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Pareeksha: 1967

A still from the movie.  

The play Pareeksha, written by T. N. Gopinathan Nair in 1964, was first staged the same year by LIC Arts Club at VJT Hall, Thiruvananthapuram. The drama, in five scenes, was serially published in the Sunday supplement of Kerala Kaumudi news paper. On December 31, 1964, it was staged at Changanasserry as a part of the Golden Jubilee celebrations of the Nair Service Society. It was translated into the 14 Indian languages and broadcast by All India Radio under its National Programme. T.P. Radhamani, C.S. Radhadevi, Nagavalli RS Kurup, K.G. Sethunath were some of the artistes who took part in the Malayalam version. First published in book form in 1965, it was a best seller and the Hindi translation was published in 1966 by Hindi Sahitya Bhandar, Lucknow.

A subject of social and cultural importance and of public interest, the corruption and malpractices in education and conduct of public examinations were the subject of the stage play.

N. Vasu Menon produced the film based on this play , using the same title, under the banner of Rani Films. It was a huge hit. The film directed by P. Bhaskaran was released on October 19, 1967.

The dialogues were by the dramatist himself. Shot at Vasu Studios, the film had cinematography by E.N. Balakrishnan, editing by K.Sankunni and K.Narayanan and music by M.S. Baburaj.

Prem Nazir, Thikkurissi Sukumaran Nair, P.J. Antony, Adoor Bhasi, Sarada, Aranmula Ponnamma were cast in important roles in the film.

The story pivots around the school final public examinations, SSLC, and its results. Neelakanta Pillai (P.J. Antony) lives in a village with his son Appu (Latheef) and daughter Parvathi (Shobha). Appu fails in the SSLC examinations. Pillai’s sister Lakshmi Amma (Aranmula Ponnamma) also lives in the same village. Her son Vijayan (Prem Nazir) who works in Calcutta gets transferred to Ernakulam. Vijayan takes Appu along with him to provide coaching to the boy for the SSLC exams the following year.

Vijayan and Appu stay in a small house in Headmaster Janardhanan Pillai’s (Thikkurissi Sukumaran Nair) compound. The Headmaster is a friend of Neelakanta Pillai. Vijayan falls in love with Janardanan Pillai’s daughter Yamuna (Sarada) and their families decide to get them married.

The SSLC examinations are over. Appu is doubtful of clearing his Science exam. Janardanan Pillai is the evaluator of this paper. Neelakanta Pillai approaches Janardanan Pillai to know his son’s result in advance. Appu fails to secure pass marks managing to get only 26 marks, while the minimum pass mark is 35. A respected and honest teacher Janardanan Pillai refuses to give Appu extra marks.

Vijayan is indebted to his uncle Neelakantan Pillai. He assures him that he will influence Janardanan Pillai and that Appu will get through the examinations. But the Headmaster rejects Vijayan’s request to manipulate the mark list. Vijayan forces Yamuna to get things done in his favour. Yamuna corrects the original marks. She changes 26 to 62 in the examination paper as well as the mark list.

Janardanan Pillai learns of his daughter’s actions. He is shocked to find out, from his wife Bhageerathi (T.R.Omana), that Yamuna is pregnant and that Vijayan may withdraw from the marriage if Appu fails to clear the exams.

When Neelakantan Pillai comes to know of all this he decides to meet Janardanan Pillai along with Vijayan and Appu to apologise and resolve the issue. But they are a trifle late. Janardanan Pillai dies but only after he corrects the marks from 62 to the original in the exam paper and the mark list.

The climax of the film is different from that of the stage play. In the play, Janardanan Pillai accepts Appu as his student and promises his father that Appu will clear the SSLC examination under his coaching.

Thikkurissi Sukumaran Nair came up with an impressive performance.

The songs written by P. Bhaskaran and tuned by Baburaj in Hindustani ragas have turned immortal. Assisted by R.K. Shekhar, background music was arranged by M. B. Sreenivasan. Songs like Oru pushpam mathramen…in raag Desh, Pranasakhi njaan verumoru… in Sindhubhairavi, both sung by K.J. Yesudas; Avidunnen ganam kelkaan… in Pahadi, En prana nayakane… in Yamuna Kalyani and rendered soulfully by S. Janaki can be counted amongst the best in the language. Another song, a naughty, romantic number, Annu ninte nunakuzhi… (Yesudas) turned favourite of millions.

Will be remembered: As a social film on the education system and the conduct of examinations and for its unforgettable songs.

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Printable version | Aug 3, 2021 9:08:53 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/cinema/cinema-columns/Pareeksha-1967/article13978873.ece

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