Over time, the contours of Marine Drive have changed.
Friday marked the birth centenary of actor Sathyan, who exuded raw energy and was known for his uncontrived style of acting. The thespian succumbed after a long battle to cancer while shooting for K.S. Sethumadhavan’s Anubhavangal Palichakal, released in 1971.
The film was noted for its nuanced portrayal of a maverick’s social and personal struggle in the 1950s, when the Communist movement was shaking up the foundations of the State’s feudal society. Some defining moments of the film were filmed in and around Kochi.
Scripted by Thoppil Bhasi and based on Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai’s novel, Anubhavangal Palichakal had Sathyan depicting a formidable Communist resorting to course correction at a critical juncture in his personal life. The famous song ‘Pravachakanmare…’ shot around Edakochi, Durbar Hall Ground and Marine Drive in the city, is critical to the narrative as it captures the philosophical dilemma of the protagonist, who is forced to lead a dual life to hoodwink the police on his trail.
Over time, the contours of Marine Drive got redrawn. Only sidewalls remain of the gate of the then police commissioner’s office.
The advent of new bridges on the national highway at Aroor took off a chunk of traffic from the Edakochi bridge. The face of Ernakulam, where a significant portion of the film was shot, changed over the four decades after its release, but Sathyan didn’t even live till the end of filming.
In fact, the last segment of the film, with Chellappaan (the protagonist played by the actor) on death row being taken to the gallows, was shot using a proxy.
Anubhavangal Palichakal marked a watershed in Malayalam cinema on other counts too. It saw the coming together of celebrated writers and actors, as it also featured Prem Nazir and Sheela.
Coincidentally, Sathyan’s last film also turned out to be the first uncredited film of Mammootty, who rose in the years that followed to rule Malayalam cinema screens.