Why Chattakkari@50 is still the all-time new gen movie of Mollywood?

A sub rosa coating around the movie forced the parents not to watch it in the company of their children to avoid embarrassing queries. It was even anathema to utter the name of the film in some households. People, who overtly loathed the central female character of the movie, were in awe of her ethereal beauty entre nous. The iconic Malayalam movie in question that made waves with bold storytelling and broadened the horizons of Malayalam film industry is none other than ‘Chattakkari,’ which had hit the theatres 50 years ago in 1974.
‘Chattakkari’ provided a novel viewing experience to the moviegoers with a storyline that hinged on sensuality and brazenness. When the melodious song ‘Julie I Love You’ wafts through the air with a certain degree of sultriness after steamy expressions of love between Julie (enacted by Lakshmi) and Sasi (played by Mohan), the film buffs were seeing something new and path breaking on the silver screen. The movie was set in an Anglo-Indian landscape, which then didn’t find much credible space in literature and movies, and even now.
It was producer M O Joseph who took the initiative to adapt the no-holds-barred ‘Chattakkari’ novel by R Parameswara Menon, popularly known as Pamman in literary circles, into a movie of the same name with certain cinematic liberties. It may be noted that Joseph was once instrumental in churning out films with artistic value and box office hits under the banner of ‘Manjilas’. Though ‘Manjilas’ was the family name of Joseph, it is the most ingenious appellation a film production house can get.

It all started in Madras
Cut to the beginning of 1960s when ‘Manjilas’ had released its first motion picture Yakshi. Quite accidently, Joseph walks into the office of ‘Jayakeralam’ as he and the magazine’s editor were thick friends. At the office, Joseph reads a portion of the Chattakkari novel that was published in the ‘Jayakeralam’ magazine. As he is bowled over by the creative work in the first read itself, he decides to make it into a film. Joseph returns from Madras (now Chennai) after pocketing the rights of two novels – Chattakkari and Adimakal.
Later, six cinemas came out of the stables of ‘Manjilas’. Unfortunately, Joseph faced financial crunch after last two of the six films bombed in the box office. And that’s when he again thought of making Chattakkari into a movie. It is noteworthy that all the ‘Manjilas’ films till that time were in black and white but plans were on the anvil to make Chattakkari, which told the story of an Anglo-Indian family, in colour.
Joseph gave the task of helming the film to K S Sethumadhavan, who was an ace director with a bagful of landmark and popular films under his belt. The Chattakkari project became a reality when two persons, who had adapted the most number of novels into films, joined hands. Sethumadhavan gave a suggestion to shoot the film in Eastmancolor, and Balu Mahendra, a Sri Lankan cinematographer, was roped in. The script of the film was penned by none other than master craftsman Thoppil Bhasi, who was an integral part of the ‘Manjilas’ production house. The motion picture, which was released in May 1974, was a confluence of many stalwarts of the Malayalam film industry.
The Pamman’s novel revolves around an Anglo-Indian woman, Julie, falling in love with a Hindu guy, Sasi, and the boyfriend ditching her after she gives birth to their child. But Thoppil Bhasi, who knew the pulse of the moviegoers inside out, suggested changing the climax of the story. The novel had a tragic tone to it but the film should not be so. Thoppil Bhasi decided to bring the two orthodox families on a common platform without tarnishing the images of both Julie and Sasi. The film ends with a thought-provoking dialogue: ‘Christ and Krishna are not against a Christian marrying a Hindu’. The revolutionary scriptwriter who penned socio-political movies such as ‘Ningalenne Communistakki’ and ‘Puthiya Bhoomi Puthiya Akasham,’ ushered in a stimulating thought through ‘Chattakkari.’ The audience received the movie with both hands and it became a super hit.

Lakshmi in one of the scenes from ‘Chattakkari’. Photo | Special arrangement

Lakshmi as Julie
Sethumadhavan was very particular to retain the freshness of the story when it made the transition from the pages to the screen. The film crew wanted a new face as Julie and the hunt was spread to the Tamil film industry. At that time, Lakshmi was a heroine who was ruling the roost in Tollywood. In real life, Lakshmi had a character that was opposite to the soft demeanor of Julie. She categorically told Sethumadhavan that the film can’t go on floors on the day decided by him. Later, Lakshmi’s mother and actress Rugmini cajoled her to change decision. As a matter of fact, there was no actress in the Malayalam industry who could don the role of ‘chattak’ari’.
The ‘chattak’ari’ portrayed by Lakshmi went far beyond the character structured by Pamman. Lakshmi’s ethereal beauty, attractive eyes, sensuality and husky dialogue delivery (thanks to the dubbing artist and director) took ‘Chattakkari’ to nonpareil levels. The cinema lovers had a novel experience as they had never seen an actress so bold in carrying herself on screen.
The young girl is an Anglo-Indian and she wore dresses that ‘exposed’ her body. Lakshmi didn’t catch the imagination of the movie buffs not only with her sensual beauty but also with her histrionic skills in enacting the rollercoaster emotional ride of the character.
As ‘chattakkari’ was seen as a person with a loose character, the society had imposed an unwritten ban on the film, though that didn’t affect the success of the movie. The parents desisted from watching the movie along with their children. Even the word ‘chattakkari’ was kept at a bay in many households.
Sethumadhavan was meticulous in painting the purity of her heart besides her sensuality. The scene in which Julie touches the holy ‘thulasi thara’ after surrendering herself, physically and emotionally, to her boyfriend while leaving his Hindu household, shows the gentleness of her heart. She also lovingly restrains Sasi from drinking alcohol inside his house that had a pooja room and was replete with religious customs. And when the teenage girl gives birth, the audience sees a Julie that was hitherto unknown. The shot in which Julie is in distress as she can’t see or feed her baby leaves a lasting impression in the minds of the viewers.

A new hero from Pune
Mohan Sharma came to Madras to call on his friend Balu Mahendra. He was a handsome man who looked like a north Indian. Light-skinned Mohan was six-feet tall, had curly hair and a body of an athlete. But he was a thoroughbred Keralite who hailed from Thathamangalam in Palakkad. Mohan was the first south Indian to secure first rank in acting from the Pune Film Institute. Though he acted in many Malayalam films, he didn’t get any prominent role to catch the attention of the moviegoers. One of his best films then was ‘Nellu’ directed by Ramu Kariat.
Balu Mahendra was working in one of the ‘Manjilas’ movies when Mohan went to a studio in Madras to meet him and the acclaimed cinematographer introduced Mohan to Joseph and Sethumadhavan. Mohan was able to get into the good books of Sethumadhavan in just a week and the director gave his word that he will be hero of ‘Chattakkari.’
Mohan and Lakshmi were talented actors who could be comfortably placed in motion pictures of other languages. Undoubtedly, they were a pan-India romantic couple. Their on-screen chemistry was simply superb and the youngsters were in awe of their acting that oozed with romance in songs such as ‘Julie, I Love You’, ‘Mandasameeranil’ and ‘Uvaakalle Uvathikalle’. It is noteworthy that their acting was so natural giving an impression that they were people in love in real life. Mohan later told that director Sethumadhavan gave them the liberty to go beyond the purview of the screenplay to display their emotions for each other.
The Mohan-Lakshmi combo struck the right chord among the youngsters and they acted as couples in many other movies. There were many gossips surrounding them and the rumor mills went on an overdrive. Putting all rumors to rest, they fell in love and Mohan married Lakshmi, who was already married and mother of a child. But their marital relationship didn’t last long and they got divorced. It is noteworthy that ‘Chattakkari’ became a turning point in the professional and personal lives of both Mohan and Lakshmi.

Lakshmi in ‘Chattakkari’. Photo | Special arrangement

First pan-India Malayalam hit
Pamman, who was a railway employee, wrote the novel based on the life of Anglo-Indians in Madras. Like his other books, Chattakkari was also loaded with romantic connotations that tickled the minds of the readers. Besides the lovey dovey moments, ‘Chattakkari’ is also known as a socially relevant romantic movie that took the movie enthusiasts through a gamut of emotions. Through the film, Sethumadhavan cemented his position as the director who freed Malayalam cinema from overt expressions and over dramatization. And Manjilas Joseph created an image as a producer who adapted literary works into movies with great finesse.
Adoor Bhasi’s humor sense was so highly celebrated that Malayalam writer VKN described him as a person who can create laughter riot at will. He essayed a unique role as Julie’s daddy, which stood out from his usual comic characters. When Julie’s daddy, who is a train engine driver, dies without fulfilling his dream of buying a beautiful wrist watch for his dearest daughter, the audience was left searching for their hankies to wipe tears. Actress Sukumari as an English-speaking person rooted in western culture was also in the same league of Adoor Bhasi and Lakshmi in ‘Chattakkari.’
During those days, commercial movies banked on a series of songs to keep the box-office counters ringing. The four heartwarming songs written and composed by the famed Vayalar-Devarajan team became super hits in no time. The ‘Julie I Love You’ melody became a trendsetter among youngsters then like the current rage, the ‘Illuminati’ song. Apart from these four songs, pop singer Usha Uthup wrote the lyrics and sang a song ‘Love is just around the corner’, which also stole the hearts of the music lovers. Probably, this could be the first full-fledged English song that had been performed in a Malayalam movie.
The low mellifluous voice of Yesudas added magic to the heavenly charm of the well-received ‘Julie I Love You’ song. The song sequence was canned with the help of track sung by Devarajan as Yesudas couldn’t record that song before the shooting. Mohan and Lakshmi had a taste of the song at the Shornur guest house the previous night of the shoot day. They listened to the song in a loop as the beautiful composition and the soft voice of Devarajan took them to a different world. Later, Mohan, who is also a singer, shared the experience of hearing the song for the first time in an interview with Ravi Menon.
Balu Mahendra’s signature camera work is stamped all over the movie and the main location was Shornur railway station and the surrounding areas. Producer Joseph’s grip in the higher-ups was quite evident when the railways didn’t give the nod to shoot at the Shornur station. The talk in the cinema circles is that Joseph contacted the central railway ministry and got the approval after the direct intervention of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
‘Chattakkari’ was the first film that took Malayalam cinema to the outside world. It was also the motion picture which proved that Malayalam movies had a market outside Kerala. It is worth noting that the super-hit film had a golden run at the box office and ran successfully for 100 days in Madras and Bombay (now Mumbai). The movie created a record in Bangalore (now Bengaluru) as it was screened in the theatres continuously for 25 weeks. When the dubbed version of the movie was shown in theatres in Thailand, the motion picture clocked 100 days there too. Later, the film was remade in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Kannada. The Hindi remake, which was a hit, was also directed by Sethumadhavan. Lakshmi itself was the heroine of the Hindi remake titled ‘Julie’ and Sridevi, who was later anointed India’s first lady superstar, donned the role of her younger sister. Interestingly, Sridevi at that time was a few rungs below Lakshmi when it came to beauty and histrionic skills!

Without springing any surprise, Chattakkari bagged five state awards in 1974. Adoor Bhasi, Lakshmi, Sukumari and Pamman got the honours for best actor, best actress, best supporting actress and best story writer respectively. Adoor Bhasi got the best actor award for the first time in his career. After receiving the best actor award, he dedicated the recognition quite emotionally to producer Joseph. Sethumadhavan’s youngest son Santosh remade the Malayalam ‘Chattakkari’ with Shamna Kasim in the lead but the movie fared badly at the box office.
While talking about the brilliance of Mohan and Lakshmi, no one had a word for the ingenuity of Sethumadhavan, who helmed the film with exemplary adroitness. There’s no two ways about it, ‘Chattakkari’ is Mollywood’s all-time new gen movie though it is 50 years old.

Disclaimer: This report is auto-generated from other news portal services. Realtimeindia holds no responsibility for its content.