Prem Nazir, Thikkurissi Sukumaran Nair, Kottarakka Sreedharan Nair, S. P. Pillai, B. S. Saroja etc.
Mythology was the favourite theme of Indian cinema in the 1950s. Fantasy and adventure were the other sure-shot success themes. In the South MGR-starrers like Manthrikumari, Marutha Naattu Ilavarasi (1950), Sarvadhikari, Marmayogi (1951) and Sivaji Ganesan starrers like Manohara (1954) are perfect examples of such films. In such adventurous tales the story is usually of the hero who fights against the tyrannical regime of kings, ministers, and brings peace and harmony. In most of these films, the hero or the heroine falls in love with the son or daughter of the tyrant ruler.
Amiya Chakravarthy’s block buster Hindi film Badal (1951) also followed a similar formula. The Malayalam version, Desha Bhaktan (1952) was also a huge hit.
Athmarpanam, released on March 23, 1956, was a blend of sequences borrowed from the Hindi and Tamil mentioned above. Shot at Merryland Studios and produced under the banner of Filmco Productions, the film was directed by G. R. Rao. K. P. Kottarakkara wrote the script and dialogues. The dances choreographed by the renowned dance director Sohanlal and performed by Kusalakumari and Meenakshi from Bombay was highlight of this film. Like it happened to a similar film Kerala Kesari (1951), this film failed at the box office. Some of the songs composed by V. Dakshinamoorthy and brilliant acting by Thikkurissi were perhaps the only saving grace.
Ugravarma (Thikkurissi), the king of Kalpakapuram, declares himself as God. The atheist king forces the innocent people to worship him. The people suffer and pine for freedom. Those who raise their voice against the king are put to the sword. The people’s saviour, a strange person who introduces himself as Vijayan, appears proclaiming that ‘freedom of thought and worship is the birthright of the citizens.’ The king orders the army chief Vikraman (Prem Nazir) to capture Vijayan. But Vijayan escapes. The people assemble under the leadership of Vijayan to revolt against the autocratic rule of the king.
Nalini (B. S. Saroja), the daughter of Prathaparudran (Kottarakkara) who executes the king’s orders in the kingdom, falls in love with Vikraman, though she is against the cruelty of her father and the king. She rallies behind the people who fight against the king’s tyranny. Nalini tries to persuade her lover to withdraw from his attempts to capture Vijayan and to save the lives of the innocent people.
News spreads that Nalini is in love with Vijayan and that they meet secretly. The king issues orders to arrest her. Nalini is arrested by Vikraman. The king orders the execution of Vikraman for not being able to capture Vijayan. Vikraman is saved by Vijayan and Nalini is set free. Vijayan usurps power from Ugravarman and establishes peace and harmony in the kingdom.
Now comes the climax. Vijayan is none other than Nalini in disguise. Vikraman and Nalini get married bringing the film to a happy end.
Out of the eight songs written by Abhayadev and composed by Dakshinamoorthy, some of them became hits. The duet Anandavalli nee thanne alle… (A. M. Raja-P.Leela), which was a copy of the C. Ramachandra composition Gaya andhera huva ujaara… (Subah Ka Thara-1954) sung by Talat Mohammed and Latha Mangeshkar became a huge hit.
A devotional number Hare muraare… (Raja, Jikki and chorus) was a copy of Hemant Kumar’s Jai Jagadeesh Hare… for the Hindi film Anand Math ( 1952 ). The other hits include Vaadaathe nilkkane… (Leela), Puthu varsham vannallo…(Raja and chorus), and Maanju povan maathramaayen…
Will be remembered: As an adventure film from the early years of Malayalam cinema. For the music, especially for the duet Anadavalli nee thanne alle…