Old is Gold Metroplus

Hotel High Range (1968)

A still from the film 'Hotel High Range'

A still from the film 'Hotel High Range'  

The song Ganga Yamuna sangama samathala bhoomi…, in the soulful voice of Kamukara Purushothaman that the radio stations in Kerala usually broadcast on Independence Day or Republic Day, takes you to the Malayalam spy thriller, Hotel High Range. The film, released on June 28, 1968, is perhaps primarily remembered today for this patriotic song.

Produced and directed by P. Subrahmaniam under the banner of Neela Productions, the film was shot at Merryland Studios. Nagavalli R.S. Kurup wrote the script and dialogues for a story developed by the ‘story department’ of the production house. Cinematography was by ENC Nair and editing by N. Gopalakrishnan.

‘Veena’ S. Balachander’s Tamil film Andha Naal (1954), which is considered as the first noir (crime film) from the South was probably the first spy film also. Successful spy films in Hindi like April Fool (1964), Ye Zindagi Kitni Haseen Hai (1966), Farz (1967) and Ramanand Sagar’s blockbuster film Ankhen (1968) established this genre. Most of such spy films pointed fingers towards the spy work of foreign countries in India. Hotel High Range falls in this genre.

Popular stars like Thikkurissi Sukumaran Nair, Kottarakkara Sreedharan Nair, S.P. Pillai, Sarada, Santhi, Aranmula Ponnamma etc. essayed important roles. This was the debut Malayalam film of Telugu star Ramakrishna who played the hero in the film.

The story takes place during a foreign invasion of India. Raja Saab (Thikkurissi Sukumaran Nair) who is the proprietor of Hotel High Range, in the mountain ranges of Kerala, is a spy of the enemy country. A military recruiting officer who comes to Kerala dies in a jeep accident which the Central Intelligence Agency suspects to be the conspiracy of Raja Saab. Hari, an Intelligence officer, is sent to Kerala to investigate the case. He manages to get employed in Raja Saab’s tea estate.

Raja Saab and planter Dhaneshan (Kottarakkara Sreedharan Nair) are business partners. Dhaneshan’s family consists of his daughter Nalini (Sarada), his sister (Aranmula Ponnamma), and her son Ramesh (Ramakrishna), who is the leader of the plantation workers. Nalini is in love with Ramesh.

Since the Central Intelligence Department could not make a headway into the mysterious death of the military recruiting officer, another lady officer (Santhi) is sent to follow up the matter. She manages to find a stenographer’s job in Hotel High Range, introducing herself as Madhumathi, and begins investigation.

Dhanesh expels Ramesh from his house for his trade union activities against Raja Saab. During his investigation Hari gets a handkerchief in which the secret camps of Raja Saab are marked and the ‘magic spectacles’ to read them. Hari is murdered by Raja Saab’s men, but before dying he hands over the kerchief and the spectacles to Ramesh and reveals the secret behind it.

Raja Saab plans to leave the country along with Madhumathi, his ‘faithful’ steno and ally. Dhaneshan who approaches him demanding his share in the business is kept under captivity . Raja Saab’s men brings Nalini also to the secret camp and is tied up along with her father. Ramesh and his friend Vasu (Paravoor Bharathan) who come to rescue Nalini and Dhaneshan are also tied up. Raja Saab plants a time bomb in the secret camp and gets out from there. Madhumathi saves them all by de-activating the bomb.

The police reach the spot following a secret message passed on by Madhumathi. Raja Saab’s plan to sabotage a train carrying soldiers by planting bomb on the railway track is also thwarted by Ramesh and Madhumathi. Raja Saab is arrested, and Ramesh weds Nalini.

Ramakrishna and Sarada impressed in their respective roles, especially in the song sequences. The comic scenes involving S.P. Pillai as Head constable ‘Vepralam’ Velupillai, Bahadur as a drama artists, and Nellikkodu Bhaskaran as the Hotel Manager were not very different but did manage to create some laughter.

An all time musical hit, the film is counted among the timeless creations of lyricist Vayalar Rama Varma and composer G. Devarajan. Apart from the very popular Ganga Yamuna sangama samathala… (Kamukara Purushothaman), the songs like Snehaswaroopini manassil neeyoru… (K.J. Yesudas), Ajnatha gayaka… (P. Susheela), Pandoru shilpi….(Yesudas-B.Vasantha), Puthiya ragam puthiya thaalam… (L.R. Easwari) have stood the test of time.

Will be remembered: As the debut Malayalam film of Ramakrishna, for the music, especially for the patriotic song Ganga Yamuna

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Printable version | Jun 3, 2020 10:05:25 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/old-is-gold-column-hotel-high-range/article7336964.ece

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