Banner : Chandratara Productions
Producer : T K Pareekutty
Director: SS Rajan
Story/Dialogues: K Padmanabhan Nair
Lyrics: P Bhaskaran
Star cast: Kottarakkara, Prem Nazir, Premji , S P Pillai, P J Antuny, Satyapal, Jyothilakshmi, P K Saraswwathi, Sukumari etc
‘Kunjali Marakkar' tells the story of the legendary 16th century naval captain. The life and times of martyrs and freedom fighters caught the attention of Indian cinema from its early period. But filming of such stories was not possible during British rule. Before Independence, the Censor Board had banned a Tamil social film, ‘Thyagabhoomi' (1939) directed by K. Subrahmaniam on charges that the film contained dialogues and sequences that went against the British. The Malayalam film ‘Veluthambi Dalava' (1962) that falls in this genre was not as successful as ‘Kunjali Marakkar.'
Many historical films, in various languages, were made after Independence. And most of them focused on the lives of martyrs and freedom fighters. They became the subject of Hindi like ‘Padmini' (1948), and ‘Jhansi Ki Rani' (1953); Tamil films like ‘Veera Pandya Kattabomman' (1959) and ‘Kappalottiya Thamizhan' (1961).
‘Kunjali Marakkar,' produced by T. K. Pareekutty and directed by S. S. Rajan was shot at Satya and Syamala Studios, Chennai. The film was edited by G. Venkitaraman, story and dialogues were by K. Padmanabhan Nair and fights directed by R. N. Nambiar. Kottarakkara Sreedharan Nair, Prem Nazir, P. J. Antony, Kottayam Chellappan, Sukumari etc. played important roles in the film. Playback singer P. Jayachandran made his film debut in this film, though his songs in ‘Kalithozhan' (1966) were released first. The music, composed by B. A. Chidambaranath, was a high point of the film.
The Portuguese dominated trade in the Malabar after Vasco da Gama set foot in Kozhikode. The Samoodiri of Kozhikode (Premji) opposed the Portuguese. But the foreigners were supported by the local merchants and the Samoodiri's wicked nephew (P. J. Antony). Mohammed (Kottarakkara), a brave warrior and merchant supported the Samoodiri in his fight against the Portuguese. The Samoodiri honoured Mohammed by making him his naval chief and renaming him ‘Kunjali Marakkar'.
The Chief Minister Mangattachan's niece is in love with Poovalappil Nanu (Prem Nazir), a warrior-merchant. Rumours are spread that Nanu is killed by the Portuguese. Meanwhile, the Portuguese, with the support of the local traders and king's nephew try all their wicked tricks to capture Kozhikode and even to murder the Samoodiri. But Marakkar's timely intervention saves the country and the king. Nanu goes to Kochi and gets into the Portuguese troop and even manages to become one of their captains.
To save his people from Portuguese attacks, Samoodiri accedes to their request to build a fort in Kozhikode. Another fort is built at Kottakkal. When the land is attacked by forces from the sea, Marakkar stands up to them and staves off the attempted invasion. Nanu, in disguise as Antonio, captain of the Portuguese, takes charge of Kozhikode Fort. He lends secret support to Marakkar. But with the support of some local merchants and landlords, the Portuguese succeed in capturing Marakkar and killing him.
The film revolved around the brilliant acting of Kottarakkara in what must be one of his best roles. Premji also stood out in his role as the Samoodiri. P. K. Saraswathi, heroine of early Malayalam and Tamil cinema, made a comeback in this film. She played the role of the queen. Jyothilakshmi also impressed in the romantic role.
Music was one of the main attractions. There were six songs written by P. Bhaskaran and set to tune by Chidambaranath. A solo by K. J. Yesudas ‘Udikkunna sooryane…,' the romantic numbers ‘Mullappoo malayumai…' (P. Jayachandran), and ‘Muttathu pookana…' (P. Leela) were the most popular of them. Other hits include the devotional by S. Janaki, ‘Neeyallathaarundu abhayam…', and ‘Aattinakkare…' (Yesudas, Vasantha, Kamala).
Will be remembered:As the debut film of playback singer P. Jayachandran, for its good music and a stand out performance by Kottarakkara.