debut Malayalam film of T. S. Baliah and T. S. Durairaj; playback singers M. L. Vasantha Kumari, P.A. Periyanayaki and Radha-Jayalakshmi. This was also the first Malayalam film of music composer Gnanamani and producer-director Sreeramulu Naidu. The script and dialogues were by the renowned playwright Munshi Paramu Pillai.

Following the success of this film producer-director N. S. Krishnan made the Tamil film Manamakal (1951) based on the stage play Suprabha, written by Munshi Paramu Pillai. Krishnan cast T. S. Baliah, Lalitha and Padmini in his film. With powerful dialogues written by M. Karunanidhi, Manamakal became an all time hit.

Pankan Thampi (Kandiyoor Parameswarankutty), a doctor, lives with his sister Prasanna (Lalitha) in a village. Ayyappan (T. S. Baliah) son of Thampi's old servant and Prasanna study in the same college. Ayyappan is in love with Prasanna but does not express his feelings. Thampi's friend Radhakrishna Menon (Kottarakkara Sreedharan Nair), who lives in Trichy, has two sisters Madanika (Padmini) and Radha (Radhamani). Thampi and Menon decide to strengthen their relations. Thampi decides to marry Madanika and Menon decides to marry Prasanna. Ayyappan is shocked by the marriage plan attempts suicide. Prasanna sympathises with the desperate lover and marries Ayyappan against the wishes of her brother.

Ayyappan leaves the village with Prasanna and reaches Trichy. Ayyappan's friend Pappu Pillai (T. S. Durairaj) and his wife Kalyani (Kanchana) also accompany them. Ayyappan and Pappu Pillai are arrested by the police for their alleged involvement in a petty case. They are freed by the kind Inspector (P. A. Thomas). Kalyani takes up a job as a maid in the Inspector's house. Prasanna gets employed as a maid in Radhakrishna Menon's house. Menon does not know that his servant is Thampi's sister with whom his marriage was fixed. Menon takes a liking for her. But Prasanna, faithful to her husband, rejects his advances. Ayyappan becomes suspicious of his wife and hits the bottle. Kalyani and Prasanna talk to Menon who now regards Prasanna as his own sister. But Ayyappan remains suspicious. Menon's sister Radha informs Thampi about Prasanna's miserable family life. Thampi reaches Trichy and his shocked by his sister's miserable plight. Thampi and Ayyappan get into a brawl. Menon intervenes. Reconciliation takes place and misunderstanding cleared.

A musical hit, most of the songs written by Abhayadev and tuned by Gnanamani, became super hits. For the first time in Malayalam cinema a song, Jaathi vairam neethi rahidhamee… (M. L. Vasantha Kumari) was composed in Western style. Other hits include Klanikathe Keralamathe…(Kaviyoor Revamma), Dhavala roopa Saraswathi….(Radha-

Jayalakshmi), Ganamohana Hare Gopala…(Vasantha Kumari), and Sneham thookum maathey….(P. A. Periyanayaki).

Will be remembered: As the début Malayalam film of the Travancore Sisters, Lalitha, Padmini and Ragini. As the debut film of actors Kandiyoor Parameshwarankutty, P. A. Thomas, Pappukkutty Bhagavathar, debut Malayalam film of Sreeramulu Naidu, playback singers M. L. Vasantha Kumari, P. A. Periyanayiki and Radha-Jayalakshmi.

Jnanambika
(1940)

Jnhanambika(1940)
Cast: Sebastian Kunju Kunju Bhagavathar, K. K. Aroor, Alleppey Vincent, C. K. Rajam, C. A. Seethalakshmi, L. Ponnamma, T. I. Rose

This second sound film in Malayalam had a close resemblance to the first talkie, 'Balan,' and the plot was similar to some of the Tamil films of the time. It had all the ingredients of an entertainer and was a huge box-office success.

The film shot extensively outdoors at locations in Thiruvanathapuram and Thripunithura was a new experience for the audience . 'Jnanambika' was produced by Annamalai Chettiar and directed by S. Nottani. It was based on a novel by C. Madhavan Pillai.

Jnanambika, the heroine of the film, is the daughter of a wealthy landlord, Rajasekharan. After the death of her mother, her father marries again. Rajamani, the villainous second wife tortures Jnanambika, forcing her to run away from home. Rajamani, with the help of her secret lover Sreekumar, plots to appropriate the wealth of the mild-mannered Rajasekharan. Into this imbroglio enters Raveendran, the chivalrous hero.

The heroic deeds of Raveendran are in fact the main plot of the film. A Casanova, Rajamani happens to be one of Raveendran's sweethearts. How Raveendran manages to save Jnanambika and get her married to Chandran forms the main part of the film.

It was with 'Jnanambika' that the concept of anti-hero came into Malayalam films. Raveendran has been portrayed with negative qualities. There are many who consider Ashok Kumar's role in the Hindi film 'Kismat' (1943) as the first successful anti-hero. But 'Jananmbika' that had noted stage actor Sebastian Kunju Kunju Bhagavathar in a similar role was released three years before 'Kismat.'

Fights, car chase, twists in the plot, romance are all there in the film. Added to this are dances and songs.

There are 15 songs in the film. Music director, T. K. Jayaram Iyer, followed the trend of using popular Hindi and other language film tunes for the songs in 'Jnanambika.' The lyrics are by Puthenkavu Mathen Tharakan.

One of the songs, 'Katha ithu kelkan, sahajare vaa....' sung by Sebastian Kunju Kunju Bhagavathar, an

imitation of the K. L. Saigal-Kanan Devi duet from the film 'Street Singer' (1938) 'Ghunghuruva baaje chama chama cham....' was the most popular of them. Though no prints of the film exist, the songs are still alive.

Will be remembered: 'Jnanambika' will be remembered as the first box office hit in Malayalam. It will also be remembered for its songs.

Nirmala
(1948)

Nirmala(1948)
The fourth talkie in Malayalam, 'Nirmala' introduced playback singing to Malayalam cinema. The singing heroes and heroines of Malayalam cinema, who had cut their teeth in musical operas returned to the stage. They found theater much more beneficial as a career than cinema, which at that time was made on shoe-string budgets. It was during such a phase that playback singing was brought into Malayalam cinema. 'Nirmala' provided a perfect start to a technique that soon became an integral part of cinema.

Playback singing was introduced in Indian cinema by 'New Theatres' in the bilingual film 'Dhoop Chaon' (Hindi) and 'Bhagya Chakra (Bengali) in 1935. Suprova Sarkar became the first female playback singer and K. C. Dey, the singing star who acted in the scene in this film sang for himself and for another actor in the sequence, became the first male playback singer. In the South, A. V. Meiyyappa Chettiar introduced playback singing in the mythological Tamil film 'Nanda Kumar' (1938). In this film a classical singer, Lalitha Venkatraman and in Telugu M. S. Rama Rao who sang in the film 'Devata' (1941) are credited of being the first playback singers in their respective languages. 'Nirmala' was produced by Artist P. J. Cherian, one of the pioneers of Malayalam musical opera . Produced under the banner of Kerala Talkies, Cherian got financial support from the members of the Cochin Royal family and the general public. The film was directed by P. V. Krishna Iyer.

It was based on a story penned by M. S. Jacob and dialogs were by Puthezhathu Raman Menon. The songs were by Mahakavi G. Sankara Kurup and set to music by P. S. Divakar, a renowned saxophone player, and E. I. Warrier. The music dispensed with the usual practice of imitating other language film tunes. The technical crew were all experienced professionals like cinematographers J. G. Vijayam and G. Ranganathan, sound recordists K.B.S. Mani and S Padmanabhan, and editor Balu. Despite all this the film failed at the box office.

This film could be considered Cherian's family project. His son Joseph Cherian was cast as hero, Joseph's wife and Baby was the heroine. Apart from this his daughters, other relatives and artists from his own drama troupe were part of this film.

The story of the film followed a typical formula often repeated in movies with social themes. This repetition of theme was considered one of the main reasons for the film's failure. Produced at Modern Theatres, Salem, there was undue delay in completion. This delay in release also adversely affected the success of the film. It could not be released on the scheduled date, it failed miserably reducing the producer to penury.

The story centers around a fisherman Sankaran who loses his wife struggles to bring up his two daughters Nirmala (Baby Joseph) and Vimala. Sankaran's sister Kalyani looks after the family. Sankaran meets with an accidental death while on a fishing expedition. Nirmala becomes a fish vendor. But the constant pestering by some city wastrels forces her to stop this only source of living. She then starts a food stall near the house. Time passes. Vimala grows up as a girl fond of luxuries in life. Her eyes fall on a colorful sari in a nearby shop. On her way home after attending a function Vimala falls into a gutter as she tries to step away from a speeding car.

Vimala develops high fever and in her semi-conscious state murmurs about that sari. Nirmala goes to shop to buy it but is shocked by the high price. In a weak moment she steals the sari but is arrested for the theft. Police Inspector Raghu takes pity on Nirmala when he comes to know of her state. Nirmala is sentenced for one month imprisonment. At home Vimala's health worsens. Raghu takes care of her and even gets her the sari she always wanted. Before Nirmala is released, Vimala dies. Raghu falls in love with Nirmala. In the meanwhile, Ms. Rayan, a wealthy woman, appoints Nirmala to teach music to her daughter Lalitha.

Ms. Rayan's son, Balan, a naval officer, falls for Nirmala and wants to marry her. When he comes to know about Nirmala's love for Raghu, he withdraws from his intention. He helps to conduct their marriage. Balan marries Sumitra, daughter of Kumar, their family friend. The film ends wishing all newly married couples a happy married life. Joseph Cherian and Baby Joseph excelled in their roles. All the other main characters were handled with ease by experienced stage artistes.

There were 12 songs in the film. Some of them have stood the test of time. 'Paaduka poonkuyile kaavu thorum...' (T. K. Govinda Rao- P.Leela), 'Arabikkadalile kochurani...' (Govinda Rao), 'Neerile kumilapole...' (Govinda Rao) are still popular. The song 'Arabikkadalile kochurani...,' a ragamalika, describes the beauty of Cochin city of yore. 'Aettan varunna dinamey...' (Vimala Varma) set in Mohanam raga was a hit of that time. A 'vanchippattu' sung by P. K. Raghavan beginning 'Pacha ratna talika...' was also very popular. This song is considered the first in that genre.

Govinda Rao and Sarojini Menon, who sang in this film, became the first male and female playback singers in Malayalam.

Will be remembered: As the first Malayalam film to introduce playback singing. First film of singers, T. K. Govinda Rao, P.Leela and Sarojini Menon.

It will also be remembered as the film, the only one, for which the Jnanpith Award winner G Sankara Kurup wrote songs.

Yachakan
(1951)

Yachakan(1951)
M. P. Manmathan, Kottarakkara Sreedharan Nair, S. P. Pillai, S. J. Dev, Miss Kumari, Aranmula Ponnamma etc.

'Yachakan' was the last Malayalam film released during the year 1951. The film reached the theatres during Onam but the storyline had nothing to do with the festival. It did have a few dance and song sequences related to Onam. The film bombed at the box office.

Produced by K. S. Akhileswara Iyer under the banner of Kairali Productions, the film was the first directorial venture of R. Velappan Nair, a noted cinematographer of the time.

The film was an adaptation of the Malayalam novel 'Paradeshi' authored by Dr. P.S. Nair. The novelist himself wrote the script and dialogues for the film. It was edited by K. D. George. Shot at Rathna Studios, Salem, the film had few dances choreographed by Tripunithura Madhavan Menon, which were the highlights.

Freedom fighter, leader of the Sarvodaya Movement in Kerala, and former General Secretary of Nair Service Society (NSS), M. P. Manmathan starred as hero, the only film he acted in. Popular artistes like Kottarakkara Sreedharan Nair, S. P. Pillai, Miss Kumari, Aranmula Ponnamma, Muthukulam and others provided the star value.

'Jeevitha Nauka,' released the same year, had a sub plot relating to the rehabilitation of the mendicants. The country was slowly achieving economic progress and poverty was a burning issue. The heroine of 'Jeevitha Nauka' is one who struggles for the rehabilitation of beggars and the film had scenes where she strives to get justice for them.

'Yachakan' stressed on the problems faced by the society due to poverty and begging. In fact, the protagonist was a beggar. But the film failed to attract the audience. Sudhakara Prabhu (S. J. Dev) a wealthy landlord lords over 'Padmalayam'. The film opens with Prabhu conducting an elaborate Onam feast in his palatial house. Sathi (Miss Kumari) is the daughter of an old servant of this house who was given refuge by Prabhu when her father fled away from the city. Gopi Mohan (Kottarakkara) is the manager of 'Padmalayam'. He has an eye on the wealth of 'Padmalayam' and manages to win the heart of Sarojam (Ambalapuzha Meenakshi), sister of Prabhu. He is even able to manipulate the wealth with Sarojam's support.

Sathi falls in love with Chandran (M. P. Manmathan), a beggar who is engaged in a struggle for their welfare and rehabilitation. Prabhu appreciates the noble cause for which Chandran works and supports him with generous donations. But he turns against Chandran when he comes to know that Chandran is in love with Sathi.

Sarojam becomes pregnant and Gopi Mohan betrays her. He now tries to win over Anandam (Aranmula Ponnamma), a prostitute, and her friend Meenu (Thankam). He misleads Anandam and makes her believe that he is the landlord of 'Padmalayam'. Gopi Mohan is expelled from the house when Prabhu comes to know about his misdeeds.

Gopi Mohan tries to molest Sathi but the timely intervention of a masked man saves the girl. Sarojam gives birth to a child and out of shame runs away from the house leaving her child at 'Padmalayam'.

Prabhu changes his mind when he comes to know about the true love of Sathi and Chandran. He promises to conduct their marriage. Sathi leaves home in search of Chandran. Now, a misunderstanding springs up between the lovers. Chandran suspects that Sathi is in love with Prabhu and begins to spurn her. Gopi Mohan reaches Chandran's hut and attempts to kill him.

Again the masked man appears and saves Chandran's life. Gopi Mohan's vengeance does not end. He attacks 'Padmalayam' with his gang and tries to molest Sathi in the presence of Prabhu. The masked man appears again and beats back Gopi Mohan.

Now to the climax of the film, which is reconcilation and clearing of all misunderstandings. Sarojam finds Gopi Mohan on the streets, seriously ill and brings him home. Chandran's foster father reveals to him on his death bed that he is none other than the elder brother of Sudhakara Prabhu, who was kidnapped by Madhu Pillai (Muthukulam) while he was a child. The child was handed over to the beggars by Madhu Pillai.

The masked man is Kunju, who has been pretending to be the faithful servant to Gopi Mohan in order to save others from his cruel deeds. Sathi and Kunju are children of Raghu Raman, the faithful servant of 'Padmalayam' who was forced to leave the household due various reasons. Gopi dies of illness and Madhu Pillai becomes a lunatic. Sudhakara Prabhu invites his elder brother Chandran to take over charge of 'Padmalayam'. But Chandran refuses for his life's mission is welfare of the beggars. He leaves home with Sathi.

Though a new comer, M. P. Manmathan impressed in the lead role. Deviating from her usual roles, Aranmula Ponnamma was cast in a negative role but did not impress. Kottarakkara performed well as the villain.

There were 18 songs in the film. The songs included the popular poem 'Komala Keralamey...' written by the noted poet Narayanan Nair, popularly known as 'Bodheswaran' and another one written by G. Sankara Kurup, 'Innu njaan naale nee..' The other songs were written by Abhayadev. Music was by S. N. Ranganathan. A romantic duet sung by V. N. Rajan and P. Leela, 'Veeshuka neele, veeshuka neele...' became a hit. A solo sung by Rajan, 'Swantham viyarpinaal..' also became popular.

This was the debut film of Rajan, brother of Vaikom Saraswathi, a popular classical singer of that time. Soon after the recordings of the songs for the film, Rajan died of illness and Malayalam cinema lost a gifted playback singer.

Will be remembered: As the only film acted by M. P. Manmathan. And as the debut film of poet Bodheswaran, producer Akhileswara Iyer and singer V. N. Rajan.

Sheriyo Thetto
(1953)

Shariyo Thetto(1953)
This Malayalam film, released in 1953, was the first directorial venture of actor- producer-director-scriptwriter-lyricist Thikkurissi Sukumaran Nair. The story and dialogues were by also by him. Widely advertised as a family drama with a social theme, the film did not deal with any specific social issues. The story was in line with some of the other language films of the time, in particular Tamil films like 'Andaman Kaithi' (1952), 'Vazhkai' (1949), etc. The film was shot at Udaya Studios. The film was jointly directed by Thikkurissi and V. A. Reynolds.

The film failed to impress and could not set the box office jingling. The camera was handled by M. R. Ranganathan, edited by S. Williams, the dances were choreographed by Ramunni and Damodaran.

The star cast included some of the popular artistes and also introduced some new faces to Malayalam cinema. While Thikkurissi, Sebastian Kunju Kunju Bhagavathar, S. P. Pillai, Miss Kumari, Sethulakshmi, Adoor Pankajam added star value, the film introduced Adoor Bhavani and Meena Sulochana, who later went on to become Thikkurissi's wife in real life. N. Damodaran, dance director also began his film career with this film.

The unusual story with strange twists and turns was far from real. The strange storyline is widely believed to be one of the main reasons for the film's failure. Technically the film was noted for its good camera work and editing.

Appu (Thikkurissi) returns from military service and gets employed in his hometown as a lorry driver. He lives happily with his mother (P. K. Kamalakshi) and younger sister Thankam (Meena Sulochana). Another sister of his, Sarada (Sethulakshmi), died while he was in military service. Her death left many unanswered questions. Sarada was a dance teacher and was in love with a rich landlord (Sebastian Kunju Kunju Bhagavathar) who employed her to teach his daughter. Sarada was pregnant when she died. Rumours were that she committed suicide when she was betrayed by her lover, while others believed that she was killed by the landlord. Appu firmly suspected the landlord's hand in his sister's death.

One day Appu offers to give some school children a lift in his lorry. The owner dismisses him from service for this. Appu meets Geetha (Miss Kumari), the daughter of the cruel landlord and financier and they fall in love. Appu secures a job as her father's driver. Geetha becomes pregnant. She absconds and everyone think that she has eloped with her lover. The fact is that all these happenings were the doings of Appu. It was his plan to take revenge on the landlord who was responsible for his sister's death. Appu takes Geetha to an orphanage and leaves her there.

Meanwhile, Kalyani (Thankam), another woman who had fallen prey to the landlord's wicked machinations was awiting for her chance to get even with his wicked man. Kalyani roams around the town as a mad woman. Appu reaches the landlord's house at the head of a group of people who were subjected to his treacherous deeds. The terrified landlord climbs to the top of his house. Precisely at this moment Kalyani follows him and stabs him. The landlord falls to his death. Now Appu's revenge is complete. Geetha is brought back home along with her new born child. They donate a major part of their wealth to the orphanage and other poor people in the town.

Thikkurissi and Miss Kumari excelled in the lead roles. Deviating from his usual character roles, Sebastian Kunju Kunju Bhagavathar was impressive in the negative role. The comedy scenes, involving S. P. Pillai and Adoor Pankajam,were copies from earlier films. This film also saw the debut of Jose Prakash as actor. He was cast as the manager of the orphanage.

The 14 songs written by Thikkurissi were tuned by V. Dakshinamoorthy. Some of the songs, like the devotional sung by Meena Sulochana, 'Kamala lochana Kanna...' became very popular. The philosophical number sung by Jose Prakash 'Paadu pettu paadangalil...' introduced a new trend in Malayalam cinema. This song had the title 'Shariyo Thetto' that was repeated at the end of almost each couplet of this song. And this was used right through the film. The other hits from the film include the romantic number 'Vaarmazhaville vaa...' (Jose Prakash-P.Leela), 'Prathikara chintha …' (Dakshinamoorthy) and the comic song sung by Kuttappa Bhagavathar and Vijayalakshmi.

This song strung together almost all the titles of the Malayalam films released during that period along its lyrics. The song 'Balanaam Prahladaneppole...' had the titles of films released during the same year like 'Thiramala', 'Velakkaran', 'Lokaneethi' etc. This song pictured on S. P. Pillai and Omana was one of the highpoints of the film and a novelty too.

Will be remembered: As directorial debut of Thikkurissi. It will also be remembered as the debut film of Adoor Bhavani, Meena Sulochana, Jose Prakash as actor, and dance director N. Damodaran.

Kerala Kesari
(1951)

Kerala Kesari(1951)
Vaikom Vasudevan Nair, Thankam Vasudevan Nair, 'Akbar' Sankara Pillai, K.K.Aroor, Durga Varma etc.

The 31th death anniversary of Vaikom Vasudevan Nair falls on February 11, 2016. 'Kerala Kesari,' the 14th film in Malayalam was released on May 17, 1951 was produced by Vaikom Vasudsevan Nair under the banner of Star Combines.

Vasudevan Nair entered into film production when Malayalam cinema was at its infant stage and majority of the earlier films were not very successful. The film producers in the State, other than film companies like Udaya Studios, were not enthusiastic about entering the field. Vasudevan Nair and his wife Thankam, two of the brightest stars of musical opera (sangeeta Natka) and whose fame spread all over the country with the success of their musical drama 'Yachaki', had virtually no screen experience. Vasudevan Nair took the bold step of producing a Malayalam film, and that too ignoring the failure of 'Nirmala' (1948), a film produced by another artiste from musical operas, Artist P. J. Cherian.

The brave attempt of Vasudevan Nair to produce a Malayalam film at a time when very few films were being made in the language deserves appreciation. But 'Kerala Kesari' failed.

The film was a loose adaptation of the Robin Hood kind of character portrayed in some of the early Indian films. The success of such films might have prompted the producer to select a similar theme deviating from the regular social stories which he used to present on the stage, like 'Yachaki', 'Sasidharan BA,' etc.

Several stage artistes played roles in the film. Vaikom Vasudevan Nair and his wife Thankam took the lead roles. Others like 'Akbar' Sankara Pillai, Vaikom Raju etc. were seen on the silver screen for the first time. The film, when released faced severe criticism from critics like M. Vasudevan Nair popularly known by his pen name, 'Cinic'. While Tamil films with similar themes fared well at the box office, 'Kerala Kesari' failed to repeat this feat. One is not sure whether this criticism had an adverse effect, overshadowing the merits of the film.

The melodious tunes composed by Gnanamani were rendered by musical talents like Vasudevan Nair, Thankam, Kaviyoor Revamma, Periyanayaki etc. The failure of the film forced Vasudevan Nair and his wife Thankam bid goodbye to films forever and return to the stage. This was a loss for Malayalam cinema could not exploit the musical talents of these singing talents. It must be noted that both of them were sensations on the stage and the audience enjoyed their singing.

'Kerala Kesari' is a costumed adventure fantasy, the hero being an Indian version of Robin Hood. The king of Maninagaram (P. Mahadevan) is cheated, dethroned and banished from the country by Regent Chandra Varma (Sankara Pillai). The royal priest (K. K. Aroor) and army officer Prathapan (Vaikom Raju) lend support all the treacherous plans of the Regent. When the noble army chief Rajendran (Vaikom Vasudevan Nair) voices his protest against the Regent and the priest, he is imprisoned.

Rajendran escapes and seeks refuge in the house of the royal maid, Hema (Durga Varma). The Regent's men shoot Rajendran when he tries to escape from the trap set to capture him. Wounded, Rajendran falls into the sea and is believed to be dead. But Rajendran emerges as Kerala Kesari who makes the forest as his hideout, becomes the Saviour of the downtrodden and the hapless victims of the Regent's evil rule.

Bhavani (Thankam Vasudevan Nair) who had lost her father, again a prey of the Regent's cruelty, joins hands with Kerala Kesari in his mission. Kerala Kesari falls in love with Bhavani.

Meanwhile, the Regent arrests Hema and keeps her captive in his palace. Kerala Kesari reaches the palace and rescues her. Hema's house is set to fire and she rushes to the place to save her father. Hema is arrested and later freed. This is part of a plan to find the hideout of Kerala Kesari. The army reaches the forest hideout and in the ensuing battle between the two forces, Hema dies. Kerala Kesari, Bhavani and their followers, are captured and brought before the court of law.

The banished ruler appears before the court and reveals the facts behind the evil drama enacted by the Regent and his men. The people come to know that Kerala Kesari is not a traitor. They hail him as a patriot who fought against the evil rule in Maninagaram. The king takes over the reins of the country. Rajendran weds Bhavani.

There were 11 songs, penned by Thumpamon Padmanabhankutty and set to tune by Gnanamani. They were all based on classical ragas. The song based on Desh raga, sung by Vaikom Vasudevan Nair, 'Neethiyitho bhuvaney...' became a huge hit. Another popular song was a devotional on Lord Ayyappa, 'Ayyappa akhilandokodi nilaya…' (Vasudevan Nair and chorus) and is considered the first devotional on Lord Ayyappa in Malayalam cinema. There is a lengthy 'virutham' and the song is of almost six minutes duration, quite rare those days. Other melodies include 'Janmamo hathamaay vyamohathale...' and 'Venal kaalam poye...' (Thankam Vasudevan Nair). A Hindi ghazal 'Aaj kaho museebathiya...' was also included in the film.

Will be remembered: As the only film in which Vaikom Vasudevan Nair and Thankam, acted. As the film in which a devotional song on Lord Ayyappa was included for the first time. And, of course, for its music.

Navalokam
(1951)

Navalokam(1951)
Thikkurissi Sukumaran Nair, Sebastian Kunju Kunju Bhagavathar, Vanchiyoor Madhavan Nair, Miss Kumari, Sethulakshmi.

The film is based on a strong reformist story by PonkunnamVarkey. 'Navalokam' was a rude jolt to the zamindari system. The film also ignited sparks of women liberation.

The story is about the cruelty and indifference of landlords towards their tenants and peasants who toil for them. Estate owner Kurup seduces and then disowns a village girl, Devaki. This sparks off a revolt in the village. A workers union leader Gopi leads the revolt. Kurup goes on to marry Radha, an educated and socially committed worker. How Radha comes to understand the wickedness of her husband and frees herself from his immoral clutches forms the crux of the film.

The scene in which she breaks the 'thali' chain and throws it at his face was a strong jolt at the male supremacy. She boldly announces that a wife is not a slave and that she has equal rights. It is a call for equality of women in society. Radha walks out of the house.

Devaki, who comes to the house of the landlord is roughed up and pushed out. She is then taken to the hospital. Gopi informs the police about this and they come to arrest Kurup. Just when they are about to take him away Devaki, quite dramatically, reaches there. She pleads with the police not to arrest Kurup, saying that he was not at fault. This transforms Kurup. He accepts Devaki and they walk away together.

The screenplay was heavily loaded with pro-labour dialogues. This resulted in the censor board inflicting heavy cuts. This must have been the first Malayalam film that was clipped by the censor's scissors.

'Navalokam' did not make the box office jingle. Perhaps this was because social issues were staple themes of films in other languages like those by stalwarts like V. Shantaram, K. Subramaniam, B. N. Reddy, Mehboob and others. They discussed issues like child marriage, enslavement of women, ill treatment of widows, untouchability etc. in their films.

During the early fifties, when the society was orthodox and stubborn about male supremacy, the scene in 'Navalokam' was certainly very bold. Prior to this none of the Malayalam films handled social themes in such a strong manner.

The music of the film was just average. Most of the songs were direct imitations of popular tunes from other language films. The song, 'Gayaka gayaka…,' rendered by P. Leela, was an imitation of the immortal melody 'Aayega aayega aanewala…' from the film 'Mahal' (1948). Other songs in the film were also based on tunes literally lifted from those composed by Pandit Amarnath, Anil Biswas etc. None of the songs from 'Navalokam,' except Kozhikode Abdul Khader's debut film song 'Thangakinakkal hridaye veeshum…' became popular. This song stood the test of time.

Will be remembered: The film was a deviation from the trend of unrealistic love stories. It was a jolt to the zamindari system and male supremacy in the society. The film will also be remembered for Abdul Khader's debut as playback singer.

Atmasakhi
(1953)

Aathmasakhi(1952)
Sathyan, M. N. Nambiar, T. S. Muthiah, B. S. Saroja, Miss Kumari, Kumari Thankam, N. R. Thankam, Pankajavalli.

'Atmasakhi' was the first film produced by P. Subramaniam and the first to be shot at the famous Merryland Studios. This film company which Subramaniam established at Nemom, near Thiruvananthapuram, has the credit of having introduced many new artistes to Malayalam cinema. The most prominent among them was Sathyan. Though Sathyan first faced the camera in the film 'Tyagaseema,' a project that never saw the light of day, it was in 'Atmasakhi' that he made his debut. The glamour girl of the fifties, Kumari Thankam and N. R. Thankam, later known as Miss Chandni, entered films through 'Atmasakhi.'

Also making their debut in this film were lyricist Thirunainarkurichi Madhavan Nair and music director Brother Lakshmanan. This was also the first film to be produced by Neela Productions.

The story, script and dialogues of 'Atmasakhi' were by K. P. Kottarakkara, who also acted in the film. The story of the film was in line with the then preferred formula of social films. The wicked step mother, ill treated children, g47ood hearted servants, were all there, along with the eternal love triangle. 'Atmaskahi' was dubbed into Tamil and released under the title 'Priyasakhi.'

Raghu (Sathyan) and Leela (Miss Kumari), children of Chandrasekhara Pillai (Veeran), a wealthy landlord, lead a miserable life. Ill- treated and humiliated by their step mother Kamala (Pankajavalli). Their father is helpless, and the children do not get any love or care from him. The only consolation for the children is the family that stays close by. Raghu falls in love with the girl of that family, Santha (B. S. Saroja).

Raghu gets absolutely no support from his father when he decides to pursue medical studies. It is his friend Hari (K. P. Kottarakkara) who stands by him during that crucial phase. Kamala begins to play her dirty tricks to separate Raghu and Santha and also to turn her husband against them. At college, Indira (Kumari Thankam), unaware of Raghu's affair with Santha, nurses an affection for him. This completes the love triangle.

In the meantime, Santha's mother dies and she leaves home in search of Raghu. The story from now on races to a climax. Santha falls into the hands of ruffians but is saved in the nick of time by Indira and Hari. Santha becomes a nurse. Mohan (M. N. Nambiar), the wicked son of Kamala, is shot dead by his own mother by mistake. Kamala turns insane; Raghu marries Santha, while Leela weds Hari; Kamala is back to normal, reformed, providing a happy ending to the film.

Most of the 13 songs of the film were imitations of popular Hindi and other language film songs. Most of these songs have faded into obscurity. The lyrics of the imitated songs did not gel with the tunes in most cases. One such song, imitation of an immortal Marathi song composed by Vasant Desai in Lavni style, 'Lat pat lat pat......' for the film 'Amar Bhoopali' sung by Lata Mangeshkar and chorus, sung in 'Atmasakhi' by N. L. Ganasaraswathi and beginning 'Jayam jayam sthana jayam...' failed to create an impact. So was the fate of the other imitations.

But one of the songs, in spite of being an imitation of a very popular Hindi film song, became a hit. The song, 'Aa nila vaanilen aashakal, kaniyidum tharake...' rendered by P.Leela and T. A. Mothi was a direct imitation of the Hindi song 'Duniya hamare pyar ki...' from the 1949 film 'Lahore' sung by Lata Mangeshkar and Karan Dewan.

Will be remembered: 'Atmasakhi' will be remembered as the first film of Neela Productions. It will also be remembered as the debut film of Sathyan, Kumari Thankam and the musical duo Thirunainarkurichi- Brother Lakshmanan.

Chandrika
(1950)

Chandrika(1950)
Thikkurissi Sukumaran Nair, P. K. Vikraman Nair, T. S. Baliah, S. P.Pillai, Sethulakshmi, V. N. Janaki, Aranmula Ponnamma

'Chandrika' released on August 24, 1950 introduced to Malayalam cinema several eminent film luminaries, the most popular among them being lyricist P. Bhaskaran.

Earlier, Bhaskaran had written a few lines in Malayalam for a multilingual song for Gemini's Tamil film 'Apoorva Sahodarargal' (1949). The others who started their film careers with the film were producer K. M. K. Menon, scriptwriter Nagavalli R.S. Kurup, actor P. K. Vikraman Nair, and actress Sethulakshmi. This was the first Malayalam film of director V. S. Raghavan and actress V. N. Janaki, wife of MGR. Playback singer V. N. Sundaram sang his first Malayalam song in this film and was the first Malayalam film of music director Govindarajulu Naidu.

The film was simultaneously produced in Tamil also and released on September 29, 1950. 'Chandrika' is considered the first multilingual film the original being Malayalam. Legendary Tamil stars like K. Sarangapani, T. S. Baliah and V. N. Janaki acted in both the versions.

Nagavalli wrote the dialogs for the story authored by noted dramatist N. P. Chellappan Nair. Dakshinamoorthy and Govindarajulu Naidu set to tune the lyrics penned by Bhaskaran and Thumpamon Padmanabhankutty. The name of Ambalapuzha Brothers, the nadhaswaram exponents, have also been given credit in the titles. Probably, the nadhaswaram duo might have conducted the orchestra for the film.

The film was shot at the famous Vauhini Studios. Camera was by N. C. Balakrishnan and editing by V. S. Rajan. Choreography was by the 'Travancore Sisters' Lalitha, Padmini and Ragini who performed the dances also along with another dancer named Sakkubai. The dance drama 'Sakunthalam' was an added attraction.

In spite of the presence of popular stars of both Tamil and Malayalam cinema, the film failed. Both the versions did not do well at the box office. The theme was an oft repeated one, the film had nothing new, and the unusual twists and turns in the story was nothing short of boring. The weak storyline is considered a main reason for the poor performance of the film.

Chandrika (Sethulakshmi), the only daughter of the rich industrialist Janardanan Pillai (K. N. Gopalan Nair) falls in love with Gopi (Thikkurissi), the son of the maid servant. Gopi is aware of his social status and keeps away from Chandrika. But Chandrika does not leave him. Chandrika's cousin Remani (Bharathi) also loves Gopi. When Pillai comes to know about his daughter's love affair with the servant maid's son, he becomes furious and expels both Gopi and his mother from the house. Radhamani (V. N. Janaki ), Pillai's niece plays all nasty tricks to turn Pillai against Gopi.

One night Gopi enters Pillai's house and is arrested by the police on false charges. Chandrika falls into depression, leading to lunacy, because of her failure in love and tragedy that befalls her lover. Dr. Radhakrishnan (Vikraman Nair) treats her.She is cured and nursed back to health. Chandrika marries Dr. Radhakrishnan.

Pillai's manager Shankar (T. S. Baliah) who also loved Chandrika and wished to marry her join hands with Radhamani who was in love with the doctor. They join hands and hatch a plot to wreck Chandrika's family life. They blackmail Pillai showing a letter written by Chandrika to Gopi. Professor Raan (Sarangapani) and Mohan (M. G. Menon) lend all support to the conspirators.

In jail, Gopi comes to know about the wicked plans of Radhamani and her group. Remani helps Gopi clear all misunderstandings. The charges framed do not stand and gets a release. Remani weds Gopi. Professor Raan weds Radhamani's sister Vimala (Malathi). Chandrika regains peace and happiness.

Thikkurissi, Vikraman Nair, Baliah and Sarangapani did justice to their roles. V. N. Janaki impressed in the negative role. The comic track involving S. P. Pillai failed to create a laugh. The sequences were mere repetitions from earlier films.

There were 11 songs penned by P. Bhaskaran and Thumpamon Padmanabhankutty. Some of the tunes composed by Dakshinamoorthy and Govindarajulu Naidu became hits. 'Kezhuka aathmasakhi...' by Bhaskaran and sung by V. N. Sundaram was a huge hit. The song was an imitation of a popular C. H. Athma non film number 'Preetam Ana milo...' composed by O. P. Nayyar. The other popular song in the film, written by Bhaskaran, was 'Choriyuka madhumari nilaave...' (P. Leela). These songs were tuned by Dakshinamoorthy. Other hits from the film include, 'Mullavalli mele vidarum...', 'Nonthuyir vaadidum jeevithamey...' and 'Jeevithanandam tharum...' (all sung by P. Leela and composed by Govindarajulu Naidu).

Will be remembered: As the first Malayalam film of lyricist P. Bhaskaran. As the debut film of actor P. K. Vikraman Nair and actress Sethulakshmi. The only Malayalam film in which V. N. Janaki acted and as the first film to be produced in more than one language simultaneously.

Sasidharan
(1950)

shashidharan(1950)
The early period of Indian cinema saw several successful musical plays turned into films. This happened in the South also. Very successful Tamil films like 'Dumbachari' (1935), 'Menaka', 'Pathi Bhakti', 'Chandrakantha' (1936) etc. were celluloid versions of successful stage plays of the same title.

'Sashidharan' produced by Swami Narayanan, was the first Malayalam play to be adapted to the screen. This was the exact filmy version of the popular play 'Sashidharan B.A.' or 'Premavaichithryam' authored by N. P.Chellappan Nair. This social drama, rich in music, was staged by prominent drama troupes. The famous stage actors Vaikom Vasudevan Nair and Thankam Vasudsevan Nair immortalized the songs and sequences of this play.

However, the film was not as successful as the play. Perhaps the memories of the play had not faded out and naturally comparisons were made. This film paved way for the entry for many artists of which with Aranmula Ponnamma being the most prominent of them. Interestingly, Aranmulla Ponnamma, the archetypal 'good' mother began her career in this film emoting a negative role. She made an impact as a greedy mother.

Sashidharan (P. K.Vikraman Nair), the graduate son of the landlord Panikker (Thumpamon Padmanabhan Kutty) falls in love with Vilasini (Miss Kumari), the daughter of a poor widow Kalyani Amma (Aranmula Ponnamma). A crooked local newspaper editor (N. P. Chellappan Naiar) and the lecherous city wastrel Rajasekharan (Kottarakara) form a tricky plot turning Panikker against his sons wish to marry Vilasini. Sashidharan's firm resolve forces Panikker to expel his son from the house. Kalyani Amma rejects Sashidharan's proposal and he s forced to take to the street.

He seeks employment in Malaya with the help of his friend Madhu (Vaikom Mani). Here Sashidharan rises as the leader of the laborers and gains power and fame. Indubala, the daughter of a rich estate owner, takes a liking for him.

Sashidharan returns home after a few years. Here he is shocked to find that Vilasini is married to Rajasekharan. The false news of his Sashidharan's death in Malaya was actually the handiwork of Rajasekharan with the help of the newspaper editor and Vilasini's mother.

Sashidharan learns that the money he had sent from Malaya had been taken away by Rajasekharan. Vilasini's marriage is miserable.

One night Vilasini manages to meet Sashidharan. Rajasekharan, who gains wind of this, shoots down Vilasini. Sashidharan is arrested on the false charge of murdering his former love. In the meanwhile, Indubala, whose father dies, comes in search of Sashidharan. She helps in clearing the charges against him. The villains are arrested and Sashidharan marries Indubala.

The film had all the ingredients of an entertainer. It had a love story, high melodrama, comedy, fights and 14 songs.

Most of the songs were imitations of Hindi tunes. The song 'Neeyen Chandra, njhaan nin chandrika…' (Vaikom Mani-Kaviyoor Revamma) was an exact lift of the Naushad hit 'Too mere chand, mein teri chandni…' from the Hindi film 'Dillagi.' Though the lyrics and tune were imitations of the Hindi songs this duet became an all-time hit. Two other songs, a comedy number by Kalinga Rao and Mohan Kumari, 'Kanney naanam kollathey...' and a solo by Revamma, 'Anandamey, anandamey...' also became popular.

Will be remembered: As the first Malayalam film adaptation of a popular stage play. Also as the debut film of music director P. Kalinga Rao, first Malayalam film of director T. Janakiram, Aranmula Ponnamma, S. P. Pillai, N. P. Chellappan Nair, Kaviyoor Revamma, P. Mohankumari, and lyricist Thumpamon Padmanabhankutty.

Achan
(1952)

Achan(1952)
This film is one of the early hits produced by Kunchacko and the first produced under the XL Productions banner, which went on to create several box office hits in sixties and seventies. Released on Christmas Eve the film ran to packed houses at all the centerers for many weeks.

The film focused on a father's unreserved love and affection for his children. The major success of the film paved way for its Tamil version, 'Thanthai (1953) and Telugu version 'Thanri' (1953). Both the dubbed versions were huge hits. The story of the film proceeds through several strange twists and turns which was a common feature of the South Indian films of that time. The film included all the factors of an entertainer, melodrama, romance, dances, comic scenes etc. There were stage dramas, 'kathaprasangam' dances and melodious songs. The dialogs penned by Thikkurissi Sukumaran Nair were precise. Unlike dialogs of the time, which were usually lengthy, those in this film were an exception.

The story revolved around a family. Chandran (Prem Nazir) and Balan (Gopinath) are showered love and affection by their father (Thikkurissi) and stepmother (Jayasree). But Chandran does not realize the value of this and grows into a bad boy. The fancy he takes to a street girl in his childhood transforms into a love affair later.

The girl Usha (B.S.Saroja) works as an artiste in a drama troupe owned by Nanukuttan (Sesbastian Kunjukunju Bhagavathar). Chandran marries Usha much against the wish of his father. He goes on to lead an extravagant life, gets into the company of a city rogue Mathu (S.P.Pillai) and his group.

Chandran's father, very considerate, accepts his son despite his wild escapades and misdeeds. But Chandran still does not realize the value of his father's affection. He demands his share of the ancestral property and his father accedes to this demand.

A drama troupe set up by Chandran flops and he all the money he put into it goes down the drain. To recover from this setback, Chandran contests in the Assembly elections but fails here too. Bankrupt Chandran becomes desperate. Meanwhile, Usha gives birth to a baby boy. But all these changes in life does not transform Chandran or his attitude towards his father. He even becomes suspicious of Usha and leaves home with his son.

This proves to be the turning point. Chandran struggles to bring up his son. He now realizes the worth of his father, his love and of course value of money. He returns home and falls at the feet of his father. The father, who never carried any sort of hatred for his son accepts him.

Thikkurissi's outstanding performance was one of the high points of the film. This was the only film in which veteran actor Sesbastian Kunjukunju Bhagavatahar did a comic role.

There were 17 songs in the film. Some of the songs became super hits. The most popular of them was 'Ambili Amara thirinju nin anpinodonnu chollu ...' sung by Thiruvananthapuram V. Lakshmi. This remains the only solo rendered by her. Later on she was heard as part of the chorus in several films. The other hits include 'Naame mudhalali namakkini...,' 'Madhuram madhuramee jeevitham...' (P. Leela), 'Madhumasa chandrikayay...' (A.M.Raja, P.Leela). A kathaprasangam by Pankajavalli, which also became very popular. Will be remembered: As one of the major box office hits of early Malayalam cinema. It will be remembered as the debut of Boban Kunchacko, the maiden venture of XL Productions, and first film of Thiruvananthapuram V. Lakshmi.

Kanjana
(1952)

Kanchana(1952)
Produced by Sreeramulu Naidu under the banner of Pakshiraja Studios in Malayalam, Tamil and Telugu, 'Kanchana' was the screen version of a popular Tamil novel 'Kanchanayin Kanavu', authored by Tripurasundari, popularly known by her pen name 'Lakshmi'. The novel serially published in the Tamil weekly 'Ananda Vikatan' got widespread acceptance and appreciation from the readers for the morals it conveyed. The popularity of the novel prompted Sreeramulu Naidu to produce the film based on this story. All the three versions did well at the box office. The Malayalam version, released in October 1952, was a huge hit.

Prominent stars from Tamil, Malayalam and Telugu were part of the starcast. The legendary singing star K. R. Ramaswamy, and others like Miss Kumari, Padmini, Lalitha, Aranmula Ponnamma, M. N. Nambiar, P. A. Thomas added value to the film.

The film was shot at the splendid sets of the Pakshiraja Studios. Directed by Sreeramulu Naidu, the camera was handled by the renowned cameraman Sailen Bose. The dances choreographed by Guru Gopinath was an added attraction. Music composed by S. M. Subbiah Naidu dispensed with the practice of imitating popular tunes.

The film threw light on some social evils of the time like polygamy, injustice and discrimination towards women etc. The dialogues penned for the Malayalam version by Munshi Paramu Pillai, along with Manikyam, was impressive. The film dispensed with the usually irrelevant comic scenes.

Pushpanathan (K. R. Ramaswamy) takes over as Zamindar of Mathur. His widowed mother Ponnammal (Aranmula Ponnamma) wants her son to lead a peaceful life looking after the agricultural lands owned by the family. But Pushpanathan is persuaded by his college mate Manohar (M. N. Nambiar) to start a textile mill. Manohar's wicked eye is on the wealth of Pushpanathan.

Manohar introduces Pushpanathan to a dancer in the city, Bhanumathi (Padmini). Daughter of a prostitute Bhanumathi leads a honourable life, quite against the wish of her mother. Bhanumathi is in love with Pushpanathan. Manohar manages to manipulate and divert Pushpanathan's wealth in the cover of the setting up the textile mill.

Neelamegham Pillai (K. Doraiswamy), the former accountant of the Mathur Zamindar, now lives in utter poverty, struggling to bring up his grand children Kanchana (Lalitha) and Sabeshan (P. A. Thomas), who is studying for Medicine. Pushpanathan comes to help the old servant of his family and he becomes enamoured by Kanchana. Shortly afterwards, Pushpanathan weds Kanchana. He assures Bhanumathi that his marriage will not affect his love for her.

Kanchana who had dreamt of a luxurious and happy life as the Zamindar's wife is ill-treated by her mother-in-law. And she is heart-broken when she comes to know of her husband's relationship with Bhanumathi.

The financial crisis caused by the borrowings for the construction of the textile mill and domestic worries disturbs Pushanathan's peace of mind. At this juncture a young lady doctor, Seetha (Miss Kumari) comes to Mathur. Pushpanathan is drawn to her. But Seetha is in love with Kanchana's brother and her college mate doctor Sabeshan.

Kanchana burns with suspicion and jealousy. To add insult to injury, Pushpanathan beats Kanchana in the presence of Seetha. Disapproving of Pushpanathan's amorous approaches Seetha leaves Mathur. Pushpanathan vents his anger against Kanchana, who, unable to take it anymore leave home. Pushpanathan does not allow Kanchana to take her son with her.

Doctor Sabeshan misunderstands Seetha and leaves the village. Ponnammal gradually begins to realise what the value of Kanchana. She asks Pushpanathan to bring Kanchana back. Even Bhanumathi pleads with Pushpanathan to bring his wife back home.

Bhanumathi dies. All her wealth is transferred to Kanchana's son. Pushpanathan brings Kanchana home. All misunderstandings are cleared. Sabeshan weds Seetha.

The important characters were well handled by the experienced artistes like K. R. Ramaswamy, Lalitha, Padmini, Miss Kumari etc.

All the eight songs, penned by Abhayadev and tuned by S. M. Subbiah Naidu, became instant hits. A composition of Muthuswami Dikshithar , 'Maye thwam yaahi...' in Tharangini raga and sung by M. L. Vasanthakumari became a super hit. Another composition of Dikshithar in Kalyani raga and sung by Vasanthakumari, 'Shivakameswari...' also became a hit. The romantic number, 'O! Vaanin mele...' (P. A. Periyanayaki) and a prayer song sung by Radha-Jayalakshmi, 'Charana Pankajam...' were the other popular hits. Other songs that impressed were 'Vela cheyyu...' (Radha-Jayalakshmi) and 'Nirasha mathram aayi...' (Periyanayaki).

Genova
(1953)

Genoa(1953)
M. G. Ramachandran, B. S. Saroja, M .G. Chakrapani, Alleppey Vincent, T. S. Durairaj etc.

Released in 1953, this film was scheduled as an Easter release. But it finally hit the theatres 13 days after Easter. Despite the late release 'Genova' was a huge hit. 'Genova' was an adaptation of a musical opera (sangeeta natakam) that was staged in Kerala by prominent drama troupes under the titles 'Genova' and 'Genova Parvam'. Authored by one of the doyens of the Malayalam musical operas, T. C. Achutha Menon, this musical drama became very popular. The success of this drama and a Tamil film with a similar theme 'Gnanasoundari' (1948) might have prompted the producer-director F. Nagoor to make this film. The story is a mix of myth and history. It had scenes about the glory of Mother Mary, the kind mother who descends to Earth in order to save her devotees etc. The film was remade in Tamil and this version was released two months after the Malayalam release. All the main roles in both the languages were performed by same artistes, except for the villain role enacted by Alleppey Vincent, which was done by P. S. Veerappa in the Tamil version. The presence of MGR, B. S. Saroja, M. G. Chakrapani, T. S. Durairaj and others added star value.

The dialogues of the Malayalam version were authored by the noted writer of musical operas, Swami Brahmavrathan. He also wrote the lyrics along with Peethambaram. The story, dialogues and even the comedy scenes of the film were exact copies of the successful musical opera 'Genova.' Produced jointly by Eapen and F. Nagoor under the banner of 'Chandra Pictures' the film was shot at Newton Studios, Madras. The film introduced MGR, the super star of Tamil cinema to Malayalam. And 'Genova' remains the only Malayalam film in which he acted. Music director M. S. Viswanathan, actor M. G. Chakrapani, lyricist and dialogue writer Swami Brahmavrathan, lyricist Peethambaram, and director F. Nagoor also made their Malayalam cinema debut in this film. The veteran actor of early Malayalam cinema and one of the pioneers of musical operas, Sebastian Kunju Kunju Bhagavathar dubbed for MGR. Probably, this was the first instance in Malayalam cinema where the voice of an actor was dubbed.

Cipresso (MGR), the brave king of Ardreena, weds princess Genova (B. S. Saroja). Soon after the wedding the king starts an expedition to the borders to suppress the enemies from the neighbouring kingdoms. Genova could not convey to the king the happy news that she is pregnant at the time when the king left for the war. Minister Golo's (Alleppey Vincent) wicked eyes are on Genova and making use of the situation he tries to molest her. The queen's faithful servant Garthoos intervenes and saves her. The minister manipulates the situation and the blame is put on the servant. Genova and Garthoos are imprisoned by the minister. Genova gives birth to a baby boy in the prison.

When Cipresso returns to the palace after a victorious war, Golo turns him against the queen framing the false charges against her. Cipresso believes Golo. Garthoos is sentenced to death and Genova is banished from the kingdom. In the forest, Mother Mary appears before Genova and blesses her. Genova leads the life of a saint. Golo plots to dethrone the king. He spreads the rumour that the king is insane and that the kingdom is in trouble. Cipresso is imprisoned and Golo takes over the reins of the kingdom. The army chief, Annas (M. G. Chakrapani) also lays hatches a plot to grab power. A few faithful servants of Cipresso free their king from the prison. Cipresso and his men attack Golo and in the ensuing fight Annas is killed and Golo escapes. Cipresso also comes to know that the queen is innocent.

Cipresso goes on a search for Genova. In the forest, Golo and his men attack Cipresso. In the ensuing sword fight Golo is killed and the wounded Cipresso falls down. The young prince, Genova's son, finds Cipresso and takes him to Genova's abode. All the misunderstandings are cleared, the king and queen are reunited.

MGR and B. S. Saroja excelled in their roles. Both Alleppey Vincent and M. G. Chakrapani impressed in their villainous roles.

The 11 songs penned by Swami Brahmavrathan and Peethambaram were composed by M. S. Gnanamani, T. A. Kalyanam and M. S. Viswanathan. Some of songs became hits, especially the duets sung by A. M. Raja and P. Leela, 'Kanninnu punyamekum divya...' and 'Leela lolithame ikkanum...' Other hits include the lullaby 'Omaney en anandakkambe...' and the devotional 'Gathi nee devamatha...', both sung by Leela.

Will be remembered: As the one and only Malayalam film in which MGR acted. As the debut Malayalam film of actor M. G. Chakrapani, music director M. S. Viswanathan, lyricist and dialogues writer Swami Brahmavrathan, lyricist Pethambaram, and director F. Nagoor.

Visappinte Vili
(1952)

Vishappinte Vili(1952)
Prem Nazir, Thikkurissi Sukumaran Nair, Muthukulam, Nanukuttan, S.P.Pillai, Kumari Thankam, Pankajavalli, Adoor Pankajam, Ambika

Released in August, 1952, this is one of the earliest box office hits in Malayalam Cinema. Produced by K.V.Koshy and Kunchacko in Udaya Studios, the film was remade in Tamil and subsequently a dubbed Telugu version was also made. Though publicised as a 'social' film it had nothing to do with any social issues. It was a family melodrama with strange twists and turns far removed from reality. In spite of all this the film was a huge success.

Photography by E.R.Cooper and editing by P.V.Varghese enhanced the quality of the film. It ran to full houses for weeks and months.

Mohan (Prem Nazir), the only son of the rich landlord of 'Lakshmi Bhavanam loses his father in childhood. The manager (Nanukuttan) manages to secure all the wealth of the family, throwing Mohan and his mother out on the streets. Soon, Mohan loses his mother also. Adopted by a kind hearted land lord of 'Ananda Bhavanam,' Mohan is brought up along with his children Venu (Thikkurissi) and Sarojam (Kumari Thankam) After the death of the landlord, Venu takes charge of the household.

Kamalam (Pankajavalli), the daughter of the wicked manager who cheated Mohan and his family, is married to Venu. Kamalam's lecherous brother Ramu, who is in love with Sarojam, plays all kinds of nasty tricks to get married with the support of Kamalam. But Sarojam, who is in love with Mohan, staves off his advances. Pressurised by his wife Venu expels Mohan from the house. Ramu and his gang beat up Mohan. He seeks refuge in a nearby estate.

Meanwhile, Kamalam hatches a plot for the marriage between Ramu and Sarojam. Venu is poisoned and Sarojam donates blood to save her brother. Venu is saved. He realises his mistakes and understands the misdeeds of his wife. Mohan returns to the village. Venu gives his sister in marriage to Venu bringing the film to a happy end.

The film had all the ingredients of a typical entertainer– songs, dances, comedy scenes etc. Though the story was absolutely unrealistic it did not in anyway affect its success. The dance dramas 'Swargavaathil' and 'Ramanan' that were included were added attractions.

Prem Nazir and Thikkurissi excelled in their roles. Kumari Thankam, the glamour girl of the time was the main attraction. The comedy team of S.P.Pillai, Adoor Pankajam, Muthukulam and Vanakkutti, were reduced to mere repetitions of the usual comic scenes.

The grand success of the film encouraged the producers to remake it in Tamil, 'Pashiyin Kodumai.' It had Prem Nazir, Thikkurissi and Kumari Thankam in the lead roles along with other leading stars of Tamil cinema like M .S .Draupadi, and Madhuri Devi in important roles. The success of the Tamil remake paved way for a Telugu dubbed version titled 'Aakali Piluppu.'

The Malayalam film had 12 songs penned by Abhayadev and tuned by P. S. Divakar. Some of the songs became super hits and a few have stood the test of time. Though noted actor Jose Prakash made his debut as playback singer in the film 'Shariyo Thetto,' released in 1953, 'Vishappinte Vili' was the first to be released. A duet 'Chinthayil neerunna jeevitham…' sung with Kaviyoor Revamma turned a super hit. Another duet sung by A.M.Raja and P.Leela, 'Mohiniye, enn athma Mohiniye…' was also very popular.

Will be remembered: For the songs, 'Chinthayil neerunna… and 'Mohiniye enn athma Mohiniye…' Also, Jose Prakash's first released film song was in this movie. It will also be remembered as the film in which Ambika, who later went on to reign supreme as heroine in the late 50s and early 60s, made her debut.

Chechi
(1950)

Chechi(1950)
'Oachira Parabrahmodayam Nadana Sabha' was a leading drama troupe. Popular playwrights like Muthukulam Raghavan Pillai, N. P. Chellappan Nair and others wrote several historical, mythological and social dramas for the troupe. 'Yachaki', 'Vasanthi', 'Suprabha, 'Chechi' were some of the social plays staged by the troupe. In 1950, Swami Narayanan produced the film version of the play 'Chechi' with the same title.

The drama was a huge hit. Popular stage artiste and singer Vaikom Vasudevan Nair played the hero in the play. Aranmula Ponnamma and Thankam Vasudevan Nair, sisters in real life, and Kottarakkara Sreedharan Nair also played important roles in the play.

There was a time when theatre was taboo for women. Male artistes like Oachira Velukutty performed the roles of female characters. And when women did venture to act they faced a lot of flak from the society. 'Chechi' was an strong reply to such mindless criticism.

Playwright N. P. Chellappan Nair wrote script and dialogues for the film. Highly emotional dialogues, mandatory to a stage play, were modified for the film. But they carried the punch and sentimental impact. Directed by T. Janakiram, the film was shot at Ratna Studios, Salem. This was the debut Malayalam film of T. Janakiram.

Radhika (Miss Kumari) is a popular stage actress. The society is suspicious of her morality and rumours are spread about her personal life. Radhika entrusts her younger sister Malathi (Omana) with the landlord Singapore Gopalan (K. S. Krishna Pillai) requesting him to look after her and leaves to another town. Radhika wanted to keep her sister away from the rumours and disgrace heaped on her because she chose an acting career. Malathi grows up under the guardianship of Gopalan without knowing that her elder sister is a stage actress.

Radhika joins the drama troupe owned by Ratheesh (Kottarakkara Sreedharan Nair). Ratheesh blackmails Radhika with the threat of disclosing the truth about her to Malathi. This was one of his nasty tricks to win over Radhika. The hero of the troupe Prafullachandran (Cherthala Vasudeva Kurup) is in love with Radhika. Having failed in his attempts to win her heart, Ratheesh manages to influence Kanakam (Aranmula Ponnamma), wife of Gopalan and succeeds in his plan to stay with the family of the landlord.

Malathi falls in love with Vasantha Kumar (G. N. Raju) son of Gopalan. But Ratheesh poisons Vasantha Kumar's mind with stories about the private life of Malathi's sister Radhika. Malathi is abandoned by her lover and she leaves the landlord's home in search of her sister. When Malathi comes to know about the facts from Radhika , her anger and hatred against her elder sister melts. Radhika pleads to Vasantha Kumar to marry Malathi, but he refuses. Ratheesh attempts to murder Vasantha Kumar to usurp his wealth. Prafulla Chandran intervenes in time and saves Vasantha Kumar's life. Thinking that the allegations about her life ruined the life of her sister, Radhika decides to end her life and sends her last words in a note to Malathi. All of them rush and manage to save Radhika's life. They now come to know about the tricks played by Ratheesh and misunderstandings are cleared. Radhika marries Prafulla Chandran, and Malathi marries Vasantha Kumar.

There were 11 songs written by Abhayadev and tuned by G. K. Venkatesh. Some of the songs became hits. A classical raga-based number sung by Kaviyoor Revamma, 'Kalitha kalamaya Kailasavasa...' was the most popular. Some of the songs were direct copies of popular Hindi tunes. Other hits from the film include 'Varumo en priya manasan…' (T. A. Lakshmi), and 'Chudu chinthathan...' (Kalinga Rao-Mohan Kumari).

Will be remembered: Debut film of music director G. K. Venkatesh, playback singer T. A. Lakshmi and director T. Janakiram. And for the classical based song 'Kalitha kalamaya Kailasavasa...'

Prahlada
(1941)

Prahlada(1941)
Released on August 17, 1941, 'Prahlada' was the third sound film and first mythological film in Malayalam. The film was produced and directed by K. Subrahmaniam under the banner of Madras United Artists Corporation. The film introduced to cinema, the noted dancer Guru Gopinath. He, along with his wife Thankamani, performed some memorable dances in the film. The film also introduced to cinema T. K. Balachandran, who went on to become a leading actor and producer. He starred as a child star in 'Prahlada.'

The film was shot on spectacular sets at Gemini Studios. Cinematography by Kamal Ghosh was excellent. Haribabu, one of Indian cinema's best known make up man, worked in this project. But the film failed at the box office. No print, or a single film frame or a photograph of the film is available now. Repeated screen versions of the same story and success of some of the other language films with the same story might have adversely affected the success of the film.

Drawn from Vishnupurana, the story of Prahlada was staged in Malayalam as musical operas, and the first of such plays authored by Kunnath Neelakantan Moosath in 1924 was the most popular one. The mythological episode was produced as a silent film under the same title 'Bhakta Prahlada' (1926) by Baburao Painter (producer) and Dadasaheb Phalke. The story was remade as sound films in almost all the major Indian languages several times, eight times in Hindi, three times in Tamil, Telugu and Kannada, as per available records. It is strange that in Malayalam, the story was never remade after the 1941 film. The first sound film in Telugu 'Bhakta Prahlada' (1931) directed by H. M. Reddy also told the story of Prahlada. 'Bhakta Prahlada,' produced in Tamil, Telugu and Kannada by AVM Productions, under the direction of Narayanamoorthy in 1967 that had S. V. Ranga Rao, Anjali Devi and Baby Roja Ramani (who later became famous in Malayalam as 'Chembarathi Shobhana) is considered as the most successful screen version of the Prahlada episode. The film was dubbed into almost all the Indian languages also.

Guru Gopinath was a famous court dancer of the Travancore state. K. Subrahmaniam invited Guru Gopinath and his wife and dancer Thankamani to act in 'Prahlada'. Guru Gopinath's disciple and relative of Travancore Dewan Sir C. P. Ramawamy Iyer, Kumari Lakshmi acted as Prahlada in the film. This was her first and last film. Her father Chidambaram was Private Secretary to the Dewan. The star cast included several artistes from stage and dance schools in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, like P. R. Rajagopala Iyer, T. V. Krishna Sarma, N. Krishna Pillai, C. V. Ramachandran, N. P. Chellappan Nair, Sarada Bai etc. The Tamil film 'Prahlada' (1939) directed by B. N. Rao under the banner of Salem Sankar Films was a super hit and created box office records. The singing sensation of later years T. R. Mahalingam acted as Prahlada in the film. The storyline and the dialogues of this film were closely followed for the Malayalam version. The script and dialogues of this film was adapted for Malayalam by N. P. Chellappan Nair.

The episode from Vishnu Purana, a holy text of Hindus, tells the story of Prahlada (Kumari Lakshmi) who worships Lord Vishnu against the orders of his father Hiranyakashipu (Guru Gopinath). All the attempts of the demon king and his wife Kayadhu (Thankamani Gopinath) to change their son's mind fail. The Lord comes to Prahlada's rescue every time he is tortured by Hiranyakashipu. And then, finally, the Lord appears as Narasimha (a man-lion avatar) to kill Hiranyakashipu.

The main attraction of the film was a dance by Guru Gopinath as Yama, the god of death. Apart from acting as Hiranyakashipu, the dance sequences of the dancer and his wife stood out. N. P. Chellappan Nair also acted in an important role in the film. Master Sadasivam provided the mandatory comedy relief. Kumari Lakshmi impressed as Prahlada and the songs sung by her also became hits. But then the performance of the actors and actresses of the film could not in any way be compared to that of the Tamil film. R. Balasubramaniam as Hiranyakashipu, M. R. Santhalakshmi as Kayadhu and Master T. R. Mahalingam as Prahlada were simply superb in acting and singing.

The 19 songs written by Kilimanoor Madhava Varier, a Malayalam poet and Sanskrit scholar, were set to tune by V. S. Parthasarathy Iyengar. Some of the songs like 'Gurukulamathil angekandathil…' a chorus led by Kumari Lakshmi, 'Narayanam bhaje…' (Kumari Lakshmi) and 'Ennomal thankame…' (Thankamani Gopinath) were popular.

Will be remembered: As the first mythological film in Malayalam. The debut Malayalam film of director-producer K. Subrahmaniam, debut of actor T. K. Balachandran and music director V. S. Parthasarathy Iyengar. It was also the debut film of Guru Gopinath and Thankamani Gopinath. The film will also be remembered for some of its songs like 'Gurukulamathil…'

Balan
(1938)

Balan 1938
K K Aroor, Master Madanagopal, M V Shanku, K Gopinath, Alleppey Vincent, C O N Nambiar, M K Kamalam, K N Lakshmi, Baby Malathi etc.

Released on January 19, 1938, this film had a social theme unlike the earlier films with sound in the other South Indian languages, which chose episodes either from history or mythology. While the first talkie in Tamil 'Kalidas' (1931) was based on the life of the poet, 'Bhakta Markandeya' (1931) in Telugu and 'Dhruvakumar' (1934) in Kannada had mythological themes.

'Balan' was produced by T. R. Sundaram at his Modern Theatres in Salem. Fascinated by cinema a Nagercoil man A. Sundaram reached Madras with a dream of making a sound film in Malayalam. The story of this film 'Vidhiyum Mrs. Nayarum' was authored by him. Sundaram met T. R. Sundaram who advised him to approach the cinema theatre owners in Kerala to mobilise funds for production. This idea clicked. An advertisement appeared in leading news papers inviting artists to act in the film. The shooting of the film started on August 17, 1937, at Modern Theatres. A. Sundaram abandoned the project due to some dispute. T. R. Sundaram took over and completed the film.

The film was directed by Shewakram Nottani, popularly known as S. Nottani. Dialogues and songs were penned by Muthukulam Raghavan Pillai. Music was composed by Ibrahim, and K. K. Aroor, who also played the lead in the film.

The story features the struggle of two orphaned children, oppressed and exploited by an evil stepmother. The film was a stereotype of the themes of early Indian cinema, particularly South Indian cinema.

Balan (Master Madanagopal) and Sarasa (Baby Malathi), are children of Dr. Govindan Nair (M. V. Shanku) by his first wife. Meenakshi (K. N. Lakshmi), the second wife, tortures Balan and Sarasa. She even hatches a plot to kill them and take over the entire wealth of Nair. Meenakshi is severely punished by Nair when he comes to know of her motives. Nair dies of heart attack. Meenakshi marries a wicked city wastrel Kittu Panicker (K. Gopinath). Balan and Sarasa flee from home as a result.

Barrister Prabhakara Menon (C. O. N. Nambiar) gives refuge to Balan and Sarasa and brings them up as his own children. In the will executed by Nair before his death, all his wealth is assigned to Meenakshi on condition that she take care of his children.

When Meenakshi and Kittu Panicker come to know about the stipulations in the will, they trace out the children. Kittu Panicker kidnaps the children from Prabhakara Menon's home. Shanku (Alleppey Vincent) comes to know about the plans of Meenakshi and Kittu Panciker and rescues the children. He uses them in street shows. Balan and Sarasa escape from Shanku. Sarasa is taken away by a labour contractor while Balan is asleep. She is forced to work in an estate. Sarasa (M. K. Kamalam) grows up here. Balan (K. K. Aroor) also reaches the same estate as a labourer.

This estate is owned by Barrister Prabhakara Menon.

Prabhakara Menon identifies Balan and Sarasa. Balan traces out the will executed by his father and Prabhakara Menon files suit against Meenakshi. She is tried by the court of law and punished. A furious Meenakshi shoots Prabhakara Menon, but the bullet from the pistol takes the life of Balan who jumps in between to save Menon. Menon marries Sarasa. They name their son, Balan. The film ends with Menon, and Sarasa paying homage at the tomb of Balan.

'Balan' was a huge hit. The splendid sets, camera by the German cinematographer Bado Gushwalker, sound recording by Ishwar Singh and editing by Varghese were good. All the artists who performed in the film were new to this medium. The acting was not natural, and resembled more of a stage play.

Compared to Tamil sound film, 'Kalidas' the Malayalam film is regarded much better by film critics. 'Balan' had an original script and dialogues in Malayalam, whereas in 'Kalidas', the artists spoke in their own mother tongue deviating from the original script and dialogues. The different characters spoke in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, and Hindi!

It is quite sad that not even a single frame from the footage of this first Malayalam sound film is available now. What is left of this film are a few stills from the film and the songs book.

There were 24 songs in the film. Most of them followed popular Hindi and Tamil film tunes of the time. Gramophone records of the songs were not produced. The most popular song was a solo by M. K. Kamalam 'Jaathaka doshathale...' It was a direct copy of the solo by M. K. Radha from the Tamil film 'Sathi Leelavathi' (1936). 'Theyila thottathle...,' the Tamil song based on Chenjurutti raga became so popular that it was later sung by Carnatic musicians in concerts.

Will be remembered: This film will be remembered as the first talkie in Malayalam.

Martanda Varma
(1933)

Marthanda Varma, 1931
Cast: Jayadevan, A.V.P. Menon, A.P. Krishna Menon, Sunderraj, Padmini, Devaki Bai

According to the records available, around 1,330 silent films were produced in India between 1912 and 1934. But only a handful of them exist now. Only two silent films were produced in Malayalam. These films had scripts and the artistes even delivered dialogues. Important dialogues were shown as inter-titles in respective languages.

Vigathakumaran (1928) and Marthanda Varma (1931) were the two silent films produced in Malayalam.

Marthanda Varma was based on the Malayalam novel of the same title written by C.V. Raman Pillai and first published in 1891. The novel effectively launched the prose tradition in the language. It was first of a series by the author (followed by Dharmaraja: 1913, Ramaraja Bahadur: 1920) dealing with Travancore's royalty.

The novel recounts the adventures of Marthanda Varma (1706-1758), the crown prince of the State of Travancore; on how he eliminates his rivals one after one, to ascend to the throne of Travancore.

The film was produced by R Sunder Raj under the banner of Sree Rajeswari Films. The director P. V. Rao wrote the script and dialogues. It was shot at locations in Trivandrum, Nagercoil etc.

Amateur artistes, along with actors and actresses from the stage, acted in the film. Jayadevan (real name Andy) A. V. P. Menon, A.P. Krishna Menon, Sunderraj, Devaki Bai, Padmini (real name Pattammal) etc. were the artistes cast in the important roles.

The producer of the film failed to obtain the film rights of the novel which remained with the Kamalalayam Book Depot, the publishers. The film was completed in 1931. Consequently, Kamalalayam Book Depot took possession of the print on the strength of a court order. The film was released only after the trial of the case and by then 'talkie films' or sound films were in vogue.

According to details available, the film was released on May 12, 1933. Marthanda Varma was a disaster at the box office and the producer became bankrupt. The Indian Copy Right Act, the first legislation of its kind, was passed in 1914.

According to available records, the case related to this film was the first of its kind in Indian Cinema. No footage of Vigathakumaran, the first feature film (silent) is available now.

The print of Marthanda Varma was also missing for a long time. In 1974, a print was located in an abandoned room in Xaviers Lodge (near the Secretariat; opposite YMCA, Trivandrum) and taken over by National Film Archives of India. Once, this building was the main office of Kamalalayam Book Depot.

The length of the original print was 11,905 feet. A part of the available print was damaged and the salvaged copy is of 7,915 feet.

The story pivots round the royal family of Travancore. The power struggle between Marthanda Varma (Jayadevan) and the Ettuveettil Pillamar, the Nair feudal lords who tried to assassinate the would- be king of Travancore, forms the main plot. According to the matriarchal tradition followed in the State, Marthanda Varma was the legal heir to the throne. But the king's sons, with the support of the Ettuveettil Pillamar laid several traps and attempted to assassinate Marthanda Varma. A brave warrior Ananthapadmanabhan (A. V. P. Menon) protects and saves Marthanda Varma from the enemies on several occasions. The love between Parukutty (Padmini) and Ananthapadmanabhan provides the romantic thread. Ananthapadmanabhan's sister Subhadra (Devaki Bai) supports Marthanda Varma by bringing to his notice secret plans of his enemies to assassinate him. Marthanda Varma comes to the reign suppressing all his enemies.

The film opens with a footage of the famous Aaraattu festival procession of the Travancore Maharaja Chitra Tirunal before moving to the story of his ancestor Marthanda Varma. Scenes from Marthanda Varma's youth are intercut with episodes from the novel. The Malayalam inter-titles, taken from the novel, are translated into English.

Will be remembered: As the second feature film (silent) in Malayalam, as the first Malayalam film based on a novel and because it is the earliest Malayalam feature film now available.

Rest House
(1969)

One of Nazeer's earlier action films
Prem Nazir is a talented actor but it took him a while to establish himself as an actor. If he didn't get the Mythological films, C.I.D(1955), Mariyakkutti(1957), and a few other hit films to act in, his career would've gone downhill. After the debacle of Marumakal(1952), Nazeer got films like Vishappinte Vili(1952), Rest House(1969), the much hyped up Achan(1954) but all of these films flopped at the box office.

Rest House was his 1969 film and it was actually sort of a C Grade film which was a James Bond Rip Off. The film is about India's greatest detective Mr.Raghu who has to solve one of his toughest cases ever, the case is of a fugitive named Red Dragon. This guy is some kind of random Thai looking villain who kidnaps kids. He wants a lot of money and his way of making money is kidnapping innocent children. He needs money because to revive his businesses that were destroyed thanks to Mr. Raghu. The rest of the film is how Mr. Raghu solves the case and saves the children from the clutches of Red Dragon.

Direction by Shashikumar is crass, he fails to connect the movie properly. Yes the movie has a flow but it is not a proper one, random action scenes is how the movie starts. Some random sensuous songs are what follow and then all the explaining happens. The movie has a poor start but the follow up is somewhat decent. Red Dragon look like a mastermind and his character is well built but his master plans are delayed thanks to some boring romance and stupid comedy in the first bits of the film. The second half is when the movie picks up, the movie's main plot thickens and the action helps build the movie. However, the end is stretched and the final few scenes are prolonged. The main tempo of the film is present in the first half but is poorly edited and scripted in the first half. The film awfully drags in the first half of the film and why the police can't make a move on the Dragon is a stupid thing. They have an overpowered agent like Raghu so why can't they have him sneak up on Dragon and free the children. Instead of this, the film drags with forced songs, forced comedy, and forced action that finally get's back on track when the movie shifts to Thamilnad. Prem Nazir in his earlier days was OK, his action is good but his voice modulation was bad. He was dubbed in a few scenes but that doesn't make his act completely wasted. He does contribute to some good moments, the intelligent confrontation with Daaga is will handled at the beginning(the only decent part from the first half of the film). His expressions are decent but he tends to overact in parts. Sheeia is a lousy heroine, she looks like a bad cousin of Kuriyedathu Thathri. She tries to look good but that's all she tries to do, she doesn't succeed in acting nor looking beautiful. The other comedy actress just looks good in the songs but knows very little acting. Paravoor Bharathan does good as the Red Dragon but overdoes it as Daaga. He tends to badly overact as Daaga and his death scene as Daaga is hilarious. However, as Red Dragon he is awesome.

Songs are done to death, most of them try to attempt a James Bond theme with girls all around Mr. Raghu. None of the songs are good, they all sound the same. Despite having veteran artists like C.O Anto present, none of the songs are worth listening.

On the whole, Rest House is a below average James Bond rip off film. It tries to be a thriller but ends up being a badly made one, the action is good but the story and the editing is poor. It is clearly lifted off a Bond film or a professional English film but, the film fails to make good use of the inspired story and ends up being a crap film. I would only recommend this film to die hard Prem Nazeer fans, but other's this is not even a decent one time watch. Being an Prem Nazir fan, I didn't mind watching it but this is one of Nazeer's weaker films.

Susie
(1969)

Spy Movie
It took long time to complete this movie much awaited & released in 1969, This movie has every thing that required in spy thriller, 1st most requirement is the Hero, 1. Looks,Style, actions, acting,Nazir has already proved his multi acting skills in C.I.D which was a Jubilee Hit & his great look & style fit to do the James bond type movie, in my view no other actor will fit in this category, He has done this type of James bond thriller 1. C.I.D, 2nd Karutha Kai, 3rd this movie Susie, He is the real James bond of Malayalam films till date, no other actor can compete to him, Sharadha also done her very best, stunts were fine, 2 songs also good, If you are a James Bond type movie goers, don't miss & watch out this fantastic movie.

Inspector
(1968)

Aayiramaayiram....
C.I.D Rajan is a cult film figure, Nazir Sir played the character with style.

'Inspector' is remembered till today, for Nazir sir's killer dances and of course his ever-natural acting. The songs were Chartbusters.

Aayiramaayiram Kanyakamaar, Anuraagamalarvana Sundharimaar, Jeevithayaathrayilennarikathaay, Eevazhiyennum Vannoo, Eevazhiyenghum Vannoo, Athiloruthimaathram Manassinullil. Anuvaadhamillaathe Virunninethee . Oh man, what a classic! I've the film long back, all I remember is the songs, and Nazir Sir dancing on them.

Nazir Sir made 2 sequels to 'Inspector'... which were also fun & had superb songs.

C.I.D Rajan, the Indian Bond... is nothing short of Cult.

Mainatharuvi Kola Case
(1967)

Fine Movie :)
Mainatharuvi Kolacase Is A Action Thriller Directed By M.Kunjacko....Story Is About Mariyakkutty Who Is Middle aged women A Prostitute...Gets Into A International Intrigue Abroad A Luxury Yacht....She Begins to Suspect...She Can't Trust Anyone... Even Her Boyfriend Seems To Be One Of The Suspect.. Some Plot Elements Are From The Another Malayalam Movie : Madatharuvi.. Script Is Good ...Screenplay Is Fine...But It Has Some Unnecessary Twists...Action Sequences Are Good... Sathyan As Undercover Cop Is As Usual ...Similar To His Previous Thriller Movies....He Does Nothing New...Sheela Does Well...Kottarakkara Shreedharan Nair As Boss Is One Best Part Of The Movie....Adoor Bhasi & Adoor Pankajam Are Entertaining Too..

Music Composed By V.Dhakshinamurthy Is Average...There Are 4 Songs ...Numbers "Appanaane Ammayaane" & " Pallaathuruthiyaattil " Are Good....

Overall The Movie Is OK ....Watch If You're A Fan Of Action Thriller Movies...:)

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