A nostalgic look at Malayalam cinema

THRISSUR, AUG. 14. A single sepia-toned photograph, a portrait of J. C. Daniel, speaks volumes about the raw beginnings of film-making in Malayalam. The dapper maker of `Vigathakumaran' (1933) got it released at the Capitol Theatre in Thiruvananthapuram. The first screening was inaugurated by Malloor Govinda Pillai.

An exhibition, `75 years of Malayalam cinema', organised by the Navachitra Film Society to herald the International Film Festival of Thrissur, attempts to trace the history of Malayalam cinema through photographs, posters, vintage gramophone records and books.

Only print traced

A faded photograph of `Marthanda Varma' speaks about the history of the second film in Malayalam. Posterity will remember the efforts of the former head of the National Film Archives of India, P. K. Nair, to trace the only available print of the film to the attic of a book depot in Thiruvananthapuram.

The damaged print was restored at the archives.

On display are photographs of Malayalam films such as `Balan' (1938), the first talkie, `Jnanambika' (1940), `Prahlada' (1941), `Vellinakshatram' (1949), `Sasidharan' (1950), `Jeevithanauka' (1951), `Newspaper Boy' (1955), `Rarichan Enna Pauran' (1956) and `Randidangazhi' (1958).

From the path-breaking works of P. Bhaskaran, Ramu Kariat, A. Vincent and Sethumadhavan, the exhibition journeys to the New Wave cult of the Sixties and Seventies. Photographs of some of the major works of P. N. Menon, P. A. Backer, Adoor Gopalakrishnan and G. Aravindan have been included. The exhibition also pays attention to the works of Bharathan, Padmarajan and K. G. George representing the best of `middle-of-the-road cinema', which had blended mainstream and art house elements.

Candid shots prove to be more eloquent than the film stills. A photograph captures the veteran writer, Vaikom Mohammed Basheer, during the making of `Bhargaveenilayam'.

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