Classic Malayalam tear-jerker on unconditional love
I saw Odayil Ninnu ('From the gutter') several times, over the last 35 years or so, and to me it's simply a splendid memorable Malayalam film. I first saw it in 1970, when I was nine years old, during an excursion from school as an afternoon outing. This was not a common occurrence for me or for any of us at this strict school, so I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of this pleasure trip. It was great, being with all your school friends, all in the only cinema near Kadakkavoor railway station in Kerala. Now, listen to this, when the main actor Sathyan died in 1971, I went and informed the head master of the sad news, since I firmly believed we would have day off at school ! In later years, I am sure that the old master had a few laughs with my Dad about the incident. Anyway, last time I watched it was in the late eighties, once at the Boleyn cinema in London and later on video. I cant get it on video now, so someone out there with clout, please help to release it on DVD, with English subtitles. I'm sure thousands will buy it, especially after they read this review. Thanks in advance. Now the film is also a tearjerker, even as a bloke in my late twenties, I cried especially during the last few sad scenes of the film.
The novel of the same name is by the famous Kesava Devan, who stands equal to Sivasankara Pillai (author of the classic film Chemmeen) with his touching tales of the working class. Most Keraleans, like me, believe that he was also was an ardent admirer of realism and 'Odayil Ninnu' written in 1944, long before the film's production, has been one of the greatest novels written in Malayalam. Odayil Ninnu may be a string of metaphors explored time and again in classic Indian cinema, but it still deserves merit for being very dramatic to watch. The story simply traces the life of a poor girl finally send to college by a hard working old labourer with pure heart and soul. It shows how selfishness and peer pressures of life can make someone forget the past, and how it can lead to ignorance and arrogance. It shows how tolerance and calmness grows on you when your heart is pure, especially when confronted with situations created by people who are selfish and self-centred. It teaches the audience one thing at least: You cannot ignore your past without creating serious consequences. Dharma (The universal law of righteousness) prevails till the end. The centreline story is excellent and unique and it won't disappoint anyone, I promise.
Sethumadhavan directed this film very well. He directed Sathyan (his then favourite) extremely well. It shows that the two had a very close relationship, similar to say De-Niro and Scorcese in later years of Hollywood, or even better Ingmar Bergman and Erland Josephson of Swedish cinema. Sathyan acted with incredible emotional flair. When I see him happy and proud on screen, I think of Millions of fathers, across all parts of the world, looking proud and happy with tears. At the time he was the most appreciated actor presented by an equally capable director.
Sathyan, my all time favourite of Malayalam cinema (apart from MohanLal, especially when he is allowed to act these days) made the character so lovable and inspirational. His acting was awesome. KR Vijaya as the grown up girl was also good, and of course her beauty carried her through the film very well. Oh those eyes ! A classic Malayalee girl, indeed.
If you like a long film with a good storyline and inspirational content, then you will like this film. It's a classic Malayalam film loved by everyone I know, who's lucky enough to have seen it. It's available on VHS or VCD but not out on DVD yet. One to definitely see before you die, trust me.
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