I seldom review 'fairy tales' because of their speculative nature. Such tales usually take me to an imaginary world for an hour or two and when their effect fizzles out, I realize that it didn't work on me as it should have. However, this isn't the case with 'Alibabayum 41 Kallanmaarum' released in the year 1975 or 1976. It was a film directed by Shashikumar. The man would also direct 'Mukkuvane Snehicha Bhootham' in 1978, yet another milestone with evergreen songs. Since 'Alibabayum 41 Kallanmaarum' is a 3 hour film, we would better look at the characters and their parts in this film.
1. Fatima (Vidhubala): She is the daughter of an old and rich merchant (Thikkurishi Sukumaran Nair), who is not only a businessman but also the inventor of explosives! When his caravan is raided by 41 thieves, headed by the dreaded Abu Hassan (K.P Ummar), Thikkurishi Sukumaran Nair and his aides try to stop them with explosives. Successful to some extent, the aides finally break down under the might of Abu Hassan, who takes Fatima and his dad captive and confines them both in an underground cave. Thikkurishi Sukumaran Nair is forced to make explosives for the thieves and Fatima is given charge to arrange stuffs for making bombs. In course of time, Fatima discovers that her dad committed suicide and is left all alone to avenge his death. With the help of Alibaba (Prem Nazir) she finally manages to grab Abu Hassan. 2. Alibaba aka Ali Bin Yusuf (Prem Nazir): He is a resident of Gulabad (a fictional town located in a fictional Islamic State of Baharistaan) and a wastrel. He loves to spend time with his beloved friend Hamid. Alibaba is concerned about the wellness of Gulabad and wants to serve the people of his community. Time takes turn when Alibaba's mother (T.R Omana) asks him to look for his father Yusuf, who is a trader but hasn't returned to Gulabad in the last 40 years. Alibaba's journey takes him to Baharistaan where he finds that the current ruler Shah Alam Parvez (T.S Muthayya) has been deposed and killed by his commander-in-chief Shamsher (Govindhan Kutti). Alibaba rescues princess Marjina (Jayabharathi) killing Shamsher in the process and they both join a caravan that's heading to Gulabad. He meets his long lost dad Yusuf in the caravan, but the happiness is short lived when Abu Hassan and his men attack the caravan and Yusuf is fatally wounded. Ali vows to slay Abu Hassan and his men, not really knowing that Abu Hassan is mightier than what people have ever known about him.
3. Qasim (Adoor Bhasi): He is Alibaba's elder brother. He is an industrious businessman and runs a store in Gulabad. His greed takes him to Abu Hassan's hideout, where he enters using the magical spell (Khul Jaa Sim Sim) but forgets it at the time he's about to leave. Abu Hassan and his henchmen discover Qasim hiding under the pile of dimes and quarter him. His corpse is hung inside the cave but Alibaba recovers it and gets it sewn by an experienced tailor.
4. Marjina (Jayabharathi): She is the daughter of Shah Alam Parvez and the princess of Gulabad. First Alibaba rescues her from Shamsher and then from a lecherous merchant Mustafa (Kottarakkara Shreedharan Nair) when he is about to sell her in the slave market. Marjina becomes Alibaba's trusted friend and lover and helps him in devising a plan to track Abu Hassan down.
5. Abu Hassan (K.P Ummar): Abu Hassan is the dreaded chief of 41 thieves. He is cruel, mean, cunning, courageous and a great actor. When I say actor, I really mean it. K.P Ummar needs a standing ovation for his part. He has literally lived the character of Abu Hassan on screen. He portrays two different characters in the movie, who are not only one and the same but also exactly opposite. Either ways, he has justified his part and plays it fairly well. His dialogs are menacing, his humors are vengeful, his personality, his turban, his eyes, his looks and everything about him is sinister and the manner he magically transforms from one character to another is miraculous. The way he scolds his henchmen and makes them run like rats tells a lot about Abu Hassan's excellent commanding persona. I am so much in love with this man. He has sidelined all the other actors and meets success in making a special place in the viewer's mind. Even though 'Alibabayum 41 Kallanmaarum' has considerable differences from the actual '1001 Arabian Nights' yet it is no boring and is capable enough to take the viewers in the old Arabian world where Merchants, Caravan Raiders, Magicians, Qaazis, Haakims and such unique figures used to exist. The part of Abu Hassan has been well handled. The original '1001 Arabian Nights' doesn't have Abu Hassan in it, but here Shashikumar introduced him and thanks that he did. This is indeed a fine example of classic cinema and the lovers of classic cinema would appreciate it. I also appreciate S.L Puram Sadhaanandhan for penning down dialogs that are in simple Malayalam (unlike Mukkuvane Snehicha Bhootham, Anarkkali, Mudramothiram and some others) and it is also 100 times better than other films with Arabian backdrop like P.bhaskaran's 'Laila Majnu- 1962' and 'Dhaya - 1998'. The songs are fresh and soothing. Overall, a complete family entertainment.
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