m t vasudevan nair

A renowned Malayalam author and the winner of the Jyanpeth award for literature, M T Vasudevan Nair's (MT) entry to cinema as a scriptwriter brought about positive changes to Malayalam cinema. The characters of films based on MT's scripts were down to earth and spoke local dialects, which was in sharp contrast with the popular cinema of those days. MT's debut as a director was with the path breaking film Nirmalyam (1973), which narrated the tragic story of a temple oracle with P J Antony's memorable performance as the oracle. With six films, including Nirmalyam, as a director and scriptwriter for several good films, MT still remains as a strong presence of meaningful Malayalam cinema. He won several national and state awards including the President's gold medal for Nirmalyam.

Selected Filmography:

Nirmalyam - 1973
(Yesterday's Offerings)

During the fast phase of modernisation, certain sections of the society lost phase with the changes happening around them, especially those who were slaves to religious dogmas. Nirmalyam narrates the story of a temple 'Valichappadu' (Oracle- the 'Valichappadu' is supposed to be the personification of God. He speaks on behalf of God to the gathering) and his family, passing through extreme poverty.

An ancient temple is neglected to ruins and is tended only by the Velichappadu and the man who picked flowers from the garden, Variyar. When the priest leaves the temple to start a teashop, a young man, not at all interested in the job, takes up the job of the priest. He forms a relationship with the Velichappadu's daughter. The Velichappadu's son is caught trying to sell the sacred sword and have to leave the village. When small pox breaks out, the villagers return to the temple and organise a festival. On the festival day the Velichappadu finds out that his daughter has been seduced by the young priest and his wife sells herself to a moneylender to feed the family. The film ends with the scene of the Velichappadu spitting on the idol of the goddess while performing the final ceremony and later killing himself by striking his head with the holly sword.

Nirmalyam won the National award for best film and P J Antony for best actor in 1973. It also won State awards for the best film and the best director.

Direction & Screenplay: M T Vasudevan Nair
Cast: P J Anthony, Kaviyoor Ponnamma, Ravi Menon, Kottarakkara Sridharan Nair
Cinematography: K Ramachandra Babu
Music: K Raghavan

Bandhanam - 1978
(The Binding)

Bandhanam is about the strong binding that holds together individuals, even while remaining invisible.

The hero, distressed by his uninteresting job and his lover's attitude towards him, lives a solitary life. When his father abandons his mother and marries another woman, his feeling of alienation increases. All these make him to hate his past.

When he receives his step-sister's letter informing his father's death, he once again returns to his ancestral house. All his hatred to everybody there dissolves when he meets his ailing step-mother and his loving step-sister.

Bandhanam won the State award for best film and screenplay.

Direction & Screenplay: M T Vasudevan Nair
Cast: Janardhanan, Nilamboor Balan, Sankaradi, Sukumaran, Sobha, Subha
Cinematography: Ramachandra Babu
Editing: Venkataraman
Music: M B Sreenivasan

Manju - 1982
(The Mist)

Based on his own novel of the same name, MT's Manju is about the long winter seasons of loneliness.

Story set in Ninital, a tourist resort of north-east India, Manju develops around two characters, Vimala, who have nowhere to go and Buddhu, who waits for his Englishman father to return to Ninital. But no body comes. Vimala and Buddhu continue their endless waiting.

Direction & Screenplay: M T Vasudevan Nair
Cast: Sankar Mohan, Sankara Pillai, Nanditha Bose
Cinematography: Shaji N Karun
Editing: Ramesh
Music: M B Sreenivasan

Varikuzhi - 1982
(The Trap)

Madhavan Kutty is in love with poetry, literature and philosophy. But he is forced to marry a rich woman, which creates in him a feeling of imprisonment. He finds himself falling into the trap of valueless social orders. Once in his estate, an elephant falls into a pit meant for trapping wild elephants. Madhavan Kutty sees his own mirror image in the trapped elephant. He tries to save the elephant from the pit, but in vain. The elephant looks at Madhavan Kutty pitifully.

Direction & Screenplay: M T Vasudevan Nair
Cast: Nedumudi Venu, Sankaradi, Sukumaran, Indira
Cinematography: Ramachandra Babu
Editing: Venkattaraman
Music: M B Sreenivasan

Kadavu - 1991
(The Ferry)

The old boatman, Beeran, meets Raju, a young boy who has run away from an unhappy home life and engages him as his assistant. Raju's attachment to the ancient boat grows as strong as Beeran's. He also invests the routine job of ferrying people across a nearly dry river with the same humane attitude that makes Beeran a butt of family jokes. Soon Raju befriends many people- the bullock cart driver who nightly drinks himself into a stupor, because his bullock stop automatically at the arrack shop on his way home; the schoolmaster who courts a working girl, but is ousted by a bridegroom chosen by the family; the hawkers and vendors who pass through the ferry; and a girl, her little brother and ailing mother who is taken to the hospital in the town and returns in a bier.

He escorts the girl and her brother to the railway tracks, when they leave for Calicut to live with an uncle working in a tile factory. On his return, he discovers her silver anklet on the river bed. For days Raju broods silently, then he leaves the village for Calicut, to the disappointment of old Beeran.

In the bustling town, Raju seeks the girl in vain. Days pass as he visits tile factories, stops in front of schools and does odd jobs to survive. And then he finds her entirely by accident. Raju rushes to her home, but the girl refuses to recognise him or even acknowledge the anklet he has treasured so long. In despair and anger, he runs away and returns to the ferry one moonlit night.

A new boatman sleeps in the hut and a new boy lies outside on the ledge. Raju turns to the river. In the magical moonlight, the boat tosses on the water and moves up to him, nudging him gently. Raju curls up in it, and the boat drifts down the river and into the sea as the night passes.

Kadavu won the State award for the best film.

Direction & Screenplay: M T Vasudevan Nair
Cast: Balan K Nair, Santhosh, Thilakan, Nedumudi Venu, Murali, Monisha
Cinematography: Venu
Editing: B Lenin
Music: Rajiv Taranath

Oru Cheru Punchiri- 2000
(A Slender Smile)

Krishna Kurupu is in his mid seventies and his wife Ammalukutty in her mid sixties. Their well-off children live in different cities away from them. Least bothered about the alienation created by their old age, they indulge in celebrating their old age in a honeymoon mood. Krishna Kurupu finds time to give tuition to an orphan boy apart from agriculture.

When Krishna Kurupu dies, Ammalukutty refuses to move from the house and live with their children. She believes that Krishna Kurupu is still present in and around the house.

Direction & Screenplay: M T Vasudevan Nair
Cast: Oduvil Unnikrishnan, Nirmala Srinivas
Cinematography: Sunny Joseph
Editing: Beena
Music: Johnson

Also read: A review of Oru Cheru Punchiri

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