Award winning Tamil family drama movie “Mangaiyar Thilakam” (1955) starring Sivaji Ganesan, Padmini, Ragini, M.N. Rajam among others.
Three hour long movie, this is total emotional atyachar movie from the Tamil cinema stable of the yore. Everything that could possibly go wrong in a family goes wrong and the actors have to bear it. Sivaji is bought up by his elder brother without his parents and for him his elder brother and wife are like God.
That’s the main story and there are sub plots galore. Thangavelu has provided some comic relief with his cameo role as a drama actor/ director in love with Ragini who has danced quite beautifully in the movie. Her father is a die hard drama hater and to bring him around takes all his intellect.
Sivaji marries into a rich family with a snobbish girl Rajam who is not used to doing the household chores. So tension on that count. Sivaji is quite a good actor save for his dialogue part which is too much. Tamil and Malayalam movies have long and heavy dialogues – i guess a legacy of the theatre. Three hour with songs is too long for today’s times. The music gave the impression that a song is around the corner every second. imdb 3/10
Award winning Tamil detective movie “Andha Naal” (1954) directed by S. Balachander and starring Shivaji Ganesan, Pandaribai, Javar Seetharaman among others.
Its a nice riveting movie in the style of a fast thrilled whodunit. Rajan (Shivaji Ganesan) is shot in the beginning of the movie itself and what follows is the unraveling of the plot. Who killed him, there are plenty of them with enough motives from his brother Pattabi (T.K. Balachandran), his angry wife Hema (S. Menaka), his neighbour Chinaiya Pillai (P.D. Sambandam) to his lover Ambujam (K. Sooryakala) and lastly his wife Usha (Pandaribai).
Everybody narrates their own tale of what must have transpired alongwith their conspiracy theories. The plot moves from one scene to another with dexterity. There is enough long dialogues to bore people which is typical of Tamil and Malayalam movies. The dialogue delivery of stars in Tamil films is of another worldly order. Balachander has used little bit of Hitchcockian influence but apparently he is more inspired by Akira Kurosawa to make this film. The camera work is spectacular.
Shivaji Ganesan is brilliant as usual and shows us that he was a consummate actor, though at parts he is over acting, All others have acted quite well, keeping to the script. Though the dialogues are heavy at times, one is able to understand the substantial part of the movie for somebody like me. This one is a timeless classic. imdb 7/10
Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s masterpiece of the growing up of an adult human being, starring Bharath Gopi, KPAC Lalitha, Azeez, among others.
ShankaranKutty (Bharath Gopi) is a no gooder wiling his time eating and drinking at others’ expense, doing sundry jobs without any pay and playing with children. He is grown up but immature and irresponsible. He has no working skills to speak of. He has a sister Sarojini (Kuttyedathi Vilasini) who works as a maid in Trivandrum and sends him money.
Peeved at his lack of seriousness, she marries him off to Shantamma (KPAC Lalitha) but marriage and subsequent child birth does not make him aware of his responsibility. Shantamma moves off to her maternal home and he does not deem it necessary to follow her and inquire about her.
At his village he is infatuated with a widow Kamalam (Kaviyoor Poovamma) but she has an affair going on with somebody on the side. Kamalam commits suicide after the man refuses to take responsibility for her. Which is the point at which when Shankarankutty starts taking life seriously. He becomes a cleaner to a truck driver Azeez and sees him play with his own little children while at the same time having an affair with another lady enroute his travels.
Adoor has bounced Shankarankutty against three women – his sister, the widow and his wife and made him realise responsibility only against rejection by two women. He is portrayed like a child with an immature mind unable to grasp the harsh realities of life. He has seen both these women being mistreated and that sort of opens his eyes, which is why he takes up the job of cleaner the second time after quitting the first time, unable to cope up with the demands of trucking life.
Bharath Gopi has acted quite brilliantly for his part as the dumb reckless person to a happy smiling husband and father towards the end. The transformation is quite spectacular. Deservedly he bagged the best actor award at the Nationals. Others have done their part quite well. Adoor apparently has not used any background music during the movie, still the natural sounds whilst making the film are quite breathtaking. He has focused a lot of ultra close up shots of the characters, don’t know the meaning of that – there must be something to that. Typically any Malayalam movie must have one eating scene and one drinking scene. This movie had plenty of both – more of the eating though and some bizarre ultra close ups, unable to fathom the reason for that though. imdb 8/10
Poignant award winning Malayalam movie “Manimuzhakkam” (1976) directed by P.A. Backer and starring Harikeshan Thampi.
Its a very interesting plot in the sense that the script very subtly delves into identity conflicts of a person based on others’ perception and religious beliefs. Jose (Harikeshan Thampi) is an orphan bought up in a christian convent upto his college days. Then he is discovered by his long lost Hindu family and he immediately faces an identity crisis. Earlier in the college a girl dates him until she discovers that he grew up in an orphanage.
Then he finishes college with first class and his family proposes his marriage to another Hindu girl until her family discovers that he was brought up in a christian upbringing. He goes to Madras for a job whereupon he is taken upon by a catholic family as a potential suitor for their girl. Until they learrn of his real story.
There is a lot of subtle messaging going on, which is quite well done. But the movie lacks the tempo to be a robust hit. The music is dreary and depressing. The plot slows at various places to depict the social awkwardness of Jose considering the fact of his early life in an orphanage. The last scene is very riveting like Charlie Chaplin’s The Modern Times.
Overall movie is good and it has won the national & state award also, but it fails to raise above the mediocre. imdb 2/10
K.G. George’s haunting award winning psycho drama movie “Swapnadanam” (1976) starring Dr. Mohandas, Rani George, Suman, among others.
George has managed to maintain a suspense almost throughout the movie, which lies to his credit. The story is about an introverted socially awkward doctor Gopi (Dr. Mohandas) who has no social skills to talk about being forced into marriage to his cousin Sumithra (Rani George) in an arranged marriage kinda setting as a quid pro quo for funding his medical education.
Whilst in medical college, he falls in love with a student but that does not materialize much to his dismay and that plays at the back of his mind in his marriage. His wife Sumithra is a kind of rich snobbish girl bred with much life comforts. Their marriage is falling apart and he has no back up plan nor a support system to ensure it doesn’t.
George has beautifully played with lot of themes during the movie. There is hitchcockian suspense with jazz music playing in the background. He has pushed Gopi close to his mother and takes him close to the servant too. The consummation takes place much later, which is when the man breaks up because he has to attend to a dying patient at his clinic. Very bold scenes for a 1976 movie production.
George has bought about the tension in the household between Sumithra and Gopi and his mother very well. Gopi has to stay in a house with comforts provided by his father in law which rankled him to the extreme. Also the house belonged to Sumithra’s friend Rosi (Mallika Sukumaran) so that interplay between Gopi and Rosie is also played out very well. Her brother Mohan (Suman) who is a real estate agent also stays in the house and the script manages to weave a doubt around Mohan and Sumithra.
Ending up in Madras for a closure is a little manufactured i thought. The movie is shown in flashback when doctors at the hospital in Madras give him a narco analysis test to bring out the truth.
The intensity of Dr. Mohandas as Gopi and the mix of playfulness, neglect, & anger of Rani Chandra as Sumithra is done beautifully. Both of them have acted extremely well. Very sorry to learn that she died very young in a plane accident. She was one good talent gone too soon. imdb 6/10
Award winning avant garde Malayalam film “Uttarayanam” (1974) directed by G. Aravindan and starring Sukumaran, Adoor Bhasi among others.
The underlying theme of the movie is exposing corruption in ideology. The film focuses on the main protagonist Ravi who is a masters in literature and reads literary masters but does not find any employment anywhere, typical of the scene in 70s Kerala.
His grandfather was a follower of the Gandhian principles of non violence whereas his father had taken up the revolutionary ideals of Bhagat Singh. The film moves into flashback mode to show us the conflicting ideologies at play.
He seeks company of Kumaran Master, the last known friend of his father, who gives him letter of recommendations to one Gopalan who had during the revolutionary movement turned sides against them, but is now a corrupt politician. His friend David who hated politics from his college days is now a trade union leader, mediating for business persons against difficult labour situations. His another friend from college days Premkumar (Sukumaran) who is now a medical rep but spends his leisure time on drinks, smoke and women.
So Ravi is a confused aatma frustrated at not getting his due worth. His family is worse off, not having even milk to drink coffee with. There are only empty promises and corrupt ideologies with hypocrisy ruling the roost.
Aravindan has crafted a masterpiece with his first ever movie. His opening long shot of a train amidst the green foliage of Kerala is breathtaking and so is the camera work and cinematography throughout the movie. There are long shots which are picturesque as well as stunning close range shots through cubby holes, windows, doors which are quite brilliant. The silhouette shot of the cover image is breathtaking. Its a kind of a neo realism cinema practiced by the masters like Satyajit Ray, Vittoria de Sica and others with closer to the ground natural settings. imdb 7/10
Brilliant Malayalam award winning movie “Nirmalyam” (1973) written and directed by M.T. Vasudevan Nair and starring P.J. Antony, Sumithra, Ravi Menon among others.
The basic theme of the movie is the neglect of temples in small villages and consequent neglect of the arts and culture of Kerala except when a foreign tourists come visiting. But the undercurrent throughout is the abject poverty of the people, the lack of opportunities for young people, the sad & desolate future for women.
The film revolves around an oracle who is sort of a go between the worshippers and god. He faces bleak future because nobody is coming to the temple, no offerings are made and he has to beg from house to house for some little grain. He has a son who is educated but unemployed and loafing around with no gooders and a daughter who is not educated and staring at a bleak times. He has two more young daughters who don’t go to school because they have no books nor school uniform to wear.
A young priest joins the temple but he is looking to escape the priest hood by studying for competitive exams. He seduces the oracle’s daughter and has sex with her inside the temple. A small pox virus breaks out in the village which is when the oracle is summoned for his divine help.
P.J. Antony has done a magnificent role as the oracle with his long locks which he keeps playing with and erect persona going with the intense eyes, he is deadly in extreme. Its a once in a lifetime performance for which he won the National award for best actor. Others have done an equally good job, especially Sumithra as the seduced daughter – she is quite brilliant as the hopeless female with no future. The ending of the movie is quite spectacular. The music is very good and so is the camera work, cinematography which captures the essence of the movie quite beautifully. imdb 8/10
Award winning Malayalam family drama film “Panitheeratha Veedu” (1973) directed by K.S. Sethumadhavan and starring Prem Nazir, Nanditha Bose, Bahadoor, Alummoodan among others.
Basically too many sub plots with the under current of grinding poverty, depression, misery, dejection, in each of sub plots. Prem Nazir is not able to give relief to anybody who look upto him, because he himself is under a cloud with his family suffering from a violent father, abject poverty and unhappy mother & sister.
Story of a young Leela who is being forced into prostitution by their foster parents, estranged father & son, violent family battles, sad life of an unwed mother – all heady mix of emotions, sadness, grief in this family movie.
There were long shots of Prem Nazir walking – don’t know what it means. Shobana has done a good role as the young Leela, was very authentic. Others are okay, Prem Nazir is more like a confused aatma in the movie. The title means “Unfinished House” its a metaphor for unfinished agenda, but whether he is able to fulfill it is not shown in the movie because the last shot is of him leaving in a train from Ooty station. There probably could have been a sequel to the movie.
Lovely songs by M.S. Vishwanathan and P. Jayachandran saves the day somewhat.
Award winning Malayalam noir film “Sarasayya” (1971) starring Sathyan, Madhu, Sheela, Jayabharati among others.
Heavy duty emotional film this one, right from first frame and that too with heavy dialogues and equally dense music. If not anything else, the music was killing the viewer.
Sathyan is a leprosy doctor and researcher but he gets emotionally involved with his patient Sheela. Young Madhu is also a doctor who gets smitten by Sheela. In the meanwhile Sheela’s sister Jayabharati has a troubled marriage with an oddball character. Their father is mentally challenged. Sheela is indebted to Sathyan because he recovers her fully from leprosy.
But Sathyan rapes Sheela one day in an emotional state and she denies such thing ever happened to her beau Madhu. The father meanwhile dies from accidental poisoning and police gets involved. Too much of emotional wrangling going on among the characters, with copious amount of tears flowing. The saving grace in the movie is undoubtedly Madhu who was the cool, assured, sorted out character. The director has tried to add some oddball comic characters to the plot, but it fails to entice the viewer. IMDB 2/10
Lovely award winning Marathi film “Umaj Padel Tar” (1960) starring Ramesh Deo, Chitra, Durga Khote, Datta Salvi among others.
Its based on the theme of problems within a rigid heirarchical joint family system in India, where doubt, jealousy, suspicion, revenge can destroy families. Ramesh Deo and Chitra are happily married he being a motor mechanic having his own garage, Durga Khote being his loving doting mother.
A rival family which is high flying high society types lawyer and his wife but no substance within, plot their downfall through some nefarious games. Rift happens in the family, angry words exchanged, wife stomps off to her father’s house.
The plot is unraveled by the lawyer’s father who knows his son only too well to be taken in his wiles and guiles. All’s well that ends well with lots of lessons learned.
Nice simple plot with rich script and dialogues, not too emotionally heavy. Good accomplished acting by Ramesh Deo, Chitra, Shanta Jog, Datta Salvi, Durga Khote, its a kind of a rich star cast but everybody has played their part well, no overacting by anybody. It got the national award in 1960 for best feature film in Marathi.
Beautiful, sensitive, socially relevant National award winning Marathi movie “Kanyadaan” (1960) directed by Madhav Shinde and starring Usha Kiran, Dada Salvi among others.
Just like “Vamsha Vriksha” made by Girish Karnad and B.V. Karanth in 1972, this movie deals with the theme of widow remarriage in a traditional rural Indian family setting. And since this movie was made in 1960, it is far advanced for the years.
Usha Kiran has done a super job as the unfortunate widow who loses her army husband soon after her marriage. Her father in law encouraged her to come out of the shackles and join college. In the college she falls in love with another poet. Her mother in law being traditional and orthodox rebels against it, but the father in law brilliantly played by Dada Salvi initially feels aghast but when he overhears her conversation that her in laws love her more than anything else, the heart melts.
Very beautifully made movie with clean direction, rich dialogues and some brilliant acting by Dada Salvi as the elderly person has expressed his emotions very superbly. IMDB 8/10
Satyajit Ray’s haunting portrayal of the Calcutta of the 70s, of the period of unemployment, naxalite movement, frustration of the youth, family expectations beautifully set out in Pratidwandi, the first of his Calcutta trilogy.
Siddhartha Choudhary (Dhritiman Chatterjee) is an unemployed youth having to abruptly terminate his medical studies due to the untimely death of his father. Being the eldest son, there are family expectations on him to step into his father’s shoes and provide for the family.
He has a sister who is employed and quite ambitious as well. She knows what it takes to get ahead in her career and is quite determined. His younger brother is into the political movement of that time and is quite sure of where his path lays. He even asks Siddhartha to join him so that he might get some job in the party office. Siddhartha declines.
Siddhartha is the idealistic son who smokes, has his first drink with a friend well past the legal drinking age and repulses when his friend takes him to a sex place. He gives interviews after interviews but at every interview there are hundreds of candidates waiting for that one job.
He accidently meets up with a girl Keya whom he has known fleetingly when she calls him home to fix up the light fuse which had broken. They develop a platonic relationship from there on. She is a single child of her father, her mother had died when she was young, but she does not like her aunt, whom her dad is proposing to marry soon. She has an adversary there.
He is offered a job as a medical representative but for that he has to leave Calcutta and go to a small town far away. He is averse to leaving his beloved city, though it has nothing to offer him. Siddhartha goes to a job interview that drags on and on in sultry conditions in a room packed with people with no fan whatsoever. He rebels against the indifference shown by employers in not providing even basic human facilities to people.
The film title’s English meaning is adversary. Siddhartha’s adversary is everything that Calcutta throws up to him – the unemployment, the frustration, angst at having to terminate his medical studies, the burden of shouldering the family responsibility, the idiotic employers who keep asking him stupid questions and not giving him a job. All characters in the movie have an adversary in some form or another. The sister at the boss’s wife who keeps doubting her integrity and for the younger brother of course, the entire egalitarian society is his adversary.
Ray opens the scene with a funeral shot in photo negative flashback and ends the movie with another funeral scene but in a normal shot. Siddhartha settles down in his rented room at the new town and starts reading the letter written by Keya when he hears the sound of the bird which he had heard in his youth with his siblings and was looking for it all along, but could not find in the busy noisy city of Calcutta. Is Calcutta his adversary, that’s the question that Ray ponders.
Dhritiman Chatterjee has done a brilliant job as the single most important protagonist in the movie. Camera work, lighting and photography are excellent and of course the masterful screenplay and direction of Ray. Timeless classic this from the master director. Proud to have watched it on his 100th birth anniversary today, 2nd May, 2021.
Dense historical fiction Malayalam movie “Oru Vadakkan Veeragatha” starring Mammootty, Madhavi, Suresh Gopi among others.
The story is set in the 16th century Kerala. Basically its a fight between two brothers, one real and one adopted. Both of them are students of kalaripayatt, an ancient Kerala martial arts form. Both these young kids gain proficiency in that art under their father. Their sister Madhavi is also proficient.
This is where it gets ugly. Gopi despises Mammootty who is a better kalari player than him. M likes the sister, but she is married off to somebody else under a family tradition. Unfortunately the man to whom she is married off is an eunuch. Then there is one girl Chithra who loves M but he does not reciprocate her feelings. She is married off to Gopi so there you are, he lost two girls in a row.
M leaves their household and takes up training under another acclaimed master. There the master’s daughter loves him, but M rejects her as well. In between there is another family dispute on a property matter between two brothers which they resolve to get it sorted out by a kalari duel – duel unto death.
So each unit of family recruits one professional kalari player – Gopi is chosen on one side and M’s new master on the other side. M becomes the seconds of Gopi which is like a betrayal to the new master but M could not do anything because Gopi’s father requests him to do so. Old family ties you see.
Anyway, the duel happens and both kalari players die, both by mistake, one by deceit with the knife used and other accidentally stumbling onto a sword. M is the suspect in both deaths then he escapes to find out who played hookey with the knife. He discovers that the master’s daughter had done that so he goes about to affront her, but she is found hanging.
So there you are M loses three girls, his half brother, his love, family etc. The clan fight has taken a heavy toll. Much like the Godfather of the 16th century. But the story is obviously not over, there is revenge, anger still burning so somebody needs a closure for their grief and redemption.
Overall its a longish movie with a lot of kalari moves which are all quite good. Its a good sport and i hope it gets the recognition it deserves. They got a bunch of awards for this movie. Its a story of love, deceit, cunning, rejection, redemption, anger, revenge all aplenty. Mammootty got the best actor award at the Nationals but i thought it is Madhavi who has acted quite brilliantly in the movie.
Award winning bio pic of Mirza Ghalib (1954) directed by Sohrab Modi and starring Bharat Bhushan, Suraiya, Nigar Sultana among others.
It depicts one part of his life when Mirza Ghalib (Bharat Bhushan) falls in love with Chaudhvin Begum (Suraiya) who is smitten with the poet. But her family have their own problems including poverty. Mirza has his own problems which is also debt and he is already married to Umrao Begum (Nigar Sultana) but who is childless.
Whole lot of darbar politics in the court of king Bahadur Shah Zafar, Mirza is arrested for gambling and there is whole lot of misunderstanding between the love of Mirza to Chaudvin Begum. Meanwhile Umrao Begum is pining for children at the background and silently crying at the romance between Mirza and Chaudvin Begum.
The dialogues are mostly in Urdu, very chaste, very rich. Suraiya looks beautiful in the movie and has acted magnificently as the jilted lover. Am surprised that she has not got any award for her performance in the film. Songs are all very rich sung by Mohammad Rafi, Talat Mahmood and Suraiya herself.
This is kind of a cult film, must watch for all ages. I hope they digitally enhance this movie to provide some rich colour to the prints.
Award winning Malayalam movie “Peruvazhiyambalam” (1979) directed by P. Padmarajan and starring Asokan, Bharath Gopy, Lalitha, Azeez among others.
Made in a new realist style subtly depicting the impact of violence on a society. Prabhakaran Pillai (Azeez) is a local goon who has gone to prison for 3 months on a female sexual violence charge. He comes back to the village and terrorizes people, kills the witness who gave him away.
Raman (Asokan) is a young kid staying with his two sisters. He is a hot headed young boy not given to servitude. Prabhakaran Pillai has raped one of his sisters. In a local festival there is a scuffle between the two which results in the death of Prabhakaran Pillai. Raman goes on the run.
He is saved by a local tea shop owner Vishwambaram (Bharath Gopy) who lodges him with a prostitute Devayani (Lalitha). She starts developing maternal instincts towards the boy. But the boy is restless, he wants to learn about news of his village and wants to go back.
In the end he goes back to the village and a small crowd gathers around him in awe of him. The film uses violence as a metaphor for respect, awe and leadership. Prabhakaran Pillai gains respect because of his violent streak but Raman garners respect because of his violence in ending another greater and evil violence.
Overall acting by everybody is superb, music by M.G. Radhakrishnan is brilliant. Padmarajan has used minimal lighting and special effects in the making of this movie. It won the national award for best film in malayalam in that year.