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How Udaya Productions came to be

Alleppey Vincent   | Photo Credit: FOR MP

After the release of Prahlada (1941) Malayalam cinema production went through a long period of inactivity. Exhibitors in Travancore, Cochin and Malabar had to depend on films from other places. No one ventured to produce a film here. The topic of discussion among a group of people who regularly assembled on the second floor of an old building located north of the iron bridge in Alappuzha town was this rather long, seemingly unending interval.

The freedom struggle in India was at its final stretch. A couple of people in this group suggested that the time was ripe to produce a patriotic film in Malayalam and the others backed the idea. Among them was Alleppey Vincent who had a bit of experience in this field. He briefed them about the steps to be taken. T.V. Thomas, who later became a Communist leader and minister, backed Vincent. They took the first step without much delay.

They decided to float a production house and named it Udaya Productions. Their regular meeting place was their office and a board was fixed bearing the name of the production house. As a next step they decided to register it in accordance to the Companies Act. They approached a prominent chartered accountant, Venkitachalam Iyer who prepared the bye-laws of the company. The next step was to mobilise capital. T.V. Thomas took the lead. He approached T.M. Varghese, a leading lawyer and front row leader of the State Congress Party. He entrusted three letters to T.V. Thomas, one to Vendor Krishna Pillai (Dhanalakshmi Vilasam Krishna Pillai), a wealthy Kollam-based cashew exporter, the second to Cheppad Mathukkutty, a planter, and the third to Congress leader E. John Philipose.

T.M.Varghese agreed to be a shareholder in the new company. Vendor Krishna Pillai invested Rs. 20,000, while Cheppad Mathukkutty and E. John Philipose offered to invest in shares worth Rs. 10,000.

Udaya Pictures Private Ltd. came into being in 1946. T.M. Varghese, Cheppad Mathukkutty, Dhanalakshmi Vilsam Krishna Pillai, E.John Philipose, K.B. Harshan Pillai, K.B. Raman Pillai, K.B. Anandam Pillai, T.V. Thomas and Alleppey Vincent were partners, Thomas and Vincent being working partners as they had no money to invest.

The next stage was the preliminary work of production like selecting a story, choosing actors, and deciding the studio where the film would be shot. The company decided to send Alleppey Vincent to Madras to coordinate workrelated to the production. They held on to the earlier decision of making a patriotic film. It was during this time that Kuttanad Ramakrishna Pillai’s play Prathima was banned alleging that it was anti-national. They decided to bring in Ramakrishna Pillai as script writer.

When Pillai completed the story the partners of the company felt that it deviated from the patriotic theme they wanted. In Madras Vincent met Felix Base, a German cameraman, who had a camera was in search of a job. Vincent persuaded Felix to travel with him to Alleppey and join the film project. Later, Felix was made director.

Peethambara Menon, Lalitha, Kuttanad Ramakrishna Menon, Alleppey Vincent, Mathappan, Mulavana Joseph, Kandiyoor Padmanabhankutty and Ambujam were chosen to play the main roles. Thresiamma, who was later christened as Miss Kumari, also acted in a few scenes. The film was called Vellinakshatram and released in 1949. Meanwhile, as this film was being shot, artist V.B. Cherian had begun work on his film Nirmala.

Saju Chelangad is a film columnist.


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Printable version | Jun 7, 2021 5:47:54 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/cinema/cinema-columns/how-udaya-productions-came-to-be/article5928834.ece

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