P for Paithrukam and Pingami

Paithrukam – I am not sure of an exact one-word English substitute for the word; I guess ‘paternal affection/duty’ would come close to the title’s meaning. With a brilliant screenplay by Kaloor Dennis, from a story by George Vettam and excellent direction by Jayaraj. The story is set in a family of Kerala Brahmin priests headed by Devadathan Chemmathiripadu played by Narendra Prasad. He is a renowned Vedic scholar and after conducting the Somayagam he is conferred the title of Somayyaji. He has two sons – Somadathan played by Suresh Gopi who is in Delhi to become a journalist and Chithrabhanu played by Jayaram who assists his father in various rituals.

The basic premise of the story is the purported conflict between religion/rituals and scientific thinking. The movie examines the importance of rituals in life and how there is a higher power, which cannot be questioned.

Somadathan return to the village as an atheist and political activist he goes about speaking against the rituals and traditions and the existence of God and marries Gayathri his lover. They take up residence in an old dilapidated house and destroy the idols of the ‘Sarpa Devangal’ (Snake Gods) while cleaning the house.

Chithrabhanu is in love with a girl from a neighbouring village and expresses his wishes to his mother who speaks to Somayyaji. Then comes the shocker when his father says that a tragic flaw in his horoscope indicates that Chithrabhanu may die by the time he is 27 years old. Broken-hearted he commits suicide. Somadathan who loves his brother a lot is enraged and accuses his father of driving his younger brother to death.

In the interim Gayathri suffers miscarriages and loses the child in the womb itself. She is also haunted by dreams of snakes and speaks to her mother-in-law. This result sin a sarpadosha puja being done to which Somadathan reacts angrily. Gayathri moves to the main house and in the loving care of her mother-in-law safely gives birth to a boy. Somadathan again states that his son will grow up like him and should not be brought up as per Vedic traditions.

As the village suffers from drought the elders decide to conduct an Athirathram to please Lord Indra and ensure bountiful rains and a good harvest. Somadathan again ridicules his father who is in charge of the ceremony and asks him if the ceremony fails will he leave the pursuit of the Vedas. His father accepts this and says if the ceremony is successful would Somadathan accept the presence of God and the Vedas!

In a fascinating climax as the ceremony goes along across twelve days; there is no sign of rain and the atheists continue to protest. Lo and behold on the final day the rains pour. Somadathan is dumbfounded and he accepts defeat. Somayaji lost in the intesnsity of his prayers, meditates and sacrifices his life. The movie ends showing Somadathan as the new priest and continuing the Vedic traditions for which his father gave up his life.

The movie had fantastic songs composed by SP Venkitesh and written by Kaithaparam.

Pingami – ‘Follower’

A revenge saga with a difference; wherein the hero attempts to rescue an injured stranger and discovers a diary that reveals his own secret history. A fascinating premise right! Directed by Sathyan Anthikad with a story by Reghunath Paleri and with a powerful starcast – Thilakan, Jagathy Sreekumar, Innocent, Janardhanan, Sukumaran, Oduvil Unnikrishnan, Kanaka, Puneet Issarr and others. The movie is an investigative thriller with quite a few twists and generous comic sequences.

Mohanlal plays Captain Vijay Menon on military-leave; on reaching his ancestral village he stumbles upon an accident victim Kuamran played by Thilakan and takes him to the hospital – where he dies. He discovers Kumaran’s diary and as he read it he discovers the truth about his own identity and realises that his parents were killed by the same group of people who killed Kumaran.

The movie brilliantly depicts how Vijay tracks down each of the perpetrators of the crime and extracts revenge. There are some brilliant scenes where he emerges out of a swimming pool and strikes fear into the hearts of the villains. In another sequence Innocent playing a corrupt lawyer is kidnapped and made to wear exploding briefs and made to confess!

The final showdown in an isolated guesthouse in the hills is well-done with some good fight sequences. The movie ends with a bomb-blast and revenge is extracted!

A romantic angle between Sridevi played by Kanaka – Kumaran’s daughter is another highlight!

Jagathy as Kutti Hassan – Vijay’s friend is a laugh-riot. His combination scenes with Innocent and the exploding briefs evoke laughter!

Perhaps not a great movie – but still figures in this list because of the interesting premise of the tale. I would love to see this movie remade with a new bunch of stars and Lalettan playing Thilakan’s role!

Wishlist – 1 – ‘Panchagni’ – Am ashamed to call myself a Lalettan fan as I have not seen this gem yet :(!

Wishlist – 2 – ‘Pavithram’ very close to my heart and I feel I will break into tears if I write a detailed post about the movie. So I leave you with a song that I treasure and cherish!

Advertisements

O for ‘Onnu Muthal Poojyam Varai’

It is Vishu today – Happy Vishu to all my readers 🙂 – the festival ushers in the new year!

It is the letter ‘O’ today and though many of you dear readers would have thought this would be a post dedicated to the historical classic – ‘Oru Vadakan Veeragatha’ – I have picked something else.

1986 was a fascinating year for Mohanlal as he essayed a whole variety of roles and practically won the hearts of all Malayalees with his movies. The movie that we examine today is a fascinating tale of love lost, found and lost again! A gem of a movie called ‘Onnu Muthal Poojyam Varai’– when translated it means ‘From One to Zero’.

The movie is about Aleena (Asha Jayaram) a young widow living in a lovely little cottage with her sweet little four-year old daughter Deepamol (Geetu Mohandas). Aleena pines for love and yearns for the love of her husband played by Prathap Pothan who is dead and was a musician. We have a lovely song which shows him conducting a music piece.

Aleena works as a painter and things go along as mother and daughter find comfort in each other. There is a telephone with which Deepamol dials random numbers and speaks to people. One such day she dials a number and speaks to her Telephone Uncle with whom she instantly connects and discovers a paternal bond. For a major part of the movie we do not see Mohanlal at all and just hear his voice as he speaks to Deepamol and Aleena.

The powerful bond between all three characters grows just through the telephone, which becomes an integral part of the movie. Finally after much persuasion, Telephone Uncle promises to visit Deepamol on her birthday and both mother and daughter wait eagerly for the ‘stranger’ to visit them.

I will not reveal the climax – it will be gross injustice to reveal what happens when Telephone Uncle finally meets Aleena and Deepamol. Please watch this movie; available on YouTube; stream and watch it!

The movie won the debutante director Raghunath Paleri an award, Geethu Mohandas won the best child artiste (female) award and Shaji Karun won an award for cinematography. Shaji would go on to become a successful ‘art-film’ director in his own right. The movie had lovely songs tuned by Mohan Sithara and written by ONV Kurup.

End the post with a beautiful song from the movie:

L for Lohithadas and Lal Salaam

AK Lohithadas was Malayalam cinema’s most gifted screenwriter. For more than two decades he gave us marvellous stories and scripts. Some of Malayalam cinema’s biggest blockbusters have the screenwriting credentials of Lohithadas to support them. Kireedam, His Highness Abdullah, Amaram to name a few. He also directed some movies and discovered a gem called Meera Jasmine and gave her a career-defining role in Kasthuriman.

Here I shall write briefly about one of his screenwriting successes – ‘Thooval Kottaram’ – ‘Palace of Feathers’. There is a special connection as the movie features my ancestral village Thiruvilvamala prominently in the movie. The movie starts Jayaram, Sukanya, Manju Warrier, Dileep, Oduvil Unni Krishnan and others.

Jayaram plays the role of Mohanachandran a struggling lawyer who is an accomplished chenda player and participates in various temple festivals. He dons various roles to make ends meet and support his extended family. He is engaged to be married to Sujatha played with grace by Sukanya the daughter of Oduvil Unnikrishnan in the movie.

How the lives of all these people change when Devaprabha played by Manju Warrier and her grandfather descendants of royal lineage arrive in the village is beautifully narrated. Sujatha feels jealous of Devaprabha. Devaprabha is recovering from the death of her brother which has affected her mental stability. She improves and gradually becomes happier in the company of Mohanachandran.

The movie has beautiful songs and examines the importance of companionship, friendship, love and brotherly affection from various aspects. Directed by Sathyan Anthikad the movie was a blockbuster.

LAL SALAAM
This was again a casting coup of sorts pitting some of the best actors and actresses of Malayalam cinema together. Mohanlal, Murali, Geetha, Urvashi, Jagadhi, Madhu, Nedumudi Venu and others. A semi-fictionalised account of the growth of the Communist Marxist Party in Kerala. The movie is a tale of three comrades – Stephen (Mohanlal), Antony (Murali) and Sethulakshmi (Geetha). Antony and Sethulakshmi love each other and Stephen is in love with the daughter of the local zamindar – Annamma.

The movie covers two distinct stages in the lives of its principal characters – one – when the CPM is a banned outfit and they are hunted across the state and are forced into hiding. They are eventually captured and arrested and sentenced to a prison term. Two – Their return as party-loyalists who eventually get a role in the new government that is elected.How the shift in power affects their lives – the harsh realities of power, politics and the true sentiments of people is wonderfully brought out.

Directed by Venu Nagavalli with a story by Cherian Kalpakavadi – the movie was a massive hit! A great watch for its political truths and excellent portrayal by the principal cast of the movie.

D for Devasuram

Mangalaserry Neelakandan, ah the name evokes so many memories. This was the movie that established Mohanlal’s mass appeal for another generation of movie-lovers. With a story by Ranjith based on a real life character called Mullasserry Rajagopalan. The story examines the concept of ‘karma’ the fruits of our actions in an entertaining manner.

The movie was directed by acclaimed movie-maker IV Sasi someone who has given hits with both the Mohanlal and Mammootty. The tale is set in a Kerala village and traces the rivalry of two well-off heirs of strong independent and rich clans. Mangalaserry Neelakandan played by Mohanlal and Mundakkal Shekaran played by Napoleon. Neelakandan whiles away his time and money in idle pursuits of alcohol, some music, some dance and general fun; while his estate is managed by Warrier played by Innocent in a really well done role.

In a skirmish Neelakandan’s friend kills Shekaran’s uncle accidentally and Shekaran plots his revenge aiming to destroy Neelakandan.

In the interim, the romantic interlude arrives in the form of Bhanumathi played by Revathi – a classical dancer. In a burst of male ego, Neelakandan uses his influence to force Bhanumathi to dance in his house instead of letting her perform at the temple festival. This is deemed an insult as a dance dedicated to the gods ends up as a performance for a demon-like man. Bhanumathi curses Neelakandan at the end of the performance and walks away in tears. This mellows Neelakandan and he attempts to change and helps Bhanu’s family and tries to convince her to resume dancing again. But Bhanu steadfastly refuses to do so.

There is a moment of epiphany, when Neelakandan’s widowed mother confesses that in reality he is not the progeny of the hailed Managalserry tharavad but he is a bastard son, born of another man. As Neelakandan’s world crumbles around him he realises that all his bravado, pumped up super-arrogant male ego and wealth is the result of a lie. The viewer slowly sees a gentler and more humane side of Neelakandan and Bhanu also realises that an iota of goodness and humanity exists in the demon. One night Shekaran and his gang attack Neelakandan and injure him seriously causing grievous injury to Neelakandan’s legs.

Bhanu realises that her curse has proved true and is ridden by guilt. With care, love and Ayurvedic treatment she nurses Neelakandan back to good health and invariably falls in love with him. Neelakandan tries to distance himself from Bhanu considering her future and even attempts to arrange a dance performance for her in Delhi. But as things pan out – she professes her love for him and with the blessings of Warrier their wedding is arranged.

All this while Shekaran continues to simmer in anger and plans to once again wreak havoc in the life of Neelakandan by insulting him in front of the whole village. He arranges for Bhanu to be abducted and kept in captivity and then at the temple festival begins beating Neelakandan he keeps taunting him telling if he retaliates his men would kill Bhanu. Blow after blow rains on Neelakandan and he bears the pain fearing for the love of his life.

Friends to the rescue:
Neelakandan’s friends rescue Bhanu and as this message reaches Neelakandan, the demon within him is unleashed and a brutal man-to-man hand-to-hand combat begins between the two. Eventually in a powerful climax Neelakandan picks up a ceremonial sword and cuts off Shekaran’s right hand; proclaiming – ‘Enough is enough Shekaran, I want to live in peace and for that I am taking this hand of yours.’

Music:
With lyrics by Girish Puttencherry, music by MG Radhakrishnan and a rousing background score by SP Venkitesh the soundtrack was exceptional. Angopangan sung by KS Chitra, Sooryakireedam by MG Sreekumar and Sree Paadam by MG Sreekumar and KS Chitra evoke a lot of emotions.

The movie was a blockbuster and set the benchmark for Mohanlal’s larger than life image. Some years later a sequel titled ‘Ravanaprabhu’ was released with MOhanlal in a double-role as father and son and retained the core cast of Devasuram. Ravana Prabhu also did good business with a melodious number – Ariyaadhe, Ariyaadhe’ picturised on Mohanlal and Vasundhara Das.

I present the climax of the movie available on YouTube – power-packed finish! Watch the full movie, you will not be disappointed!

B for Bharatham

A case of sibling rivalry or a case of the disciple surpassing the master – ‘Bharatham’ is a brilliant character study set in the mileu of a family of Carnatic Vocal Musicians. Nedumidi Venu plays the role of Ramanathan a renowned singer who is slowly losing a battle against alcohol. He is ably supported in his concerts by his brother Ramanathan played by Mohanlal. He plays the veenai (a musical instrument) during the concerts. Ramanathan is married and has a loving wife played wonderfully by the ever-dependent Lakshmi. Gopi is in love with the character played by Urvashi; but he worries about his unmarried younger sister who is unable to speak(vocally dumb).

Everything seems to be going fine and the joys of joint family living are detailed. Then comes the shock – Ramanathan is hooted at by the audience when he is too drunk to sing. Gopi looks in desperation and starts singing to salvage the situation – his impromptu song receives a lot of praise and everyone applauds Gopi’s presence of mind and brilliant singing.

Then comes the jealousy – as subsequent concert organisers request Gopi to sing instead of his elder brother. Ramanathan battles with his inner demons and attends Gopi’s concert in the audience and is awed at his voice. Ramanathan plans to take a self-imposed pilgrimage/exile to atone for his drinking and singing in a concert (this is an unpardonable sin for Carnatic musicians). Unfortunately he dies in a road accident and is marked as an unidentified body.

The trauma satarts for Gopi and Urvashi as they try to unravel the missing Ramanathan’s case. Simultaneously Gopi’s younger sister’s wedding is arranged with a kind-hearted neighbour played by Lalu Alex. As the wedding arrangements gather pace – Gopi has a tough time answering questions about his brother’s disappearance. The anguish that he portrays when he realises that his brother is dead and his clandestine burning of the body tears streaming down his face is an excellent piece of acting.

Once the wedding takes place the truth is revealed and Gopi is reprimanded by the family-members, but eventually they realise that Gopi’s actions were in the best interests of the family.

With an outstanding musical score by Raveendran master, lyrics by Kaithaparam Damodaran Namboodiri and meldoious singing by MG Sreekumar,Dr. M. Balamurali Krishna, KS Chitra and Dr. KJ Yesudas the movie was a blockbuster at the box office earning Mohanlal a well deserving Best Actor Award. The movie was scripted by AK Lohitadas and directed by Sibi Malayil. The movie was produced by Mohanlal under the banner of Pranavam Arts.

Do not miss this musical gem!