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Was Felix Bayis a German spy?

Poster of the film 'Vellinakshatram'

Poster of the film 'Vellinakshatram'

Felix J.H. Bayis, a German cinematographer, stumbled into Malayalam cinema and then simply disappeared from the scene. His name finds mention in the annals of Malayalam cinema as the director and cinematographer of the 1949 film Vellinakshatram . He was Kunchacko’s front man and the technical brain behind Udaya Studio.

Apart from this no one really knew much about Bayis. People who worked with him in the film and at the studio only knew him as a German cinematographer. Nothing was known of his background, how and why he reached India, and what happened to him.

Alleppey Vincent, who was involved in the activities of Udaya Studio and also an integral part of Vellinakshatram knew something more about this mysterious German. One of the shocking revelations Vincent made much after Bayis left was that he was a German spy sent to India by Adolf Hitler before the Second World War.

During this time the Indian National Army (INA) founded by Subhash Chandra Bose had a strong base in Madras. Many INA soldiers and workers chose Madras as a gateway to Malaya, Singapore and Japan, countries that were Germany’s allies during the War. Vincent suspected that Bayis was posted in Madras to report on the movement of the British and their activities in and around the city. Bayis was supposed to have been trained in a studio by none other than Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda man.

Bayis succeeded in keeping these facts about his life a secret. Vincent, who reached Madras to meet people and seek assistance for Udaya’s film, met Bayis at Victoria Hotel in Egmore. Bayis was apparently staying there. The two got talking and soon turned friends. Bayis agreed to assist in the production and Vincent was more than delighted because Bayis owned a camera.

Vincent returned to Alleppey with Bayis and his wife. They were put up at the tourist bungalow there. The next mission was to find an ideal location to set up the studio. Their search ended when they found a huge plot of land at Pathirappally, four miles north of Alleppey town. Sometime in 1947 construction of the studio began in right earnest. Soon, the studio floors and other small buildings came up. All of them were designed by Bayis. In fact, one of the cottages was used by Bayis. Vellinakshatram was shot in this studio.

A dispute between the studio partners immediately after Vellinakshatram seemed to upset Bayis. He left without informing anyone. But others believe that Bayis did this because he suspected that people knew of his identity and feared that this would lead to his arrest here.

Bayis walked out one dark night never to be seen again. He was clever enough not to leave any trace, not even a photograph of his. It is said that he spent his later life in Australia, while others believe that he spent the remaining years of his life somewhere in Europe.


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Printable version | Jun 25, 2022 3:38:02 am | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/was-felix-bayis-a-german-spy/article6070030.ece