Fall of a heroine

Updated - May 18, 2016 10:28 am IST

Published - February 23, 2014 06:14 pm IST - Kochi

Sebastian Kunju Kunju Bhagavathar

Sebastian Kunju Kunju Bhagavathar

The financial success of Balan inspired Tamil producers to try their luck in Malayalam films. They considered this as a good investment. Annamalai Chettiar, owner of Shyamala Film Studio, and a leading producer in Tamil, was one of those who looked at Malayalam cinema seriously. He decided to make a talkie in Malayalam.

For this he first invited S. Nottani, director of Balan, to Madras to discuss his Malayalam project. During their discussion, Nottani suggested that they include Alleppey Vincent, who played a key role in the production of Balan, in this project.

This was because both of them did not know Malayalam. Annamalai Chettiar agreed and Vincent reached Madras. He suggested that his elder brother Sebastian Kunju Kunju Bhagavathar and M.K. Kamalam would be the best choice for the lead roles. Vincent was to rope in the rest of the artistes. The story was not finalised at this stage. As suggested by Chettiar and Nottani, Vincent reached Alleppey, talked to his brother and returned with him to Madras.

Both the brothers agreed with Chettiar to complete the remaining work before the shooting of the film began. Sebastian Kunju Kunju Bhagavathar roped in C. Madhavan Pillai, a degree-holder and noted novelist, to write the story and script. In addition to this Madhavan Pillai had also authored the popular English-Malayalam and Malayalam-English dictionaries.

The two brothers met Madhavan Pillai and felt that his story Jnanambika could be successfully adapted for the film. They informed Chettiar and Nottani of this and also that Puthankavu Mathan Tharakan would be the best choice to write the lyrics.

Nottani arrived at Alleppey and stayed in a tourist bungalow there. Madhavan Pillai began writing the script and Nottani approved of it. Even as this process was happening Vincent and Sebastian were busy casting the other actors. K.K. Aroor, M K. Kamalam, A.B. Pious, M.V. Sanku, and Vincent, all of whom had acted in Balan were picked to be part of the second Malayalam talkie. Besides them drama actors Mathappan, Nanukkuttan Nair, Ochira Chellappan Pillai, Thiruvambadi Pachu Pillai, Mavelikkara Ponnamma were also selected for the proposed film.

Interestingly, an unreasonable demand of payment by Kamalam’s father Kochupilla Asan put the brakes on a project that was sailing smoothly. Vincent had offered Kamalam Rs. 300, the same amount given to her for Balan. But Kochupilla Asan wanted Rs. 2,000. This was an amount that no actress in South India was paid during that time. Vincent’s bargaining efforts failed as Asan refused to climb down from the demand. Finally, they were forced to drop Kamalam and replaced her with C.K. Rajam.

This was a huge blow for Kamalam. She was practically shunted out of cinema and had to return to theatre. Even here Kamalam fell out of favour and opted for Kathahprasangam to keep the wolf from the door.

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