The reluctant producer

Updated - May 23, 2016 07:31 pm IST

Published - October 19, 2014 07:14 pm IST

A scene from Neelakkuyil

A scene from Neelakkuyil

T.K. Pareekutty might not have had any awareness of cinema but he had an innate business sense. A boat owner and transport contractor, Pareekutty gambled on that intuitive sense, a businessman’s boldness, to produce some landmark films in Malayalam including Neelakuyil that celebrates its Golden Jubilee this year. Pareekutty Sahib, as he was popularly known, became a role model for future film producers.

There is an interesting story about how Neelakuyil was produced. Pareekutty never intended to be in the film business. He strayed into it to help his friend M.M. Koya. A tailor, Koya had his own tailoring shop at the north end of Ernakulam market. He moved to Madras seeking his fortune there. Koya was lucky to be employed as costume designer in a couple of Tamil films. When he bagged a contract to stitch naval uniforms in Cochin, Koya returned. His tailoring business became active. It was during this time that a friend from Madras came looking for him. This friend came with the print of the Tamil film Mangamma Sapatham seeking Koya’s help to find a theatre where it could be screened. Koya agreed to help him but asked for a commission. Another condition he put forward was the film would reach the theatre through a representative employed by him. They also decided on the ratio of profit sharing in future.

Koya shifted his tailoring unit to a room in a building north of Press Club Road. Vaikom Mohammed Basheer had his bookstall in the same building. While Mangamma Sapatham was being screened another friend from Madras arrived with the film Mamiyaar . Koya agreed to distribute this film too. According to the contract Koya had to pay an advance of Rs. 5,000. He tried to borrow from some of his friends but his efforts failed. Now, Koya told Pareekutty, one of his friends and a frequent visitor to his shop of his predicament. Pareekutty, was at that time engaged in transporting sulphur to FACT. He agreed to help Koya on the condition that he repaid the amount on a fixed date. A few days later Koya mooted the idea of starting a film distribution firm along with Pareekutty and the latter agreed. They opened an office in the same building where Koya had his shop.

Soon, Koya and Pareekutty befriended Ramu Kariat who was then involved in the publishing of a film magazine from Trichur called Sound . Kariat told them of his film dreams. He used to narrate stories that could be made into films. One such story was of a Japanese film Yukiwariso . Pareekutty liked the story but felt that it was far removed from the realities of Kerala. Kariat and Koya almost indoctrinated Pareekutty to believe that cinema was good business. They managed to convince him those only Rs. One lakh was all that was needed to make a good film. Pareekutty agreed to ‘produce’ a film. P.Bhaskaran was roped in. The first discussion on the film took place in a room at hotel Sea View in Ernakulam. Bhaskaran Master brought Uroob into the project and along with Kariat began working on the story and script. Thikkodiyan used to join them occasionally. All the while Pareekutty used to be there with them as a silent spectator. After the script was finalised they called it Neelakuyil . The discussions continued at a rented house in Aluva.

K. Raghavan, who was working with All India Radio, Calicut, came down to compose the music for the film. He stayed in this house till he completed his work. Raghavan and Bhaskaran, who also wrote the lyrics, decided that one of the songs Kaayalarikathu valayerinjappol … would be sung by Kozhikode Abdul Khader. Pareekkutty who never interfered at any stage of the production made a suggestion. H proposed that Raghavan sing it. That happened and the song became an eternal hit. Pareekutty also agreed to have a newcomer A. Vincent to crank the camera.

Sathyan, Miss Kumari, Prema, Vipin, Manavalan Joseph, Balakrishna Menon, Ramankutty, Kodungalloor Ammini Amma, Kamalakshi, Kochappan, Govindan Paliyat, Johnson and P.Bhaskaran were cast in significant roles. Kozhikode Abdul Khader, K.Raghavan, Santha P. Nair, Janamma David and Mehaboob were the singers who breathed life into the songs of Neelakuyil .

By the time the shoot was over Pareekutty had spent Rs. One lakh. Recording and editing work had to be completed. Pareekutty tried to raise funds from his friends but failed. Pareekutty was not one to be cowed down by all this. He sold his boats and saw the Neelakuyil was ready for release. The rest, as they say, is history.

Pareekutty’s sacrifice paid rich dividends. Neelakuyil won the President’s Silver Medal for second best film. The film set a benchmark for films that followed. Pareekutty went on to produce a clutch of path-breaking films in Malayalam.

When Neelakuyil is celebrating its Golden Jubilee, Pareekutty’s name will be etched in golden letters.

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