Prem Nazir, Madhu, Thikkurissi, Adoor Bhasi, Sarada, Sheela, Adoor Bhavani etc.

The Malayalam stage play ‘Thulabharam,' written by Thoppil Bhasi in 1968 was a thundering hit. The unusual political drama that focussed on the blacklegging in trade unions and the villainous ways of the management of factories to suppress labour activities proved to be a successful recipe. The popular drama troupe, KPAC, staged the play throughout the country.

Supriya Films came with a screen version of this highly emotional drama the same year under the same title. And not surprisingly it became a huge hit.

Popular stars of the time like Prem Nazir, Madhu, Thikkurissi, Adoor Bhasi, Sharada, Sheela, Adoor Bhavani and others came up with stellar performances. The film also had some fine songs from the hit-duo Vayalar-Devarajan. The film won for Sharada the National film award for best actress. It was also adjudged the second best film of the year.

The film focussed on some of the undesirable features among political and trade unions, resultant labour issues. It portrayed a realistic picture of the working class that often falls prey to the evil of the Management-Trade Union disputes in factories.

The stage play adopted the Sanskrit drama style of ‘Vishkambam' wherein the story is told as a flashback. The film also starts with a court scene with the heroine narrating her hapless story. This was a deviation from the usual storytelling method.

The dialogues written by the dramatist himself for the film were impressive. The film is considered one of the best directorial venture of A. Vincent. Shot at AVM and Vikram Studios, the camera was handled by Bhaskar Rao and Venkitraman was the editor. The film stood out for its technical excellence.

Following the great success of the Malayalam film, the story was remade in Tamil, Telugu and Hindi with Sharada as the heroine in all the versions. In the Tamil version, titled ‘Thulabharam' she was paired with AVM Rajan, in Telugu with Shobhan Babu and in Hindi with Ajay Sahni. The Tamil version also was directed by Vincent and the other two language versions, ‘Manushulu Marali' (Telugu) and ‘Samaj Ko Badal Dalo' (Hindi) by Madhusudana Rao. All the versions closely followed the original script and dialogues written by Thoppil Bhasi. They also did well at the box office.

Vijaya (Sharada) and Valsala (Sheela) are college mates and are close friends. Vijaya's father R .K. Menon (Thikkurissi) is a factory owner and Valsala's father Achuthan Nair (Adoor Bhasi) a leading advocate. Menon is swindled by his manager and loses ownership of the factory. He dies following a heart attack. Vijaya's beau Babu (Madhu) also abandons her. Achuthan Nair who was Menon's advocate also does not come to Vijaya's help. Ramu (Prem Nazir), a faithful labourer of the factory marries Vijaya. They lead a happy life despite all the hardships. Ramu is the leader of the labour union. In the meanwhile, Valsala enrols as a student of Law.

Years roll on. Vijaya is now mother of three children. Due to trade union disputes the factory is closed down and Ramu loses his job. He tries to get the factory re-opened with the support from the Government. One day Ramu is stabbed to death by the goons hired by the management. Vijaya and children are orphaned. The children also take to begging for a living. When Vijaya comes to know of this she punishes them.

People now begin to hound Vijaya. Rumours are spread about her morality. Even her mother-in-law turns against her. Poverty drives her son to steal a loaf of bread from a tea shop. The shop owner burns the face of the boy with a red hot ladle. Vijaya can take it no more. She decides to kill herself and her children. She feeds her children with poisoned food. The children die but Vijaya survives. The law proclaims Vijaya a murderer. She is taken to court. Here her friend Valsala, now Public Prosecutor, appears for the Government. The murder case is proved. Vijaya narrates her story to the court. The film ends with a question directed to the law and society at large about the terrible circumstances, the unbearable cruelty of the society that provokes a mother to kill her own children.

Sharada excelled as the struggling mother. Her stunning performance, especially in the climax, is often compared to that of Nargis in the classic ‘Mother India' (1957). Deviating from his usual romantic roles, Prem Nazir came up with a commendable performance as the trade union leader. Madhu, Sheela, Thikkurissi, Adoor Bhasi and the others also did justice to their roles.

The music was superb. All the six songs written by Vayalar and tuned by Devarajan became hits. ‘Kaattadichu kodum kaattadichu...' (K. J. Yesudas), the lullaby ‘Omanthingalin Onam...' (Yesudas-P. Susheela), the romantic number ‘Thottu thottilla... ‘ (Yesudas), the dance song ‘Bhoomidevi pushpiniyayi....' (Susheela-B.Vasantha), ‘Prabhata gopura vaathil ...' (Yesudas-Janaki) and ‘Nashtappeduvaan vilangukal…' (Jayachandran & chorus) are still popular.

Will be remembered: As the film that won National awards, second best feature film of the year and the Urvashi Award for best actress for Sharada. And for its timeless music.