J C Daniel is considered as the father of Malayalam cinema for his efforts to bring cinema to Kerala.
J C Daniel produced, wrote the script and directed the first film made in Kerala, Vigathakumaran. He also took up the role of the protagonist in his film. It was not just the craze for cinema, but also his commitment to the martial art of Kalarippayattu made him to take the adventurous step of making the first ever Malayalam cinema. He believed that through this highly popular medium he could propagate Kalarippayattu to the masses.
J C Daniel left to Madras (Chennai) in order to study the techniques of filmmaking and also to procure the necessary machineries for filmmaking. But he failed to even get permission to enter the studios of Madras and finally moved to Bombay (Mumbai), where he acquired the necessary knowledge about the technology of filmmaking.
J C Daniel reached back at Kerala and established the first film studio of Kerala, the ‘Travancore National Pictures’ at Trivandrum.
Vigathakumaran was exhibited at the ‘Capitol Theatre’ at Trivandrum in 1928, November 7. The presence of a female character in the film created protests among the orthodox, who considered acting in films worse than the job of prostitution. Stones were felt on the screen damaging the screen. Even after the moderate success of the film, Daniel couldn’t come out of the debts caused by the film production. Finally he had to sell his film equipments, which brought an end to his film career.
The State Government constituted the highest film honour of Keral in his name, the 'J C Daniel Award'.