T. K. Pareekutty who produced successful social movies like “Neelakkuyil” (1954), ‘Rarichan Enna Pouran' (1956), ‘Moodupadam' (1963) etc. which focused on some social issues came up with an adventurous film, based on ‘vadakkan paattu', ballads of North Kerala in 1964. Produced under the banner of Chandratara Productions, the film was directed by S. S. Rajan.
The tremendous success of the first ‘vadakkan paattu' movie ‘Unniyarcha' (1961) must have prompted the producer to come up with a film with a similar theme.
Shot at Vauhini Studios, Madras, the sword fight and wrestling scenes in the film were shot at Kerala Bhargava Kalari Centre under the direct supervision of expert teachers. The film was released on January 31, 1964. As a new advertisement technique, wall calendars with stills from the film were distributed widely weeks before the release of the film. Popular artists like Sathyan, P. J. Antony, Kottayam Chellappan, Ambika, Sukumari etc. were cast in important roles. Apart from acting, Adoor Bhasi worked as assistant director for the film. The music composed by M. S. Baburaj was excellent. The film was a huge hit and also went on to win the National Award for the best Malayalam film in the regional films category in 1964.
Thacholi Othenan (Sathyan) was born into the royal family of Manikoth Kovilakom in Malabar. Othenan was trained in ‘kalarippayattu', the ancient martial art form of Kerala, from a very young age. He grew up to become an extraordinarily brave and skilled warrior. A dispute on the performance of a ritual led to a fight between the local ‘kalarippayattu' teacher, Kathiroor Gurukkal (P. J. Antony) and Othenan in which the Gurukkal was defeated.
Beautiful Kunki (Ambika) falls in love with Othenan, but the brave warrior is in love with Kunhikanni (Devaki), princess of Kadathanadu. In fact, Kunki was falsely portrayed as an ugly woman by Ambu (Adoor Bhasi), servant of Gurukkal, which becomes one reason for Othenan to reject her marriage proposal.
Meanwhile, Othenan happens to meet Kunki on his way to meet Kunhikanni. Othenan falls in love with her at first sight and leads to their marriage. Othenan is supported in all this by his companion, Chaappan (Kunhandy).
Othenan's sister Unniyarcha (Sukumari) falls in love with Payyanadan Chindan (Kottayam Chellappan). Disputes over rights on family properties leads to a fight between Othenan and Chindan, which Othenan wins.
Othenan conducts the festival at Lokanar Temple to celebrate the occasion and offers to donate an elephant to the temple. In the meantime Kunhikanni is kidnapped by Gurukkal's men. Othenan frees Kunhikanni. On his expedition in search of an elephant, Othenan is attacked by Gurukkal's men.
Timely intervention of his wife Kunki and son Kunhambadi (Master Prasad) saves Othenan's life. Gurukkal himself comes to fight and is killed by Othenan. But Gurukkal's men fire at Othenan, killing him.
All the songs, written by P.Bhaskaran and composed by Baburaj, turned timeless hits. ‘Anjanakkannezhuthi...' (S. Janaki), ‘Appam venam ada venam...,' (P. Leela-Santha P. Nair), ‘Kanni nilavathu ...' (Leela), ‘Kottum njaan kettilla...' (Leela & chorus), ‘Nallola painkili...' (Leela & chorus), ‘Naavulla veenayanu...' (K. P. Udayabhanu), ‘Ezhimala kaadukalil...' (Leela & chorus) all went on to become treasured melodies.
Will be remembered: As a national award winning film, for its excellent music and one of the best films in the popular ‘vadakkan paattu' genre.