Prem Nawaz, Thikkurissi Sukumaran Nair, Muthiah, Kedamangalam Sadanandan, S P Pillai, Ambika, Pandari Bai, Kusalakumari, Baby Vinodini

Ancient temples have been a favourite subject of Indian cinema, especially in the South, from very early on. History and beliefs behind the construction of these temples presented on the screen impressed the audience. The Tamil film Sreenivasa Kalyanam (1934) that told the story of the famous temple of Lord Venkateswara at Tirupathi in Andhra Pradesh was the first in this series. Eventually this was the first film completely shot in South India. The film was a huge box office hit and was followed by such films that spoke of legends behind other temples.

The Tamil film Ananthasayanam (1942) produced and directed by K. Subrahmaniam was the first Indian film that presented the myths and legends behind the famed Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple at Thiruvananthapuram The film failed at the box office.

Sabarimala Sree Ayyappan (1961) produced by Pakshiraja Studios told the story behind the Lord Ayyappa shrine at Sabarimala and was the first Malayalam film in this genre. The film was a huge hit. . Prompted by the success of this film, K. S. Ganapathy came up with a black and white film Sree Guruvayoorappan(1964). Produced under the banner of Sudarshan Films and directed by S. Ramanathan the film pivots around the myths behind the Sreekrishna temple at Guruvayoor. Stories of the devotees of Lord Guruvayoorappan and his miracles became a subject of the film.

The idol that is worshipped in Guruvayoor temple is believed to be the one that was worshipped by Sree Krishna’s father Vasudeva and his ancestors. By the end of Dwapara Yuga, people lose morals in life. The Yadavas were swept off by fury and feuding, Sree Krishna (Prem Nawaz) is killed by a hunter. Pralaya (the Great flood) swallows the earth. The idol worshipped by Vasudeva is saved by the Guru Brihaspathi and Vayudeva and taken to where Lord Siva and Parvathi were dancing and fixed the idol there. The place came to be known as Guruvayoor and became one of the shrines of Lord Krishna.

Most people know the story of Janamejaya’s (Bhoopathi) revenge on Thakshaka (Kedamangalam Ali) that led to the mass killing of snakes. Janamejaya is cursed by the snakes and he is infected by leprosy. Janamejaya reaches Guruvayoor temple to be relieved of the curse and is blessed by the Lord and cured.

Some of the well known stories told in the film are of Kuroor Amma, the famous devotee of Lord Guruvayoorappan (Pandari Bai) for whom the Lord came as a small boy (Baby Vinodini) to help her, of Vilwamangalam Swamiyar (Thikkurissi) before whom Lord Krishna used to appear to receive his offerings of Manjula (Ambika) after whom the old Banyan tree near the temple is named. The story behind the epic poem Narayaneeyam written by Narayana Bhattathiri (Muthiah), and Gnanappana written by Poonthanam (Kedamangalam Sadanandan) too attracted the audience.

Thikkurissi, Muthiah, Ambika and Pandari Bai excelled in the roles of the devotees of Lord Guruvayoorappan. Comedy by S. P. Pillai and Kaduvakkulam Antony had a good impact.

Songs written by Abhayadev were set to tune by Dakshinamoorthy. ‘Radha Madhava Gopala…’ (Yesudas), “Umma Tharaam….” (Leela), “Krishna Krishna Enne Nee….” (P. Leela), became instant hits.

Cinematography by Madhavan Nair and editing by G. Venkitaraman is commendable. Dialogues written by Kedamangalam Sadanandan impressed and matched with the mythological background and period of stories narrated. Music composed by Dakshinamoorthy was excellent. A series of films on the Guruvayoor temple were released after this, Krishna Guruvayoorappa, 1972 (colour) and Guruvayoor Mahatmyam in 1984. An interesting fact is that Dakshinamoorthy has composed music for all these films.

Will be remembered:

It is the first devotional film on Guruvayoor temple and has excellent music