Gujarati stage play Sanskar Lakshmi written by Prafulla Desai of Shri Deshi Natak Samaj, Bombay, was staged successfully in Gujarat, Maharashtra and Gujarati-speaking regions in the country during the 1960s. This emotionally charged family melodrama was adapted for the screen by Rajashri Productions for their super hit Hindi film Aarti (1962) with Ashok Kumar, Pradeep Kumar and Meena Kumari visualising a love triangle in the story. Vasu Menon remade the film in Malayalam as Manaswini which was released on this same day, April 13, in 1968.
Shot at Vasu Studios under the direction of P Bhaskaran, the dialogues for this film were written by novelist K. E. Mathai, popularly known as ‘Parappurath’. Manaswini was jointlyedited by K. Narayanan and K. Sankunny, with cinematography by E. N. Balakrishnan and music composed by Baburaj.
Indian cinema in the 1960s, especially in the South, was very much in favour of heroine-oriented social stories, glorifying the characters of mothers, daughters-in-law, sisters-in-law etc.
The success of films under this genre like Manaswini and Kudumbini (1964), Chettathi (1965), Kusruthikuttan (1966) ,etc carried forward this trend.
Sathyan, Madhu and Sharada forming the love triangle in the story, while other popular artistes who acted in the film included Thikkurissi Sukumaran Nair, P.J. Antony, Nellikkodu Bhaskaran, Meena and Indira Thampi.
Shekhara Menon’s (Thikkurissi Sukumaran Nair) daughter Malathi (Sharada) and his nephew Ravi (Sathyan) are studying in the same Medical College. Menon wishes to conduct Malathi’s marriage with Ravi. But Malathi dislikes Ravi’s materialistic attitude and believes that a doctor’s skills should be used for the welfare of the patients and not for materialistic motives. Floods adversely affect life in the Kuttanad region in Kerala, and Malathi along with Ravi attend the medical camp organised there to assist people. A journalist, Haridas (Madhu) saves Malathi from drowning and they fall in love.
Ravi goes abroad for higher studies. Malathi and Haridas decide to get married though Menon firmly disapproves their relationship. Ravi returns after studies and is disappointed and humiliated by Malathi’s marriage to Haridas, considering it a betrayal. Ravi gets married to Rekha (Sukumari), who supports Ravi in starting a nursing home of his own.
Malathi is ill-treated in Haridas’s family by his brother Divakaran’s (Nellikkodu Bhaskaran) wife Janamma (Meena). Malathi keeps the household neat and clean and her dedication towards the family wins the hearts of Haridas’s father Raghavan Nair (P.J. Antony) and sister Usha (Indira Thampi), who is a divorcee. Divakaran’s son Venu (Master Sathyan) was unable to walk properly and Malathi takes him to Ravi for treatment.
Janamma spreads rumours that Ravi visits Haridas’s family to meet his former lover in the pretext of treating Venu. This brings a discord in the marital life of Malathi. A suspicious Haridas sents Malathi back to her father.
Malathi’s absence makes Venu emotionally down and his condition worsens due to lack of proper medical care. Raghavan Nair brings Malathi back home at Janamma’s request and Venu recovers from his illness.
Malathi then returns to her father once more. Janamma repents her past deeds and clears the suspicion created in the mind of Haridas by the rumors spread by her. She requests Haridas to bring Malathi back. When he sets out to do so, Haridas meets with an accident and sustains serious head injuries. Ravi is the only surgeon who can operate on Haridas and he agrees to do so on the condition that Malathi surrenders herself to him forever.
To save her husband’s life, Malathi accedes to the conditions laid down by Ravi and the operation takes place successfully. Being a loyal wife who firmly believes in the sanctity of marital relations, Malathi comes to Ravi with poison in her hands with firm decision to end her life. Ravi changes his mind, withdraws the conditions laid down by him and leaves for Calcutta with his wife, giving the social melodrama a happy ending.
Sathyan’s performance in a negative role impressed the audience. As usual Sharada excelled in her portrayal of the long-suffering but noble, family loving daughter-in-law. The comedy sequences with Adoor Bhasi, Bahadur and Pattom Sadan were just repetitions from the past.
Songs written by P Bhaskaran and set to tune by Baburaj became timeless.
Instant hits were “Kanneerum Swapnangalum….” (Yesudas), and “Paathiraavaayilla Pournami Kanyakku …” (Yesudas) . Other hits include “Thelinju Premayamuna…” (Yesudas), “Mutti Vilikkunnu Vaathilil…”, “Aaradhikayude Pooja Kusumam…” (Both by Janaki).
Will be remembered:
As a good social movie upholding the sanctity of marital life, and for the excellent music.