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Pottekkatt’s tryst with cinema

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If in 1942 everything had gone as planned then S.K. Pottekkatt’s story would have been the second one to be made into a film. Marthanda Varma, by C.V. Raman Pillai, was the first. This silent film, however, got entangled in serious legal issues with the publisher of the work, Kamalalayam Book Depot. The screening had to be stopped after the first day and the prints confiscated. The prints remained in the custody of the publishers till 1974 when the National Film Archive of India acquired it.

Almost 10 years later an attempt was made by Kandamath Sreedharan Nair. He wanted to make a film based on Pulliman, a short story by Pottekkatt. But he ran into financial problems and was forced to abandon it halfway through.

P. Bhaskaran made another attempt to turn this story into a film, sometime in the 1960s. A Madras-based non-Malayali, G. Rao agreed to fund the project. Bhaskaran was assigned to direct the film and also to pen the lyrics. K. Raghavan was to be the music director. The shooting was slated to be held at a studio in Madurai. Strangely, this attempt also failed after Rao withdrew from the project citing financial exigencies.

Two failed attempts, but there were still takers for this popular Pottekkatt story. A. Ponnappan, owner of Deepthi Films was the producer, and E.N. Balakrishnan, noted cinematographer, was named director. This project turned successful. Pulliman was released in 1972 and was in colour.

Pottekkatt’s first story, Rajarshi appeared when he was in college and it was published in the college magazine. After completing his Intermediate he chose to become a teacher. A chance meeting with a strange man at the Calicut beach, a traveller from an island in Malaya, ignited in Pottekkatt the desire to travel. His travelogues cut a new path in Malayalam literature.

From 1939 onwards Pottekkatt stayed for a long time in Bombay, where he took up a job. Most of his well-known short stories, including Pulliman, were written during his Bombay days. It is said that he, unlike others, did not want to be surrounded by silence when he wrote. Instead he often chose the most crowded places, like Victoria Garden, to write. Achanum Makanum was the first of Pottekkatt’s stories to be published in one of the leading regional publications of the time.

Even after Pottekkatt returned to Calicut he continued writing. He even dabbled in politics to be elected to the Lok Sabha in 1962. A winner of numerous awards including the prestigious Kerala Sahitya Akademi, Kendra Sahitya Akademi awards and Njanapeedam Award in 1981.

Though Pottekkat was flooded with requests to write scripts for films he very consciously avoided them. Some of his wroks like Naadan Premam and Moodupadam were made into films. But Pottekkatt was never tempted by tinsel world. The last film that was made on his story was Kadavu (1991), based on his story titled Kadathuthoni. This was produced, directed and scripted by his friend M.T. Vasudevan Nair years after Pottekkatt’s death (August 6, 1982). The film won for MT numerous awards at the State, national and international levels.

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2020 4:35:25 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/cinema/cinema-columns/reeltime-pottekkatts-tryst-with-cinema/article6690992.ece

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