Starring: Satyan, Adoor Bhasi, Bahadur, Govindan kutty, Sarada, Ushakumar, Sukumari

The Hindi film Mahal (1949) directed by Kamal Amrohi was based on a complicated ghost story he wrote. Considered a classic, the film accelerated the trend in the direction of Gothic fiction and such stories became a favourite subject of Indian cinema. The Malayalam film Yakshi released on August 30, 1968, was based on one such ghost story, a psychodrama written by the popular novelist, Malayattoor Ramakrishnan. Thoppil Bhasi wrote the impressive dialogues for the film.

Yakshi was based on the novel of the same title, first published in 1967. This serialised story (neenda katha) was published in a popular Malayalam weekly magazine. The story, called Mukham, was published in 20 chapters. It is said that it was Vayalar Rama Varma who suggested the title Yakshi for the book format of the novel and was filmed under the same title. The novel as well as its film version became instant hits. The film is considered as the first psycho-thriller in Malayalam. The short novel which can be read in two or three hours leads the readers to psychedelic bewilderment and the film was successful in inducing the same effect to the audience.

Yaar NeeBees Saal Baad Who Kaun ThiGum Naam Yakshi

The film was producer M.O. Joseph’s debut film, made under the banner ‘Manjilas’. Directed by K. S. Sethumadhavan and shot at Vikram and Newton studios, the film was noted for its excellent cinematography by Mehli Irani. Music composed by Devarajan was a highlight of this all-time musical hit.

The novel was translated to Tamil, Hindi and English and in 1993 BBC World Service broadcast it in 12 episodes in its ‘Off the Shelf’ programme. Malayalam film Akam (2011) directed by Shalini Usha Nair also was an adaptation of the same story.

YakshiThe film dispensed with usual comedy to maintain the film’s serious tempo as a psychological drama.

Sreeni (Sreenivasan – essayed by Satyan), a chemistry professor, believes in the existence of yakshi, the Indian female counterpart of the vampire. Sreeni conducts experiments to prove the existence of yakshis. In the laboratory, Sreeni meets with an accident while conducting experiments on the chemical properties of ‘ghost blood’. Almost half of his face is burnt and one of his eyes damaged. People keep away from him because of the way he looks. Even his lover Vijayalakshmi (Usha Kumari) ditches him. Sreeni turns a recluse and decides to take up his passion seriously – the study of yakshis. He shifts into a haunted house to continue his research in black magic and yakshis.

Sreeni, previously a teetotaller, now consumed by lust visits a brothel and finds that he is unable to satisfy his sexual urges. All this leaves Sreeni deeply demotivated and introverted. His life is a shadow of his previous life. It is at this juncture, that Ragini (Sarada) an extraordinarily beautiful woman walks into his life. Ragini befriends Sreeni and despite his damaged face, loves him. Sreeni marries Ragini. But Sreeni is unable to consummate his marriage and realises that he is impotent. But his conscious mind refuses to acknowledge the fact.

Sreeni starts believing that Ragini is a yakshi. He begins hallucinating about non-events. Coincidences start throwing up new meanings that reinforce his fear of Ragini - the untimely blooming of the Pala tree (Alstonia Scholaris), mythically attributed to mark the arrival of yakshis when Ragini arrives. Sreeni’s servant Paramu (Bahadur) dies mysteriously the night Ragini goes to Sreeni’s house. Anandan (Adoor Bhasi) and his wife Kalyani (Sukumari) are Sreeni’s neighbours. Their pet dog Judy barks non-stop on seeing Ragini. Judy dies when Ragini pets it. Kalyani who becomes pregnant many years after her marriage loses the baby for no apparent reason - Sreeni attributes these unfortunate events to Ragini, supposedly a yakshi. He believes that his impotency is the result of his marriage to Ragini.

Sreeni believes that Ragini is trying to drink his blood and every deed of hers strengthens his beliefs. yakshis

When Sreeni’s suspicion about Ragini mounts to the peak she leaves home. After some time, Sreeni brings her back home. In his severe state of mental disorder Sreeni murders Ragini and is arrested for the crime. In the court, Sreeni gives evidence that Ragini was a blood thirsty yakshi and she left for the celestial world of yakshis. But the police investigation report is that Sreeni killed her and burnt her corpse by immersing it in acid. There ends the psychodrama.

Satyan and Sarada excelled in their pivotal roles. Govindan Kutty and Usha kumari in their cameo roles as Sreeni’s colleague and lover respectively impressed the audience. One of the best directorial ventures of K. S. Sethumadahvan , the film makes a psychological treatment of the mind and transports the audience from reality to superficiality. The film also paints a powerful picture of the male ego. The film exposes the male tendency of pointing fingers at women for their inability to justify their deeds and incapability to admit their mistakes. The hero Sreeni even co relates the reasons for his impotency to his wife Ragini senselessly.

Songs written by Vayalar Rama Varma were set to tune by Devarajan. “Swarna Chamaram Veesi Ethunna…..” (as solo by P. Leela, as duet by Leela and Yesudas), “Vilichu, Njan Vili kettu……” (Suseela) became instant hits. Other hits include “Padmaraga Padavukal….” (Suseela) and “Chandodayathile….” ( S. Janaki).

Will be remembered: As the first psychological thriller in Malayalam and also as the first film produced under the ‘Manjilas’ banner. And of course for its excellent music.