Successful stage plays have often been adapted on screen since the birth of Indian cinema. The first talking film Alam Ara (1931) was the screen version of the Parsi play of the same title written by Joseph David, a renowned playwright. In the South, the legendary dramatist Pammal Sambandham Mudaliar’s play Kaalavarshi was the first in this series which was filmed as Kaalava (1932) in Tamil.
In Malayalam, Thikkurissi Sukumaran Nair’s successful stage drama Sthree, which was adapted on the screen under the same title in 1950, was the first in this genre. Most of the successful plays staged by KPAC, a prominent professional drama troupe in Kerala, were made into films under the same titles. Mudiyanaya Puthran, released in 1961, was the first in this series of KPAC plays.
The successful stage play Puthiya Akasham Puthiya Bhoomi was written by Thoppil Bhasi in 1959 and staged by KPAC the same year. It won the Sahitya Akademi award for the best play that year. T. E. Vasudevan produced the film version under the same title in 1962 and was honoured with the National award in the best regional films category.
The film did not do well at the box office hit though the play was a huge hit.
Directed and edited by M. S. Mani, the film was shot at Narasu Studio and Newton Studio in Madras.
The film pointed a finger at the corruption in key sectors of administration like irrigation and the unjust exploitation of natural resources.
Agriculture is the occupation of the majority of the people in Mulankavu, a remote village in Kerala. The village suffers from drought and lack of irrigation facilities. With the support of other farmers in the village, Kunju Nair (Thoppil Krishna Pillai) gets permissiom from the Government to build up a bund to store water for irrigating the agricultural land.
Sukumaran (Satyan) is appointed by the Department to explore the possibilities of increasing the storage capacity of Velayar Dam near the village. His father-in-law (Kottayam Chellappan) is the Chief Engineer of the dam. Johnson (Kottarakara) owns estates surrounding the dam and most of his estate holdings will be drowned if the capacity of the dam is increased. Corrupted by Johnson, Sukumaran’s father-in-law gives a report against increasing the capacity of the dam.
Sukumaran finds that by increasing the capacity of the dam, the irrigation problem of Mulankavu and neighbouring villages will be solved.
Moreover, the villages can be supplied with electricity. Sukumaran’s father-in-law is scared that the true report on the expansion of the dam will expose his manipulations. He threatens Sukumaran and requests to hold back the report recommending expansion of the dam. Faithful and loyal to her husband and the country, Sukumaran’s wife Usha (B.S. Saroja), supports her husband and requests him to proceed with the project. The villagers offer labour for the construction work at reduced rates. The expansion work starts.
Meanwhile, a time bomb is planted in the work site by Usha’s father to sabotage the project as a last attempt to conceal his manipulations. Usha comes to know about this secret plan, but before she could reach the site, the bomb explodes taking the lives of Sukumaran and several other villagers at work.
The film ends with a scene in which Usha pays homage with flowers to her husband and the other workers who died.
There is also a sub plot to the film that tells the tragedy of Kunju Pillai’s daughter Rajamma (P.K. Leela), who is fascinated with cinema and is exploited by her brother-in-law Gopu (Bahadur), husband of her sister Ponnamma (Ragini). Satyan excelled in his role of the faithful engineer. Comedy scenes involving S.P. Pillai as Mammooty, the village tea shop owner, impressed.
Nine songs written by P. Bhaskaran were composed by M.B. Sreenivasan. The romantic duet Thamara thumbi vaa…. K. P. Udayabhanu, P. Leela), the dance number Murali Mohanakrishna…. (C. K. Revamma-Leela) became instant hits. Other hits include Asha tan poonthen …. (Jamunarani). Neram poy…. (K. S. George-Leela&chorus), Premathin naattukari….(P. Susheela) etc.
Will be remembered: For the National award and the music, especially the duet Thamara thumbi vaa…
Keywords: Puthiya Akasam Puthiya Bhoomi