Sep 29, 2011

Tracing the Roots of Malayalam Cinema

With the memories of my evening jaunts to a tiny wayside tea stall located in the fringes of the Trivandrum city and the light talks I used to make with my friend Kiran Ravindran there, while sipping warm coffee, still soaring in my mind; I had a similar experience of an evening road side light talk here in Cochin itself quite recently. It happened when Kiran visited Cochin for something professional. At around 10 pm in the night I went to his dwelling place, near the railway station, and while drinking a hot tea from a less hygienic tea stall, he revealed his purpose of his Cochin visit.

A director of documentaries and short films, and a writer of some critically acclaimed books, Kiran was in Cochin in connection with some research works of his new book, ‘Cinemayil Inganeyum Chilar’. Forgive me, I could not think about a proper literary translation of this Malayalam phrase now, but, ‘Cinema has Some People like This’. 

In this new work, which is currently under preparation, he deals with such persons of Malayalam Film Industry, who remain almost unknown to the glory of the Silver screen, even if had appended some contributions – nothing less than significant – to the growth of the industry. 

With a plan to write a book by dividing the Malayalam Film history into two segments, viz, from the beginning to the end of Black and White era, and the later era, Kiran sought the guidance of two veteran producers, Navodaya Appachan and T E Vasudevan. It was these two giants who directed Kiran to include the details of lesser known personalities of Malayalam cinema. 

So, the next was his search for unpopular stars. He delved deep into the history, till reached the initial days. Though none of the crew behind the first Malayalam film Vigatha Kumaran (The Lost Child – 1928) is alive today, including its director and lead actor J C Daniel (the Father of Malayalam Cinema) and the heroine P K Rosie, he succeeded in tracing some of the people of the later films.

The first talkie in Malayalam was Balan (1938). Kiran had earlier visited M K Kamalam, the heroine of Balan, who died in 2010 at 86. 

During his visit to Cochin, he met some of the people who associated with the film Nirmala (1948) and Thiramala (The Tide – 1953). I have some photos of the actresses of both of the films to share with you. The then and now comparison will be an interesting one. Apart from these actresses, the people Kiran met include actress Vasantha Kokila, playback singer T K Govinda Rao, sound recordist Krishna Elamon, Thomas Burley, lead actor of Thiramala, character actress Annamma, M K Nathan, the script writer of the first Malayalam colour film Kandam Becha Kottu (The patched-up Coat – 1961), etc.

If you are someone associated with the Malayalam film industry of yester years, or if you know someone of that kind, kindly send a note to If it will help Kiran in his new work, I can have the satisfaction of putting in my share. 
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