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BANNER

1 September 2014

Kaliyattam (1997)

1997
Directed by: Jayaraj
Music: Kaithapram
Lyrics: Kaithapram
Starring: Suresh Gopi, Manju Warrier, Lal, 
Biju Menon, Narendra Prasad, Bindu Panicker
Shakespeare has been adapted - multiple times - for the theatre and the big screen. In Hindi, long before Gulzar adapted the bard's The Comedy of Errors, it had been adapted as Do Dooni Chaar. Then, Gulzar's protege, Vishal Bhardwaj, took on the bard's tragedies, adapting Macbeth (Maqbool) and Othello (Omkara) and is now in the process of completing a trilogy of Shakepearean tragedies with his adaptation of Hamlet (Haider). But nearly a decade before Bhardwaj shot, and released, Omkara, Malayalam film-maker Jayaraj loosely adapted the bard's tale about a man's jealousy destroying his own life. Instead of the hinterlands of north India, Jayaraj would set his tale of love and hate against the backdrop of the folk art, and artistes. 

The paniyan (Lal, in his debut performance) has just appeared at the shrine, evoking laughter from the assembled spectators when a man comes to whisper in his ear - Thamara, the landlord's daughter, has eloped with Perumalayan, the theechamundi (fire dancer) of the realm. Paniyan has to go with him to inform her father. 
 
All along the way, the man, the son of a neighbouring landlord, excoriates Paniyan for not realising that Thamara and Perumalayan were in love. He, Unni, had longed for her, but her father had never been in favour of his proposal. Paniyan has his own axe to grind - supposedly Perumalayan's friend, he covets the position of the theechamundi, and hates Perumalayan for making Kanthan, another theyyam artiste, his assistant, despite many people recommending Paniyan's name for the post. 
 
Paniyan and Unni reach Thamara's house where they wake her father, the thampuran by throwing stones at a rookery on the roof. The thampuran (Narandra Prasad) not very happy at being so rudely awakened, or at seeing who woke him up, is very angry at the aspersions cast on his daughter. But the two mischief-makers prevail. When he finally suspects there is some truth in their news and hastens to check on his daughter, Paniyan hastens back to the shrine, after asking Unni to bring the thampuran and his men to the shrine. He will await them there, though he will have to pretend to stand staunchly by Perumalayan's side. But, don't worry, he tells Unni; he will betray Perumalayan at the first opportunity.
 
At the shrine, Perumalayan (Suresh Gopi) is getting ready for the theyyam. The thampuran and his men arrive there seething with anger. As one of the men steps forward to accost Perumalayan, the thampuran holds him back. Perumalayan is God at present, he says. Let him remove the mask and step out of costume, and we will deal with him then. But when the performance is over, Perumalayan calmly confronts his father-in-law. He may not have the family connections or the lineage that Thamara boasts of, but can anyone say that he is not worthy of her? The father, provoked by his calmness, can barely control his anger, but the temple priest advises him to calm down. The naduvazhi is present here - why not take the matter to him? 

Upon questioning, Perumalayan frankly admits that he had married Thamara that night. But he did not kidnap her as her father accuses; they love each other. The thampuran is sure that his daughter was bewitched into the relationship. How could she, naive and gently brought up as she was, fall in love with someone so horrifying to look at?

Perumalayan pleads with the naduvazhi to ask Thamara herself. If, after he hears her story, the naduvazhi decides that Perumalayan is at fault, he is willing to accept any punishment the ruler deems fit. But when Thamara arrives, and begs her father's pardon for marrying Perumalayan against his wishes, the grief-stricken father is forced to accept the truth and bless the couple. As they turn to leave though, he cries out in grief - 'Perumalaya, she betrayed her father. Be careful, she might betray you as well.'
 
The father may be bereft, but Unni is furious at the turn of events. Paniyan advocates patience. He promises Unni that Thamara will not stay with Perumalayan for long. For the moment though, Thamara and Perumalayan are blissfully happy. Paniyan brings his wife, Cheerma (Bindu Panicker), to visit the newly wedded couple. The kindly woman soon becomes Thamara's confidante.
 
Unni is still furious. Why is Paniyan inviting him to Thamara's wedding feast? Paniyan advises discretion; it is all a ploy to cause a rift between Perumalayan and Kanthan; if they can get Thamara to fall for Kanthan who is younger, better looking, and has a voice that will charm the heavens, the rift will never heal. Unni doesn't understand - how is getting Thamara to fall for Kanthan going to help him get Thamara for himself? Paniyan promises that he will get Kanthan drunk; all he has to do, Paniyan tells Unni, is to come up to them in the dark, and provoke Kanthan somehow. Paniyan's schemes are too complicated for Unni to comprehend. But, as always, he falls in line with them.
 
As Paniyan, Kanthan and the others make preparations for the feast, Perumalayan gives his Thamara an heirloom silk. It is his only remaining inheritance, and it is dearer to him than anything else. She should keep it safe, because it holds his life and his honour. Thamara is touched. She promises to guard it with her life.

Outside, the wedding celebrations begin, full of song and merriment, Perumalayan and Thamara adjourn into their hut. Just then, a disguised Unni, according to plan, provokes Kanthan to a fight. In the heat of the moment, Kanthan beats up their Guru who tries to stop him from killing Unni, just as Perumalayan is brought out of his hut by the noise.

Kanthan is not so drunk that he doesn't realise that he has been set up. Unfortunately, Perumalayan, who has not witnessed the lead up to the fight, is not interested in listening to his excuses. Kanthan's pleas of innocence fall on deaf ears, and Perumalayan, angry and upset that his friend was so drunk that he was disrespectful to his Guru, takes a decision that will have far-reaching consequences.  
 
Kanthan will not be a part of the theyyam in the land any more. Kanthan breaks down. If he is disbarred from performing, how will he live? This is the chance Paniyan was waiting for. Consoling Kanthan, he advices him to seek Thamara's help. Perumalayan will surely listen to her? 
 
Later, Paniyan meets up with a badly-shaken Unni, and cleverly manipulates him into continuing with the next part of his scheme.

Kanthan, meanwhile, has taken Paniyan's advice to heart. Meeting Thamara and Cheerma the next day, he tells them the whole, and pleads with Thamara to persuade Perumalayan to revoke his decision. Thamara promises to intercede on his behalf. She is sure it is all a misunderstanding, and that it will soon blow over. 
 
Perumalayan and Paniyan are just coming up the hill when Kanthan sees them - scared of inciting Perumalayan's anger again, he quickly leaves the place. Paniyan is not one to let this chance go: he plants the first seed of suspicion. But he is intelligent enough not to expand on his remark, instead, allowing the thought to fester.

Thamara, true to her promise, brings up the subject of Kanthan's exclusion from the theyyam. She reminds her husband that it was Kanthan who had helped them when they first began meeting, and it was he who helped her get over her first (bad) impression of her husband. Perumalayan promises to think it over.  

The next morning, Perumalayan and Paniyan leave to take part in a theyyam far away; on the way, Paniyan cleverly continues to plant his pinpricks. His statements are innocuous on the face of it, but he phrases them in such a way that Perumalayan almost forces him to relate his 'suspicions'. So the poison spreads. And poor Perumalayan, wavering between trust and disbelief, asks, no, demands proof. One part of Paniyan's plan has been accomplished, but he strikes one final blow. 'Do you remember what her father said when she eloped with you?' he asks Perumalayan. 
 
A broken man, Perumalayan's insecurities come to the fore. Paniyan continues to whisper his 'advice'. He only has suspicions. Perhaps he is mistaken. But what if he is not? No, no, he is sure Thamara is chaste and faithful. But perhaps Perumalayan shouldn't take Kanthan back into the fold. Perhaps he should wait and see if Thamara continues to persuade him to revoke his decision. On and on and on... each 'advice' is another blow to Perumalayan's fragile emotional state.

When they return, it is more than Perumalayan can bear to even call his wife to him; but her innocence and simplicity remind him of her love, and bring him a semblance of comfort and solace. But Paniyan is busy fomenting more trouble. He begs his wife to steal the heirloom silk for him; it will be the end of all their troubles, he says. He knows exactly how to persuade his wife too - he plays on her longing for a child. That silk, he claims, will bring them such good fortune, that they will have a child. He, Paniyan, will rise to become the theechamundi. All their dreams will come true. After all, it is the possession of that piece of silk that is responsible for all of Perumalayan's good fortune.

Poor Cheerma. Her longing for a child runs so deep that she pushes aside the distaste she feels at what she is being asked to do. At the first opportunity, she steals the silk. Much to Paniyan's delight.
 
While Perumalayan is being chased by his own demons, Kanthan has sought refuge in drink, making it that much easier for Paniyan to drape the stolen silk over him. Meanwhile, Thamara has discovered its loss. She is also grieving her husband's behaviour towards her, and is scared for his well-being. Tradition has it that if a fire dancer's mind is not pure, and free of all negative emotions, the embers will burn him alive. On his part, Perumalayan has just been offered a Perumkaliyattam (a theyyam that takes place once in ten or more years). Still wavering between believing in his wife's guilt and trusting in her innocence, he prays fervently that Paniyan will not be able to provide the proof of his wife's guilt before the Perumkaliyattam  takes place.

The next morning, they travel to the shrine; Paniyan and Cheerma are already there. As Perumalayan waits for the evening to fall, Paniyan gives him 'proof' - Thamara and Kanthan are talking and laughing with each other in the distance. That evening, as Perumalayan questions Thamara about the silk, she tries to divert him by importuning him to revoke his decision about Kanthan. Her requests only serve to inflame Perumalayan. His mood and behaviour hurts a bewildered Thamara, who is still feeling guilty about the loss of the silk. There is much grieving on both sides. The night passes, but brings no relief to their tortured souls. Especially not when Paniyan is around to pour oil on the flames.
 
Things get progressively worse the next evening, as Paniyan provides Perumalayan with further proof of Thamara's 'infidelity', by manipulating a conversation with Kanthan. Perumalayan has a decision to make. In the evening, Perumalayan visits Thamara, and promises her that he will come to her after the night's performance. He asks her to send Cheerma home. Thamara, though puzzled and not very happy at being alone, is happy that her husband seems to have gotten over his anger; she sends Cheerma away and waits for her beloved husband to come home. 
 
Readers of Shakespeare know what comes next. When Perumalayan finally learns the truth, it is too late for Thamara. But it's not too late to punish Paniyan, or for his own redemption. 
 
Kaliyattam was more than just an 'adaptation' of Othello. Under Jayaraj's able direction, the story took on a life of its own, one that makes us take a fresh look at the age-old tragedy playing out in front of us. The film was anchored in the mystical, ritualistic Theyyam, one of the oldest indigenous art forms of North Kerala. 

Tracing its roots back many centuries, Theyyam is usually performed between the months of Thulam (mid-October) and Medam (mid-May). There are about 450 known forms of Theyyam, each with its own costumes, make-up and style of performance. A corruption of the word, Deivam (God), theyyam artistes, when they perform, are considered to be representing the deity. Villagers seek their blessings as living Gods, who alleviate the problems of their devotees. According to Jayaraj, using theyyam as the background allowed him to better explore the schism in Perumalayan's character. The film is moored in the strong performances from the actors playing the three main characters - Othello, Desdemona, and Iago. 

Suresh Gopi's Kannan Perumalayan (Othello) is an ugly man. Dark and pockmarked (he is the only survivor of a smallpox epidemic that killed his entire family), overweight and uncouth, he has nothing to recommend him except his immense talent as a theyyam artiste. (He holds the eminent position of the theechamundi. ) Yet, it is this man for whom the demure, lovely Thamara defies her father. His own insecurities about her beauty and her higher social status damn him long before he remembers his father-in-law's curse: as she has done unto me, so will she one day do unto you. 

He is indeed the perfect victim. When Paniyan decides to brew his mischief, his words fall into receptive ears indeed. Perumalayan believes Paniyan because deep down he believes it himself - that Thamara could not possibly love him as he is. Besides, this is also tied to his art - tradition has it that a theechamundi can remain safe from the embers only as long as his mind is pure, and his wife is chaste.

This is easily Suresh Gopi's career best as he moves from a celebrated artiste, sure of himself and his art, to a man so utterly lost in love and incredulous that someone like Thamara would love him in return, to a man whose own physical insecurities make him fall for the intrigues of his 'friend', and to doubt his innocent wife, to the mental torture he undergoes when he realises that his wife is unfaithful (and his father-in-law's seemingly prophetic words ring in his ear), to that final betrayal of her love, only to realise that she is after all, innocent.  

Othello is not an easy character to play. To play a man torn apart by his own insecurities, and so beset by jealousy that he kills the woman he loves most, and yet be able to retain some of the audience sympathy is a fine line to walk. Plus, he has to compete with Shakespeare's most consummate villain. But Suresh Gopi delivered a rock solid performance, with no overt histrionics, winning a well-deserved National Award for Best Actor in the process.

Manju Warrier, one of Malayalam films' best actresses, played her Desdemona with such conviction, that she underlined the character's helplessness and grief. Manju is an actress, who, in her short career, brought a natural grace back to the screen. Each of her characters, small or big, left an indelible mark behind. The film may or may not have been forgettable, but one never forgot Manju. So it was with Thamara. Desdemona has but a small part to play; that Manju's Thamara remains with you long after the film is done is testimony to the actress' skill.  Her love for her Kannan that shines in her eyes, her quiet defiance of her beloved father to stand by her man, her hurt bewilderment when her husband treats her with disdain, the grief she feels when she eventually realises that he's begun to hate her, to the final scene of her death - it is hard not to grieve with her, for her. In an interview many years later, Jayaraj confessed that he could not imagine any other actress in that role.

But the film belonged to Lal as Iago. His Paniyan was pure evil. This was Lal's debut performance and he played his part well. He was malevolence personified.  

Paniyan, like Iago, has nothing to gain from his machinations but revenge. He is the master puppeteer, creating situations, and in the case of Kannan Perumalayan, actually deciding for him what to say and do. Lal was loathsome, and halfway through the film, even knowing how it will all play out, we are willing for him to die. He is cold, calculating, and completely without remorse, or indeed, even a conscience.

The review would be remiss in not mentioning the late Prof. Narendra Prasad, as Thamara's father, Thampuran. He is the doting father, then the obdurate one, and last, he is the grieving father who nevertheless is willing to lose his daughter than lose face in the community. Narendra Prasad played the part with more than usual restraint, and it was a powerful portrayal indeed. Smaller parts, Cassio (Kanthan), Emilia (Cheerma), etc., were likewise, perfectly cast.  Bindu Panicker, in fact, is amazing in the final scene where she discovers that her husband is responsible for the tragedy.

How can I not mention the music? Kaithapram (credited with both lyrics and music) borrowed heavily from Theyyam for a couple of the songs, in keeping with the film's setting. His compositions were very unobtrusive, the lyrics almost story-like, complementing the mood of the film, and is refreshingly, in the background. Each and every song in this film came just when it should, and the lyrics either explained or pulled the narrative forward.

Jayaraj imbued the Shakespearean tragedy with local flavour and the Shakespearean tale of love and hate that was underlined by race became, in Jayaraj's hands, a love story torn apart by caste and class, jealousy and insecurity. By keeping to the spirit of the original, but adding his own sensibilities, he turned the film from a mere 'adaptation' to an almost-original work. It is not a film one can watch too many times; the mood the director creates is too intense for a viewer to be too comfortable with it. But yes, do watch it once, to see how a tale set in Venice (and Cyprus) comes alive in the verdant climes and folk art of Kerala. 

Keys:
Thampuran: an honorific; also a Kshatriya sub-caste
Naduvazhi: ruler (literally, nadu - land, Vazhi - ruler)
Paniyan: a comic character in Theyyam who appears before the main artiste, in order to ward off evil, and to ensure that no harm comes to the theechamundi.
Theechamundi: a fire dancer 

57 comments:

  1. Very interesting. It seems to be a very intelligent adaptation of Shakespeare's story, I quite like the idea of setting the story against the backdrop of folk art, this way the director is also able to draw attention to folk art as well.

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  2. Othello is, along with Macbeth, one of my favourite Shakespeare tragedies. I love Verdi's Otello too, Rossini's as well, but for completely different reasons. Loved Bharadwaj's version too. I'd shown it to some of my friends and at a gathering too. Everybody liked it, but it was very difficult to explain the subtext in Bharadwaj's Omkara.
    Now to find Othello in Kerala doesn't surprise me at all. Once in a program pamphlet the director of the opera, explained why Otello has to be black, i.e, with a black grease paint, but in Indian settings, the caste factor is a good substitution.
    Othello is one story, which fascinates me and at the same time am really vary to watch/listen. It gives me the goosebumps and a certain kind of loathing. I think, I started watching Omkara thrice, before I could watch it completely. I needed someone near me, I just couldn't have watched it alone. For me it is a perfect tragedy, where the main principal characters fail due to their shortcomings. From the very first scene itself, it just can't go any other way than it does the way it does.
    There is just one weak point to the whole story (in my opinion) and that is Desdemona. So one needs a really good Desdemona to portray her love, faith and innocence. In lesser hands she can get totally degraded to a farce, making her lose the sympathy of the audience and make the story fall flat on its face. You can have a hamming Othello and a blundering Iago, but they still have the author backed roles and given enough emotions to portray, which makes it easy for you to overlook the actors' blunders.
    Give Verdi's Otello a try.
    Since you hae given a link to the song, where Thamara waits for her husband, here is link to the willow song from Verdi's Otello
    http://youtu.be/Iy1qcQ2KoCU

    Thnak your the wonderful review and introducing us to this gem.

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  3. It was a very intelligent adaptation of Othello, Shilpi. And yes, that is a very good point - that by setting it against the folkart, he also emphasised that. There are some lovely theyyam performances in the film by professional theyyam artistes.

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  4. Like you, I too find Othello hard to watch in one sitting. Or even, often. I agree about Desdemona having to portray that innocence, too. Here, Manju was perfect. She is such a wonderful actress.



    Thank you for the appreciation. :)

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  5. This sounds very interesting, Anu. Like Harvey and you, I too agree that Othello is hard to watch in one sitting - but that, I find, is true of most of Shakespeare's tragedies (talking of which, have you seen the James McAvoy-Richard Armitage adaptation of Macbeth? It's set in a restaurant, with McAvoy playing the chef. Again, like the theyyam backdrop, an unusual backdrop against which to set Shakespeare, but it works very well).


    By the way, as I was reading your review (and recognising the story), I was thinking to myself: what is it about Othello that Indian film makers find so fascinating? There's that section in Humraaz where Sunil Dutt and Mumtaz are acting it on stage, and in Izzat, Tanuja and Dharmendra have a fairly long and - unusually for Hindi cinema - not-too-unintelligent - conversation about it.

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  6. It is, Madhu, and if I can find a properly sub-titled version of it, I'll send it to you. I think you will like it. :)



    No, I haven't seen the version of Macbeth that you reference. For me, the two Shakespeare tragedies that I find absolutely hard to watch are Othello and Macbeth. Hamlet doesn't have the same effect, nor does King Lear. And I actually like Julius Casear.


    Vishal Bharadwaj is apparently going to start working on a trilogy of Shakespearean comedies next. Now, that will be interesting. :)

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  7. I liked this line - 'Perumalayan believes Paniyan because deep down he believes it himself - that Thamara could not possibly love him as he is'. Gives an insight on what probably is the main reason that could trigger suspicion in a relationship. I don't think that Omkara really explored this angle much - contrast Suresh Gopi's ugly look to that of Ajay Devgan and so that insecurity that he has doesn't really get explained in Hindi.

    As you rightly said, it takes quite an effort for the protagonist to be a negative character but the audience to still empathize with him - kudos to Jayaraj and team for that. Again I don't think we really get to feel any empathy for Devgan in Omkara. The strong performances, including the surprising idea to cast Lal definitely adds value (Lal is making a much better impact as an actor than a director anyway now!). Great songs and one song that I found fascinating in its composition 'Ezhimalayolam' by Kaithapram is not even there in the movie (must be in the titles, I don't remember).

    Apparently, another of his works 'Kannaki' is based on another Shakerpeare play 'Antony and Cleopatra' but haven't really heard much about it. And yes, even I prefer Julius Caesar to his other plays - mainly because of the presence of a political narrative. Director V K Prakash also made 'Karmayogi' as another interpretation of Hamlet but I suppose it did not make any impact..

    Sharing an interview given by the director Jayaraj, after Omkara's release - http://specials.rediff.com/movies/2006/aug/01slid1.htm

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  8. Pradeep, good to see you here again. Yes, I thought Kaliyattam had the lingering menace that Omkara didn't. Devgan looked too buff and too self-assured to portray that machismo + insecurity that Suresh Gopi brought to his performance. And even Saif Ali Khan, though I did think that Langda Tyagi was one of his best performances, didn't come close to Lal. Lal was evil.

    Yes, Kannagi was based on Anthony and Cleopatra and again, Lal was brilliant. You like political films? Have you watched his Deivanamathil?

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  9. You bet- political movies would be my favorite movie genre but it is an area that Indian movies don't really excel in, probably due to a fear factor. Will look forward to a post from you on that.

    Yes, I watched Deivanamathil- was OK, I would say. Had a definite plot but not too impressed with its execution. Jayaraj hasn't exactly been too consistent in his movies, esp his last set of movies which are so embarrassing by his standards - Paithrukam, Deshadanam and Kaliyattam probably represent his best works.

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  10. I'm not very fond of political movies. :) But I will see how to fulfil your request. *grin*

    I actually remember liking Deivanamathil a lot! But I agree with you about Jayaraj - I still haven't forgotten his 4thepeople! Aargh!

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  11. Julius Caesar is a play I like a lot too. Possibly because I had to study it. Possibly because, long before I actually even read the play, I'd read about it in Richard Armour's The Classics Reclassified! :-D

    Vishal Bharadwaj is apparently going to start working on a trilogy of Shakespearean comedies next.

    That was news to me! But I'm looking forward to it.

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  12. Nice to see this - one of my old favourites was Nain Deewaane and it was so well expressed, the rare artist remained in consciousness despite so little being seen or heard of her post sixties. Thanks to internet now one may discover such gems.

    I am surprised though at your stating "Neither a classic beauty, nor a classically-trained singer" about Suraiya - the latter is a matter of fact, but many such superlative artists are known to have proved excellence in their performances with no prior training in the art; the usual example given is Meena Kumari portraying a dancer so well in Paakeezah. The former part is the surprise, for Suraiya was undoubtedly a beauty of beyond perfect level with rare parallels! Often though I have seen similar assertions about beauty or lack thereof about various people, and there seem to be two distinct possibilities, one related to skin colour or height and other such criteria that might affect some as beauty or opposite in personal encounters but matter little or less than little on screen for audience; the other is a matter of power play of those with clout and prevalence of their opinions swaying general public with sheer public pressure. Suraiya did not cater or succumb to power play of those with clout, and did not play those games, but her beauty or performance is without a doubt high.

    I have often thought that people of such variety of talents, so very multi-faceted artists, get short changed by the double whammy of - one, people being overwhelmed and unable to slot them, and two, a general tendency to equalise or even downplay the superior with those not so great. And so Prithviraj Kapoor, Ashok Kumar, Balraj Sahni, Raj Kapoor, Kishore Kumar, Suraiya, Meena Kumari, Lata Mangeshkar, and more recently Farouq Shaikh, Dipti Naval, Priti Zinta are often routinely downplayed compared to their worth, with others - much lesser - being given more importance or appreciation in comparison.



    I am enjoying your reviews as and when I discover them in the process of looking for something while delving in past treasure troves, and hope to see more.

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  13. "I wonder why she isn't remembered more often as singer - because she was so pretty and a popular actress, too" - Yes! The word pretty falls short for such classical beauties. And as Anu describes above, the voice was honey, but expressive too.

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  14. Nice finding this one immediately after reading the other one preceding, although I see it is three years after you posted it so it might be irksome to find responses - am looking forward to actually seeing and hearing all these.

    "Another lovely Talat-Suraiya number was Aap se pyar hua jaata hai from Shama (1961)." Hm, that was new, although I saw this film recently and loved it and her and the songs - as far as I have seen or recall this is a solo. Is it done twice, or I wonder if the male part was cut from the film for some reason before I saw it? Or as it happens often, only part of a song gets picturised although one can hear much more of it on music tracks?

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  15. Oh, what one misses is the exuberantly talented and beautiful children they would have had, and of course the bloom of permanent happiness of the two who instead retreated in their individual ways into themselves - she publicly a recluse, he in a different way a la his life philosophy song of Hum Dono - Main Zindagi Ka Saath Nibhaataa Chalaa Gayaa - as he quoted in an interview. As for Guide, who knows, it might have been made with her instead and been a treat on far more levels.

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  16. Maybe the two were united in another universe while not in this one? Hope so! Such love deserves happiness and togetherness.

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  17. Yes, and Lata Mangeshkar would have had more than one companion amongst contemporaries working at the time - how lovely it would have been to go on seeing and hearing Suraiya!

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  18. "Meena did so many happy supporting roles before she moved into heroine roles. : - ) So pretty too" - great to find someone like-minded about appreciating the beauty of Meena Kumari, and the happy roles were not limited to supporting or before, she did what came her way and superlatively. Tamasha, Bandish, Kohinoor are some of them. There was one with Kishore Kumar, I don't remember much of the film but I think it would be another happy one. Tamasha and Bandish are both wonderful and I loved finding them.

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  19. Anu Ji,
    I cannot recollect when I last saw a Malayalam Film, could be a few years back. Thanks for the write up on
    Kaliyattam, I watched the movie and I liked it. All the three main characters’ performance was creditable.


    Jayaraaj has done a good job in seamlessly merging the ancient folk form of Kerala with a Shakespeare’s
    play written 400 years before. All through it appeared to me that I was witnessing an indigenous drama. He brilliantly utilizes/merges the duality of the Theyyam with the inherent contradiction that lies at the heart of Othello. In the final scene, when Perumalayan, deranged by the duality within him, smothers Thamara, he had part of the Theyyam makeup on him, thus symbolically depicting a half god, half human state.

    In his interview with Shobha Warrier, Jayaraaj explains that in Theyyam “when the artist dons the makeup, he is considered as God ....When he removes the makeup he becomes a man once again. I saw in Theyyam the best opportunity to express a split personality. I saw the same dichotomy in Othello’s mind also.”

    The songs and the background music were good. The repeated use of two Raags, (I think the Hindusthani Shivaranjani and Carnatic Sahana, I am not sure, SSW can confirm) to signify the conflicting emotions of Perumalayan and Thamara, was also interesting. At least it appealed to me.

    I have not watched Omkara. So I will not be able to say how it compares with Kaliyattam. Recently I saw
    Othello, staged by Gautam Haldar.

    Thanks for the engaging write-up, which encouraged me to watch the movie.

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  20. I just read about it in an interview he gave during a press conference on Haider. I hope he will get cracking on some of them. I like his take on the movies. :)

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  21. Mr Venkatraman, thank you for the appreciation. I'm so glad you liked the movie when you watched it. Yes, the asphyxiation scene was wonderful - was he god? Or man? Or had he been turned into demon?

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  22. Neither a classic beauty, nor a classically-trained singer"

    Neither phrase was a pejorative. As you point out, not being classically trained singer is fact. However, that has nothing to do with her talent or the heights she reached as a singer. As for 'classic beauty', there is a particular definition of beauty that fits that phrase. Suraiyya didn't. But I find her beautiful, and I love her voice.

    I'm glad to hear that you are enjoying my reviews. Thank you for the kind words.

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  23. There is a wealth of emotion in her voice that goes beyond just technical perfection.

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  24. This looks like a layered and fascinating film. Beyond your review, just by the shots alone I think I would like this :) Without subs, it's possible I could follow it just using your review, too. Thanks, Anu!

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  25. I was curious, Dr Gokhale, when I read your comment, so I went and checked and the link I gave is to a Suraiya solo. Now I'm confused. Obviously I had a selection of Talat-Suraiya songs in mind when I was writing this post!



    Anyway, I'm deleting that song from my post; thank you.

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  26. I doubt Guide could have been made with her. Suraiya was no dancer. :)

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  27. I'd like to think so as well. :)

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  28. Dr Gokhale, I'm always glad to find another Meena Kumari fan. :) I don't miss an opportunity to rhapsodise about her. :) Please do visit my posts on her (The Greats: Meena Kumari) and on her films (Azaad, Chitralekha, Miss Mary, Mem Sahib, Chandni Chowk). If you go to the tabs on the top of this page, you can access my film reviews through 'Films on my blog'. Old Hindi songs have all my themed lists, catalogued under their names.

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  29. In my opinion, Lata Mangeshkar should have stopped singing atleast 3 decades ago. :( I'm so glad to remember Suraiya in her prime.

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  30. Mr.V, "Ennode enthinee pinakkum" is Sahana. I didn't hear any Hindustani Shivranjani in the songs. It is pentatonic

    and there were two pentatonic songs. "Vannadi Puzhayu" is Madhyamavati and "Veliku Veluppan kalam" is Mohanam of sorts faithful to the scale but not I think to the raga except in the interludes (I think its in the key of B). Must listen again.

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  31. Thank you SSW Ji for your response.


    I was referring to the use of background music. I think when Paniyan plants the seed of suspicion and nurtures it further by repeating Thamaraa’s father’s parting statement made in anguish,(she betrayed her father, she may betray you too) and on hearing it Perumalayan was distressed, in the background Shivaranjani was played. Again, when in his full Theyyam costume Perumalayan is yet to overcome his distress, again we could hear Shivaranjani. Soon after, when Thamaraa placates Perumalayan and spreads the silk on the cot he calms
    down and his mood changes and in the background Sahaana is played. Sahaana is first used when Perumalayan brings Thamaraa home and shares the memories of his days spent alone.Thus I opined that these two Raagams were used to signify the conflicting emotions of
    Perumalayan and Thamara. Please bear with me for such a lengthy explanation. Economy in words and expressions is not my forte. Pleasegive your opinion (confirmation).

    I accept your comments on the use of the use of Raagams in the songs mentioned by you, you are the expert.

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  32. It's been a long time since I saw the movie so I do not remember the background music and you are probably correct. I must revisit it again. It is not a movie that is easily seen often, you know how it ends and it isn't pleasant to sit and wait for the tragedy to take place. Maybe sometime I shall muster enough gumption to do it.:-)

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  33. Dr Gokhale, just in case you come back to this post: I think there is conclusive evidence that Ae dilruba nazrein mila is not picturised on Jabeen Jalil as you suggested. Here is a link to an article/interview with her where her filmography is listed (including unreleased films). It also contains links to well-known songs that were picturised on her. Neither Rustom Sohrab nor Ae dilruba are mentioned as part of her work.
    http://beetehuedin.blogspot.com/2014/03/qaid-me-hai-bulbul-jabeen-jalil.html

    According to Cineplot.com, the actress on whom the song is picturised is Vinita Bhatt, as Mr Venkatraman mentioned earlier. I think this settles the question.

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  34. Thanks a lot.

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  35. Thanks, shall look at the first one - the second I had looked at, but had not thought about it until read the discussion on another blog where more than one person posted to say it was not Yasmin in Ae dilruba. i suppose one cannot expect her to be credited in Batwara, which was my only clue. As for someone crediting Jabeen Jalil for the song in Batwara, that is yet another opinion on internet.

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  36. OK, I had seen the former page as well, and noticed the omission of Rustom Sohrab, and wondered if that was an omission due to a small appearance. Really it was a matter of who was in that song in Batwara. I suppose finding that film and trying to see is one way. Anyway, I have not seen much of Vinita Bhatt, and if it is her she looks identical in two out of three songs, but different enough in 55 to cause so much debate among various people on various blogs! Which is entirely possible - Madhubala looks very different often from one film to another. Matter of time and age, perhaps.

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  37. Here is confusion again - the page you quoted, beete hue din, credits Jabeen Jalil with the Batwara song Yeh raat yeh fizaayein, and that song I am certain is picturised on the same person who is in Ae dilruba, which was my chain of logic. So if it is not Jabeen in Ae dilruba then the page gives credit in her name incorrectly.

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  38. Jabeen Jalil, as far as I researched, never was in Rustom Sohrab. So she is definitely out as a contender.

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  39. From what I can see, she aged pretty fast - Vinita Butt, I mean. And from the Cineplot photograph it is easy to see that she could be the person in Ae dilruba.

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  40. It is definitely Jabeen in Ye raat ye fizayen. And it is definitely not she in Ae dilruba. :) I went back and looked at both songs again - I cannot say for sure that the actress is Yasmin/Vinita, because the only time I saw her before this was in Jaane kahan mera jigar gaya ji but as she aged, her face seems to have become more angular, so I'm willing to go with that. But Jabeen, she is not.

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  41. If one goes by ancient traditions of India and Indian definitions of beauty Suraiya not merely fits but practically defines one face of beauty. A definition of beauty that fits the phrase and mentions colour of skin is from elsewhere, as is one that needs features peculiar to a region as often happens with central Asian or European definitions. In India the perfection of geometry along with a straight nose and large eyes are primary, and her face with its perfect mango shape from any angle is one of the prototypes, while other prototypes might be a moonlike round face for example.

    I had similar disagreements with another woman (who was beautiful too and knew it) about Audrey Hepburn; this woman was hot and emphatic in her denial of any such attribute being possible to grant her, and as a small concession she granted I could be allowed to call Elizabeth Taylor was beautiful (Suraiya's beauty is not unlike the latter and in fact is a tad more). I would say Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Ava Gardner and Elizabeth Taylor were all different faces of beauty. And there are many more.

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  42. If it is not Jabeen Jalil in Ae dilruba, it cannot be her in Yeh Raat Yeh fizaayein, and the song is attributed to her (on beete hue din and elsewhere) incorrectly; whoever it is, it is the same woman in both, is all I am certain of - the rest is conclusions from whether one believes an attribution, or lack of another, more.

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  43. Nope, definitely Jabeen in Ye raat ye fizayein. Equally undoubtedly, not the same woman in Ae dilruba. :)

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  44. The woman in the two songs Ae dilruba and yeh raat yeh fizaayein are the same, how do you not see that? You are giving more credit to printed word than what is plain to see, or just plain mad at me, I don't know, but I am giving up. That includes correcting the small mistakes you keep making which you won't if you saw the films you were describing (Raju in Awara goes off to kill Jagga after he finds out who his father is, and next he goes off to kill his father, with no other critical chain of reasoning in between - one example of incorrect description of yours; Anand is moved into Dr Banerjee's home by Dr Banerjee, another example of the same). Bye.

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  45. From what another post somewhere says correcting it, Vinita Bhatt is the name, not Butt..

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  46. I'm not giving more credence to the printed word. And I'm not mad at you. Why should I be? I'm looking at the evidence of my own eyes. And I don't see the resemblance that you say you do.

    As for critical reasoning - those were mini reviews where I condensed the story to give people an idea of the plot. I'm sorry you feel the need to denigrate me because I didn't agree with your identification of a particular person. I wish good day.

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  47. I have seen both spellings and I would personally prefer to use Bhatt as I did in my earlier comments. I was typing this fast so took the other spelling.

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  48. I would have thought Waheeda is classically beautiful. Or Hema Malini. But then, 'beauty' is also subjective, and as I said, I find Suraiyya beautiful. I also find Grace Kelly beautiful. And Elizabeth Taylor. And Madhubala. And, oh so many women - all so different in their beauty, but beautiful nevertheless.

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  49. For whoever is still interested: I checked with Edwina, a dancer in the 50s and 60s, and present in the Ae dilruba nazrein mila song herself, asking her via email, on whom the song was picturised. She has confirmed that the actress who is lip-syncing the song is Yasmin, a.k.a. Vinita Bhatt. I'm glad to have a confirmed identification from Yasmin's colleague and co-dancer since this issue seems to have become rather fraught.

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  50. Aha... so you owe me. Toscanini's here we come....

    http://tosci.com/

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  51. What an unfortunate tale. I liked this film as much as I liked Omkara, although the two films had such starkly different styles. I adore "Vannaatha Puzhayude" totally - music, videography, everything. Who can forget "Ennodethinee Pinakkam" in lovely Sahana? Also love the song you posted.

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  52. I liked Omkara too, though I thought Lal was more menacing than Saif Ali Khan (who acted very well, by the way). I've linked to Vannathi puzhayude theerathu, Ennodu enthinee pinkkam and Velikku veluppankaalam. The other link now leads to a video that has been removed. :(

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  53. I have nothing to add to your very comprehensive and brilliant review of a classic.


    To me this one betters Omkara in the way the film ends; Vishal Bharadwaj, has a Desparado (the Anotonio Banderas action movie) fixation and thereby brings in a mindless shootout killing in general all the characters to end his films. (You find this in Dedh Ishquiya too). Kaliyattom ends beautifully. Saif as Langda Tyagi was a brilliant act though; unparalleled by him since.

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  54. Boby, thank you. This film was particularly brilliant. I too thought that this adaptation of Othello was a far better one, even though I also liked Omkara - I do like Vishal Bharadwaj's movies. And Saif was a revelation.

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  55. Thank you very much ! that was very informative.. helped me a lot for my assignment. I was confused about the ways to introduce this film to my North Indian classmates. Your blog guided me to achieve that goal successfully :)

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  56. Hi Athira, welcome to my blog and sorry about the late reply. I wasn't around. I'm glad you liked the review and that it proved helpful to you.

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