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Gnana Sundari (1961)

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L. Vijayalakshmi
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Jnanasundary  »

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Christian Folk Myth in Malayalam
20 August 2014 | by (Kerala,India) – See all my reviews

Nhanasundhari is a pretty loose adaptation of Chrstian folk myth of the same name, especially in the first half. Once it gets to the second half, it is much more faithful to the myth, and even includes elements that many other adaptations have left out. Gnanasundari (L.Vijayalakshmi), daughter of King Philip (Thikkurissi), loses her mother when she was a child. She grows up as an ardent devotee of Virgin Mary. Out of fear that she may be banished if Gnanasundari ascends the throne after her father, Annisha (Pankajavalli) her stepmother plays nasty tricks to kill her. For this evil plot Annisha takes the help of her faithful maid Kathri (Adoor Pankajam). When the king is away from the palace on a hunting expedition, Annisha engages her men to murder Gnanasundari. Out of mercy for their princess, Annisha's men leave Gnanasundari alive in the woods with her arms cut off and reports to Annisha that the princess is murdered. Philendran (Prem Nazir), prince of a neighbouring kingdom, happens to find Gnanasundari in the forest and takes her to his palace. King Sheemon (G .K. Pillai) and Queen Mariana (Aranmula Ponnamma) conduct the marriage of their son Philendran with Gnanasundari.

While Philendran is away helping King Philip in battle, Gnanasundari gives birth to twin boys. Annisha comes to know that Gnanasundari is alive and is now the wife of Philendran. A message sent by Philendran to his parents is forged and manipulated by Annisha. Misguided by the message Sheemon sends Gnanasundari and her children to the forest. Gnanasundari prays to Virgin Mary to save her from the miserable plight and the mother of Jesus Christ descends to save her devotee.

Philendran returns to the palace and is heart broken when he comes to know about the fate of his wife and children. He leaves the palace to search for them. He finds them in the forest, misunderstandings are cleared, Philendran and Gnanasundari return to the palace with their children. Annisha and Kathri are forgiven by Gnanasundari and the film ends with prayers to Virgin Mary. Jnhanasundhari was an interesting movie, although there were some things I didn't like. There wasn't a great deal of chemistry between the lead actors, and both Njhanasundhari and Philendran were very monotone. The actress playing Jnhanasundhari as a child was pathetic, she simply didn't react most of the time to anything, whether it was the aunt being cruel, or her supposedly happy; she simply had little reaction, and she certainly wasn't angry or rebellious as Jnhanasundhari was supposed to be as a child. But the actress playing Jnhanasundhari as an adult was pretty good, and as I've said, I liked that they addressed the spirituality part of Jnhanasundhari's nature more than any other version. It's also one of the first and few versions to have the gypsy scene. The actress playing Annisha falls into the same trap as almost every other actress playing her, and goes excessively over the top, and her madness seems to consist mostly of hysterical laughter, which sounded rather like a cross between a hyena and a baboon. The DVD I saw suffers a bit from poor quality, and the picture and sound weren't the best. If you're a completist like me who has to see every version of Jhanasundhari you can, this version is definitely worth tracking down.


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