Reeltime Metroplus

Story of a script

Vaikom Muhammed Basheer   | Photo Credit: By special arrangement

Bhargavi Nilayam, the classic Malayalam film, celebrated its Golden Jubilee this year. Released in December 1964, it is considered the first true horror film in the language. It was the result of the teamwork of many hugely talented people but what gave it an edge was Vaikom Muhammed Basheer’s script. Based on his short story Neelavelicham, it was the Basheer touch that made this film special.

Incidentally Basheer had an unquenchable passion for cinema. During one of his travels Basheer is said to have wandered into a shooting location in Kolhapur. The director of the Hindi film that was being shot there was the legendary V. Shantaram. Basheer went up to Shantaram and asked if he could act in the film. And when the director asked him what role he expected Basheer without batting an eyelid said that of the hero. Shantaram could not help but laugh out aloud. Though he did not grant Basheer his wish Shantaram presented him with a white trouser, a T-shirt with a flower embroidered on it and a pair of sunglasses from the set. From the next day onwards Basheer appeared at the location wearing this outfit. Shantharam was staying in a nearby hotel. The hotel owner thought that Basheer was part of the film and allowed him to stay there free of cost. When the shoot was over Shantaram vacated the hotel and Basheer also moved to another town.

Basheer was a compulsive traveller and he took up different roles during these travels. Sometimes he travelled as a palmist or a pilgrim and the like; till he decided to settle down in Ernakulam.

In Ernakulam Basheer started a bookstall and camped in a small room above his bookstall. This place soon became a hub for writers, actors and directors. P. Bhaskaran, Ramu Kariat, Malayattoor Ramakrishnan, Sathyan and others were regulars at Basheer’s place. Once, H. Mehaboob, the maverick singer, came to Basheer’s bookstall and asked for two rupees. Basheer was displeased with Mehaboob’s unkempt appearance. He pulled the singer into his room by the scruff of his neck, asked him to clean up, and gave him a neat, ironed clothes and Rs. 25.

It was during this time that Basheer befriended dramatist C.J. Thomas. Now, CJ as he was called, used this bookstall as a rendezvous point for his lady love, Rosy. Later, they got married. CJ had written a film script based on Kainikkara Kumarapillai’s Kalavariyile Kalppapadukam. CJ gave the script to Basheer asking him to read it. Many believe that this was the first scientific film script written in Malayalam. This script motivated Basheer to try his hand at scriptwriting. By then he had also referred to some English books on this subject. Basheer now decided to write a story based on horror stories, like those written by Bram Stoker. Basheer completed the story, Neelavelicham, and also wrote down the script based on this story.

Basheer now approached a couple of film producers with his script. Most of the producers were sceptical about putting their money on a horror film. Finally, T.K. Pareekutty, owner of Chandrathara Films, agreed to take over the project. Basheer was introduced to Pareekutty by M.M. Koya, Ramu Kariat and P. Bhaskaran were roped in, and the rest, as they, is history.

Three more scripts that Basheer went on to write became films. Balyakalasakhi, Entuuppappakkoru Aneendarnnu, Mucheettukalikkarante Makal all had that unique Basheer touch..

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Printable version | Feb 23, 2021 3:22:54 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/reeltime-column-bhargavi-nilayam/article6605159.ece

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