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Bharathan's journey
Oct 28, 2006 10:43 AM 12593 Views

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The movie's name was 'Prayanam' and it was in b/w beautifully shot by Balu Mahendra. The theme was new and the director was Bharathan, and I heard from a malayali friend that he was an artist and nephew of another artist/director P.N.Menon. Then began the hunt to see his films, not necessarily in chronological order. 'Guruvayur Kesavan' though not a great work of art, was the story of an Elephant which belonged to the Guruvayoor temple. And it had Soman, who was literally in every film made in Kerala. Then I happened to see 'Aaravam' which was publicised in Tamil Nadu as a soft porno film, since it had Pramila, the 'Shakila' of yesteryears, and it was released in a porno theatre in my town. But I was thrilled to see the film, which had a South American touch in film making. The characters were raw, especially Nedumudi as a barbaric hunter, Pratap Pothen as a half wit spending more time with his pet , a fighter cock.; KPAC Lalitha as his wife having an affair with lorry driver Janarthanan, a circus troupe with Bahadur as its manager; everyone were so colourful. Aravindan's 'Thambu' which had a circus background met with Bharathan's movie on the same grounds, but what a contrast! 'Thakara' was another great experience in the company of another brilliant filmman Padmarajan and Cinematographer Ashokkumar. The coastal love story between a crazy young man played to the core by Pothen, and the young girl played by Surekha was so sensual, it ran for weeks and weeks. I still remember the poster, painted by Bharathan himself, with Surekha lying near the beach and Pothen coming from far beyond.

His earlier films slightly bordered on eroticism, and 'Rathi Nirvedam' was another example, in which a small boy fantacises to be in love with a slightly elderly girl JayaBharathi, another dreamgirl of yesteryears. Every scene was built up with pinches of erotic bits added with artistic touch, and in the end the small boy makes it with her in the wet woods of the Cobra deity (Sarpa Kaavu). And the same creative team brought 'Lorry' in which Balan K.Nair and Achan Kunju were the villainous protaganists, trying to have fun with a small girl, Nithya. After establishing himself, Bharathan began to shed his erotic image, and turned to more artistic pursuits. 'Chamaram', a campus drama with Pothen, Zarina Wahab and Nedumudi as a student/catholic priest was in the same lines.

In 'Ormakkai', Gopi was a dumb mute sculptor with Madhavi as his heartthrob, and the artist in Bharathan peeped up, with a mega sculpture collage on the beaches, made by himself. And with the same Gopi, he gave the famous movie, 'Kattrathey Kilikoodu'. Gopi was 'Shakespeare' Krishna Pillai, an English prof. with a loving family. Srividya was his wife, and when a pair of young lovers, Mohanlal and Revathi, storm into their life, the beautiful nest collapses. The characters were etched and executed with excellence, and the movie itself was a beautiful experience. With Gopi, yet another drama 'Sandhya Mayangum Neram' was made, in which he plays as a Judge, who retires, with his last judgement- a capital punishment. And he goes crazy! 'Paalangal' was another film in which Zarina Wahab, Nedumudi and Gopi acted, with a railway colony background, and it was one of those rare movies in which Gopi frolicked with a wig on his head.

'Oru Minnaminunginne Nurunguvettam' was a poignant story of an aged couple with a brilliant performance by Nedumudi and Sharada. Bharathan, from his social movies experience, turned to Costume drama of Purana days through 'Vyshali' the story of Rishyashringa. The great M.T.Vasudevan Nair, who practised the new style of glimpsing known and famous characters through a different angle wrote the script of this period drama. Visual beauty, novel characterisations, camerawork by Madhu Ambat, lyrics by O.N.V.Kurup and music by Bombay Ravi lifted the movie to new heights. 'Keli' was another jovial film, in which Jayaram performed as a lame youngster, struggling to earn a livelihood through his bunk shop. The film had interesting cameos by Murali, Innocent, Nedumudi,Aboobacker and other stars. During this period, Bharathan the painter blossomed as a musician and began to compose music for most of his films.

Bharathan and M.T.V. joined hands to give yet another classic 'Thazhvaram', in which the director made use of the surrounding landscape as if it was one of the characters. The climax fight between the once friends, with vultures in the valley background reminded me of some Sergio Leone's western films. The brilliant performance by the debut actor Salim Ghouse from Bombay theatres, as the treacherous friend of hero Mohanlal, was the attraction of this film. With a script by Lohitdas, and camera by Ambat, Bharathan returned to the Arabian seashore for 'Amaram' with Mammootty as the hero. The paternal love of a simple fisherman was told with brilliancy. And Bharathan continued to make many movies until he had a very early demise.

He had directed a few Tamil films like 'Avarampoo', 'Devaragam' etc. based on his own Malayalam films. But 'Thevar Magan' which he directed for Kamalahassan outshone all his other Tamil films. With a script by Kamalahassan vaguely inspired from 'Godfather', Music by Ilayaraja, Camera by Sriram and performance by the giant Sivaji and Kamal, the movie had a true Tamil flavour, unlike his other films. The takings, actions and everything connected with this movie was different, and flowed with aesthetic beauty concealing the violent undercurrent. If you want to enjoy its class, I recommend you to see its hindi version 'Virasat' directed by Priyadarshan, and you will easily find the difference.

Malayali Artists die early, and Bharathan is one among them. Had he lived for some more time, I hope he would have given some more films, to be etched in the history of Indian films.

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