When we see movies in our childhood, we notice and remember only the people whom we see on the screen. The other critical domains like story, screenplay, direction etc remain largely unknown. But as we grow older, we start taking note of the other areas as well, even more so if you watch a lot of movies. My movie watching spree began after coming to the US. In the last few years, it has been so much that I can say that I have watched almost all Malayalam movies with a decent review. Also, movie promotions have become so trending now that when it’s time for a movie to be released, there will be dozens of programs and interviews featuring the cast and crew. I enjoy watching these interviews and knowing more about the movie and the people involved in it.
When Shanthi Krishna was coming back to the industry after a long hiatus through “Njandukalude Nattil Oridavela”, I saw a lot of her interviews. I had not seen a lot of her movies and the only one I could remember was “Pakshe” where she comes in at the end and spoils it all between Mohanlal and Shobhana (how can anyone forget that!). In one of the interviews, she mentioned about one of her earlier movies “Chakoram”. She said that the last scene in the movie was a long single shot and when she had done it, the director was all praises for it. After seeing her interviews, I had a huge liking for her and wanted to see Chakoram. Oh my God, what a great movie it was! I loved the story and how unconventional it was in several respects. For one, the lead heroine Sharadammini was a short-tempered, irritable woman with a sharp tongue and kind of unpopular amongst friends and family. The male lead was Murali, who was not generally perceived as a romantic hero. Murali is hilarious and extremely lovable as Lance Naik Mukundan Menon with his unique way of talking (in which he expects the listener to fill in his lines) and his thoughts as someone who has seen the world a lot. And when they meet, there is teasing, yelling and an open disregard for each other. But in a turn of events, Sharadammini realizes that he understood her character more than she had imagined. Though on the surface they had very contrasting characters, both had come to their present state out of loneliness and living for others. But alas, just as they decide to embark on a new life , Murali meets with a fateful accident thrusting Sharadammini to her old life.
During the promotion of her movie “Koode”, writer-director Anjali Menon was asked about women centric movies and if there was a rise in them of late. She replied that it was there as early as 1987 and mentioned about the movie” Ezhuthappurangal”. It was a movie revolving around the lives of 3 female friends who had very different characters. One is a bold writer who, following some events, gives up her childhood love. The second one is a lawyer who is divorced and fighting to keep her son with her. The third is a submissive wife who gets raped by her husband’s friends and is estranged from her husband for the same. The movie is about how life changes for each of them when the timid and confused wife decides to fight against her husband with the support of her friends. I strongly believe it was a movie way ahead of its times. Not sure if it was a commercial hit because I had not heard of it before Anjali Menon mentioned it.
I had a faint memory of a movie that I watched when I was a child. A scene I clearly remembered was the one in which Sudheesh is caught in the act of stealing coconuts from his yard by Murali and ends up standing embarrassed in front of his aged mother Sukumari and sister Geetha who is a young widow. It was then that they realize that he had been feeding the poverty stricken family by stealing from others. As the anguished mother wails and the sister asks “were you feeding us by stealing from others?” amidst tears, Murali is seen standing confused and sorry for breaking their already tormented hearts. Such a well written scene it was!
Janardhanan who is a rich and influential relative of this poor family offers a job for Sudheesh and in return, wants Geetha to sleep with him – a classical situation of exploiting the vulnerable.
The movie unfolds to how Sudheesh’s friendship with Murali paves way to people cooking up stories of an illicit relationship between Geetha and Murali who belong to different religions and how it almost leads to a religious riot in the small village. But all is well at the end.
And then I realized that all three of these movies were written by A K Lohithadas. Such a genius he was! I went on to check out his other movies and saw that a lot of my all time favorites were written by him -Kireedam, His Highness Abdulla, Bharatham, Amaram, Kamaladalam etc. Such diverse scripts but yet each of them unforgettable. What an excellent reader and observer he must have been to be able to write these magnificent stories! His scripts were capable of bringing out the acting prowess in actors like Mohanlal and Mammootty which unfortunately is precisely what Malayalam movies are lacking now.
Lohithadas died at age 54, following a cardiac arrest. He was the winner of one National Award, 6 State awards and 14 Film critics awards.