‘Kidappadam,' released in 1955, was the 21st film produced at Udaya Studios. A moderate commercial success, the film was produced by Kunjacko under the banner of XL Productions and was directed by M. R. S. Mani. The film focused on the hardships faced by the farmers and the methods adopted by the landlords to snatch the land holdings of small farmers.
Muthukulam Raghavan Pillai wrote the dialogues for the script penned by Kunjacko. The story of the film was adapted from Bimal Roy's Hindi classic film ‘Do Bigha Zamin' (1953). The story of the Hindi film was written by Salil Chaudhary . ‘Kidappadam' can be considered as a remake of the Hindi film with some minor changes. The dialogues reflected the sentiments and emotions contained in the dialogues written by Paul Mahendra for ‘Do Bigha Zamin'.
A multi-starrer , the star cast included Prem Nazir, Thikkurissi Sukumaran Nair, Kottarakkara Sreedharan Nair, Muthukulam, Miss Kumari, Kumari Thankam, Adoor Pankajam etc. The dances by Baby Girija were an added attraction of the film.
The story of the dispossessed peasant and landlord had been told many times before in Malayalam in films like ‘Navalokam' (1953), ‘Sariyo Thetto' (1953) etc. but in ‘Kidappadam', a much wider context was chosen with rural poverty at one end and the brutal effects of city life at the other.
The story revolves around a small farmer Sankaran (Prem Nazir) who lives with his father (Thikkurissi), wife Kalyani (Miss Kumari) and son Ravi (Boban Kunjacko) in a small village in Kerala. The small plot of land in which they live was owned by the family by hard work and was beloved to them, more than their life. Sankaran's father had borrowed money from the landlord (Kottarakkara). The landlord's wife (Kumari Thankam) hated Kalyani, while the landlord had an eye on this young woman. The landlord's manager (Muthukulam) was at hand to support his master's evil plans. The landlord sues Sankaran's father for non-repayment of the debt using the blank papers that he got signed while lending money. He demands the ‘Kidappadam' (dwelling) of Sankaran as repayment of the debt. The landlord allows Sankaran some more time to repay the debt failing which, he says that he would confiscate the property.
Sankaran leaves the village and reaches Chennai (then Madras) in search of a job. His goal is to earn money and repay the debt. Sankaran faces several hardships. Unable to find a good job, he works as a rickshaw puller. Unknown to Sankaran, his son, Ravi also reaches the city and works as a mobile coffee vendor. Both Sankaran and Ravi face the cruelty of the city.
In the village, Kalyani struggles hard for a living. She also struggles to protect herself from the landlord's clutches. The money sent to her by Sankaran and Ravi is stolen by the landlord's manager. Sankaran's father dies of hunger and illness; Sankaran is injured seriously in an accident and his leg is broken. Ravi meets Sankaran and they decide to return to their village in time to save their plot from being confiscated. But fate works against them. They get into a wrong train and reach the village after the end of the extended date. The landlord takes over their plot. Physically and mentally shattered Sankaran dies when he sees his ‘kidappadam' taken away. Kalyani and Ravi walk away from the village bringing the film to a sad end.
The Hindi original ‘Do Bigha Zamin' was promoted as the epitome of Indian neo-realism. But the Malayalam remake, with some minor changes in the story line, failed to come anywhere near the original. This was perhaps because the remake focused on entertainment factors like comedy, dances etc. and also because of the changes brought about in the story.
Miss Kumari impressed with her subtle acting. Prem Nazir also did well as the tragic hero. But their performance paled in comparison to that of Balraj Sahni and Nirupa Roy in these roles in ‘Do Bigha Zamin'. Thikkurissi as the poor farmer, Baby Girija with her dances, Mathappan as a rickshaw puller and Adoor Pankajam as his wife also impressed.
Eight songs written by Abhayadev were tuned by V. Dakshinamoorthy. Some of the songs became instant hits. A solo sung by A. M. Raja ‘Kunkuma chaaraninju pularkaalam…' was the most popular of them. A duet by Raja and Revamma, ‘Ennini njaan nedum...', ‘Paavanamidamani ...', ‘Abhimanam vediyathe...,' ‘Panathin neethiyil…' (all by Raja), and ‘Naalathe lokathil...' (L.P.R.Varma and Stella Varghese) were other hits from the film.
Will be remembered: As a social film with a strong storyline. For its good music, particularly for the song ‘Kunkuma chaaraninju...'