A script with a story

K. Pradeep

Finding the screenplay of P. Padmarajan's `Rappadikalude Gatha' is the best way to pay homage to the filmmaker whose death an niversary falls on January 23.

P. Padmarajan was obsessed with perfection. In his stories, novels, film scripts. In h is film scripts, Padmarjan delved into minute details, making things easy for the director, cinematographer, even for the costume designer and art director. Padmarajan also maintained an exhaustive back file of his works, which included photographs, the screenplays that he wrote and many invaluable memorabilia that speak volumes of this master storyteller.

The missing script

Missing from this collection was a screen play, which was special to Padmarajan. The script for the film `Rappadikalude Gatha,' (1978) won him his first State award and the film also went on to win honours for its popular and aesthetic appeal. All that remains of this much-acclaimed film are som e photographs and publicity material. The 35-mm prints have been lost forever. The script was also believed to be lost, till it was unearthed recently. Written possibly in the writer's own hand, on yellow, crumbling pages, every detail in place, every m ovement graphically described, with dialogues interspersed, is that fascinating screenplay."This is unbelievable. It is nearly 30 years and we had given it up as lost forever. We have 35 of the 36 screenplays my father scripted. He had filed all his scr ipts, photos and other related materials so meticulously but this one was surprisingly missing. Now that it is extant, we hope that Ramabhadran Thampuran who kept this safe all these years would be kind enough to allow us to print it," was Ananthapadmana bhan's reaction.`Rappadikalude Gatha', directed by K.G. George, is woven around Gatha, a young girl who finds happiness in drugs and music. The film is a sharp indictment of society, its awry priorities, on the frustrations of the youth, their disappoin tments, and how youngsters get hooked to drugs. On the other side, the film is also on the conflicts and complexities of marital life.

Shooting of the film

"We did th is film during an unscheduled break from an ongoing project. It was C.C. Antony, our close associate, who suggested we do this film. So we had to hurry things a bit. The shoot took about two weeks and the film was completed in around 90 days. The whole film was shot in and around Ernakulam and Fort Kochi. "We made only 12 prints but sadly not one remains now. It was not a big hit but it was truly a work of art. Padmarajan, George and Vidhubala, who played the lead role, won critical acclaim. It also wo n a couple of awards. For us, though it did not bring in much money, we consider it to be our greatest asset," says Ramabhadran Thampuran, one of the four partners of Pleasant Pictures, who produced the film.For George, this film will always remain `exce ptional.' It was the only occasion when the two masters got together. "I remember Padmarajan calling me and telling me about the film. The whole script was read out two days before we began the shoot. I think it was the first time in Malayalam that such a story of flower children, was being told. I never got to work with Padmarajan again with both of us becoming very busy in our own independent work," recalls George. "It was Padmarajan who advised us to ask George to do this film. The subject needed deft handling. There were so many sequences where the film could have tumbled into the usual sexploitations," explains Ramabhadran Thampuran."I still vividly remember this film's climax and a stunning visual. Gatha does not like children, though Balacha ndran loves them. There is a visual that shows Gatha's recurring nightmare where, in a narrow corridor, she is surrounded by little children, all of them wailing and screaming for their mother. And then, like in most of his films, there is a such a wonde rful twist in the climax," remembers Ananthapadmanabhan.Unfortunately, like in the case of many landmark films, the prints are lost. `Rappadikalude Gatha' was perhaps a film much ahead of its times. With the screenplay now located, efforts are on to fin d and restore at least one print of this film. For this is certainly one of Padmarajan's best works and a tribute to a master storyteller who passed away on January 23, 15 years back.

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