The dragonflies still flutter…

P Padmarajan

I had a chance to watch “Deshaadanakilikal Karayaarilla” on telly the other day. I have seen this film just once when I was in school myself. I remember being able to completely identify with the school girl rebellion in the film. Last week I was able to completely identify with the grown up characters too. Isn’t that the magic of a genius filmmaker? I dont know if this film was a success at the box office… was it? Today, would such a film run successfully?

Growing up in the Gulf during the era of VHS and Betamax tapes, I remember watching such films on tape with Arabic subtitles on them! Not being able to read Malayalam then, I had no clue about who was directing each film. One day when I was about 14, I remember making a list of my favourite Malayalam films and that is when I discovered that most of them were directed by the same person – P.Padmarajan!

A few months ago at La Rochelle Film Festival, there was a panel discussion between a predominantly French audience and some of us Indian filmmakers. The audience had viewed our films at the festival and the selection was from the regional Indie Indian cinema. Towards the end of the interaction, someone from the audience piped up: “Isn’t your cinema more influenced by Europe because India mainly does Bollywood style filmmaking?” Almost grabbing the mike (!) I shared that I was far more influenced by inspiring regional filmmakers than European filmmakers. The filmmaker foremost in my mind was of course Padmarajan Sir. However sadly, that audience would not have known who I was speaking of – because for most of them Indian cinema is all about Ray, Ghatak & Adoor Gopalakrishnan.

How does one celebrate this filmmaker who gifted us such gems? How do we say Thank You for characters that stay with us? Why do we stay glued to the telly when one of his scenes appears? Can any jury or award committee deny him a place in our hearts? His deceptively simple technique is the foil to the lifelike complexity of characters and situations – the magic that stays within us.

Recently there was this scene from Thoovana Thumbikal floating on YouTube. (Hope its a legal upload!)

As we discussed it Tom Mangatt wrote to me – “oro thavana thoovanathumpikal kaanumpozhum – aadyam kandappol aagrahichathupole- aagrahikkarund; ithavana clara jayakrishnante koode pokumayirikkum ennu!” (Every time I see Thoovaana Thumbikal, like the first time when I ardently hoped – I still hope that this time Clara and Jayakrishnan will end up together!”)

🙂 And so the magic lives on!

50 thoughts on “The dragonflies still flutter…

  1. I know its a very late response , but such is the power of a once watched movie that even now years later when it rains heavily I look at my mom and say – “Clara verunnundavum”

  2. anajali,

    i read your article about padmarajan. He was original and classic. He know the human minds and its diffrent changes. Like you, i am also a hardcore fan of all padmarajan. Purely because of its uniqueness and beauty of telling. every writer can have plot, characters, but the way pappettan uses and combines is really a powerful combination. It carries feelings and as a reason touched hearts of lots. He was wild and open. creativity was his strength. More than clara, i always liked jayakrishnan. He was more innocent than clara. They loved each other. We still remember that story because it never hadn’t a smooth landing.

  3. First of all sorry for my poor language🙂
    I saw all of the movies directed by Padmarajan and 60% of movies scripted by him, he was really from the heaven, Moonam Pakam is my favourite movie of him ,and other top 5 favourites movies of mine are directed by him only🙂, I had a deep emotional relationship with my grandfather, he left us 4 years ago, when I saw moonam pakam, I really miss my grandfather, we together play cards, ate beef and black tea, ooo.:(, I can’t remeber those days, it will bring me cry.Sri Mohanlal told once, that Padmarajn is a virus, I think it is true. When I saw his movies like Moonam Pakkam, Thingalazcha nalla divasam , Koodevide, Namuke Parkan Munthirithoppukal, Thoovana thumbikal.. I feel injects a magical virus into my mind, after that nothing other than the movie characters and their actions. In his films he utilizes the actors extreme to convey his ideas, draft to audience greatly. When I saw manjadikuru movie, I wanted to ask you one question, Is the movie inspired from Padmarjans “Thingalazcha nalla divasam”? I thought so.
    I love films manily because of unkown force from Padamrajan movies. Padarajan Sir is my path finder to good movies, good movie creators. Alfred Hitchcock, Stanly Kubrick, Quentin Tarrantino, Fredrico felini, Martin Scorse David Lynche..etc. Mam.. I was there in the shooting of the movie Banglore days ,I am really upset😦 that you are regret to click a photo with us, next time please give us a click…:) I am a great fan of you. also I would like to suggest one thing, that please try to define/sketch the characters more specifically, That would be great.
    :):):)

  4. i am so happy to come across a post written about Padmarajan as he is my all time favorite as well,, Watched almost all his movies and even the names of his movies are unique…. searching for nombarathi poovu as it couldnt be found in youtube or any torrents… after watching Shalini ente kootukari, i really fell in love with actress Shobha then realized she was no more…his investigative thriller kariyila katu pole is really unique…. thanks for the post….

  5. Hi Anjali,

    Absolutely agree with you:Padmarajan is one of the most underated Directors in modern era.I am a malayali born & bred in Mumbai( have the same issues like many- cant read nor write Malayalam).My connect with kerala is via the innumerable quality Malaylam films of the 80″s i was exposed to & if i were to narrow down on one Filmaker who has had maximum impact on me/my life , hands down it would be Padmarajan ; he was a “Master” of his craft ,someone who made some memorable films ,had real life endearing characters : characters who remained with you all your life & that to me in some sense becomes a part of your identity /your life !
    The biggest compliment ( fittingly so ) to Padmarajan comes from directors like you, Renjith , Blessy & the many other ( better ones ) & common men ( like us )when you/we say “We all have a bit of Padmarajan in our films/our life’s “: thats the best tribute to the great man!

  6. I firmly believe that malayalam cinema got longevity through master directors like padmarajan and bharathan. or else malayalam film would have suffered the same faith of art forms like kathakali and theyyam which are now some kind of tomboy stuff shown for the satisfaction of foreigners. I mean how often do you sit through an adoor movie or a ray movie for that matter. I should frankly admit that i never enjoyed godard movies. if there were too many godards and less of spielbergs cinmas wouldn’t have been a mass medium. if u want to tell serious stuff, tell it the way padmarajan does. should it have complex layers and intricate silences like adoor films. are padmarajan movies inferior in characterisation or plot development compared to adoors? if cinema have to survive it has to enjoyable…some thing we could identify. Hats off to the maestros like padmarajan who made malayalam movie experience memorable.

  7. Yes. Actually there are so many films where the cinematographer is incredible but most people doesnt even seem to feel the presence of the camera. I beleive thats the best photography. We do get to see such works occassionally in all kinds of films. Some of Kim Ki Duk movies, many French movies do this. There is this Italian movie Le Meglio Gioventu, where camera work is sooo good but we dont think about it at all while watching the emotional drama unfold. Recently in India – Harishcandrachi Factory , I think, explored the best soft lighting we have ever seen. The latest Tamil movie – Aadukalam- has may be the best low light scenes ever in India. But nobody seem to discuss about the camera work, after watching Aadukalam.

  8. hai iam ravi here, thank you for your reply.

    perhaps it is with the influence of master film makers which leads other film makers to different approaches, i believe every filmmaker makes films according to their conviction.and i respect that. but i feel cinema has to move forward.
    i am not a film maker, but when i watch films of robert bresson, i get inspired by his simplicity, i feel no other film maker in the world has achieved the simplicity that bresson did, and he did express a lot through images, the elipses , the timeflow, rather than dialogues or theatrical acting as ‘he calls it’.
    so i think my opinion is drawn from this influence i think.

    and i don’t think the audience forgave him for innovating a new approach to cinema. sorry not cinema- i want to bring up the term ‘cinematography’.

    i really feel, its about feeling a film rather to understand.

    i have the same question that you asked me, but in the opposite way.
    ‘why don’t they forgive film makers who try to create a new path and move cinematography forward?

    • Personally I believe to tell a story – after the actors, the most important tool is the visual element (what one can call cinematography – but it actually it would include art, costumes, makeup and production design). Imagine films like those made by Wong Kar Wai without the kind of visual elements they have. How less fulfilling and communicative those films would be!

      But if studied well, many films with seemingly simple visual elements actually use angles, lenses, colours in very evocative ways but without making themselves obvious. Eastwood’s ‘Million Dollar Baby’ is a favourite example of mine in this regard.

      To address your question: Once a filmmaker’s new language is understood, it finds a life. But till then – its all Greek & Latin & unforgivable. Vipin Vijay’s Chitra Sutram would be a case in point. Having been selected at IFFK and emerged a winner, it has now won appreciation from quarters that were previously reticent to look at it.

  9. John Abraham was kind of subversive film maker…he doesn’t created new but he broke the old..he played with the old in his own way..i saw his “agraharathil kazhutha” and still admire it….padmarajan’s experiments were within the film itself…he never destroyed the form or played with it..the aesthetics of both of them are different…

  10. hai anjali maam,

    my name is ravi. i feel that mr padmarajan sir was an exceptional writer. i dont think he is a good filmamker.for me, its my conviction that a good filmamker or a great filmaker is somebody who can do something new in the whole process of filmamking, its not about just great scripts and characters, i feel iam not disrespecting by saying this, he is a great story teller.but when u view cinema as a form of images, sound and the flow of time in the images, i don’t think he is good.
    mam u talked about padmarajan sir not getting the due attention to his films. everybody talks about ray, ghatak, and adoor sir, that may be true. but there is another filmaker in kerala,’JOHN ABRAHAM’ who has broke all conventions of cinema in ‘AMMA ARIYAAN’ in its script, in the making, in its distribution , no body talks about him also.
    i think a great filmmaker does something new in the process of its making, not just in scripts. i feel so………
    peace
    ravi.

    • Hi Ravi, I take your point – but I believe the hallmark of filmmakers like Padmarajan & Kieslowski lies in their characters and performances. Each filmmaker has their own strength – some more technically manipulative, others not. Both the approaches take immense talent. Doesn’t it seem that our audiences seem to endlessly forgive technical limitations if the story n the characters hold them?

      Yes, unsung heroes remain and lets find the space to sing their songs!

  11. Deshadanakillikal Karayarila was not a hit that time. Neither will it be now. But the beauty of Paadmarajan films comes in characters i believe. Clara is still the strongest character in Malayalam. its a Character supported by script.Bharathan too was a genius. Apart from polishing the movie,he had a brilliant talent in controlling the characters. We feel they r all alive🙂

  12. It’s good to see and read a lot about Sir Padmarajan.
    I’m still on a hunt to collect all his movies.
    Thanks Anjali for sharing this.

  13. Padmarajan is a favorite of mine too. Like you said every time i watched moonam pakkam I hoped Pachu would come back.

    Just a small trivia on Padmarajan movies

    I havent seen any of his characters, except the Gandharvan sing in his movies. All the songs would play in the background.

  14. a blend of memories in the film industry…padmarajan sir being an great part…

    sad that i haven’t seen anjali ma’m’s ‘MANJADIKURU’…,when sarath sir told about it..😦

  15. mam. have you watched ‘novemberinte nashttam’??it’s a classic movie from pappettan..i think almost all padmarajan movies are available for download in torrentz.com..i have innale,thoovanathumbikal with me..trying to download others..all pappettan movies are references for existing film makers and those are aspiring to become directors..but in an interview, his wife rajalakshmi mam said he was a genius writer..but sadly we always talks about films only..but for us, he always remains as a legendary person..love to quote about one scene from my ever favorite movie ‘thoovanathumbikal’..the scene where jayakrishnan tells the truth to clara at the beach..where he asks her ‘njan claraye marry cheythotte’?she gets shocked and at the same time the waves hit her..it’s a brilliant scene..only he can do such great great films!

  16. Dragon flies do flutter… But they fade after a time…. In the era of stylish-no-substance-only style Mammotty, Mohanlal and Prithviraj movies, it is surprising that even young people do find movies like Thoovanathumpikal, Innale, Namuku parkkan munthiri thopukal interesting. I had watched all these movies when I was a kid, but couldn’t understand the real meanings..
    But now when I watch these, the inner beauty comes out. I think one of Mohanlal’s best romance scenes comes in thoovanathumpikal.

    Sad that there are no actors in the caliber of Sumalatha today. Still these movies do evoke a feeling of nostalgia…

    Same for directors like Bharatan and Padmarajan..

  17. his dialogues were sharp and precise….see the movie ‘innale…’there is a scene in which suresh gopi calling jayaram to inquire about his wife(sobhana)but out of fear that he would snatch her away from him jayaram doesnt give clear replies;then suresh replies only one thing: “are you a bachelor?”. with thuis single question padmarajan implies the beginning of a male rivalry between the two in a subtle way.

  18. Padmarajan was the greatest writer-filmmaker we ever had. Every fresh look at any of his films confirm that. As a journalist, I have had the good luck to interact with him many times and also watch him shoot. I remember him as a cultured human being, devoid of arrogance or pretension. As a writer and filmmaker, he was a perfectionist par excellence.

  19. the theme of njan gandharvan is strictly indian..because the word itself cannot be translated in any other language..and the plot of the movie could have the setting only in kerala as it is based on the popular myth of our state…rumour has it that people used to put the blame on gandharvan when a younger girl of their family gets preagnant by an unknown man…strictly a malayali myth…

    • Hi Sreejith, “the beauty of a myth lies in its timeless universality” – I understand Njan Gandharvan (1991) was inspired from Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire (1987) which was in turn inspired from a poem! But Padmaraj Sir’s genius lies in how he integrated it to our cultural beliefs and brings his own interpretation to it.

  20. my favourite padmarajan movies: nombarathi poovu;aparan;thoovanathumbikal;njan gandharvan;novemberinte nashtam;peruvazhiyambalam;oridathoru pehelvan;arapetta kettiya gramathil;koodevide;desadana kili karayarilla;and the unique characterstic is that he never portrayed the country(or village) in an utopian way like satyan anthikkadu and blessey.hats off to the master

  21. It would just be a coincidence that I read this now, but I’s downloaded ‘Njan Gandharvan’ 5 days back, just not to watch, but to share with my friends and tell them how a fairy tale can be made so interesting to appeal to the child and the adult… What an unconventional plot & narration.. wow…
    Next..Clara and the metaphor of rain..I believe that there is a Jayakrishnan within each one of us…
    Nevertheless, wish Padmarajan had time to make a few more movies. I feel so frustrated trying to make my friends understand how different Malayalam cinema is(was)… Why say more, my AV faculty had no clue about anyone other than Adoor Gopalakrishnan !

      • It would be great if a classic collection of DVD’s of Malayalam movies of 80’s and early 90’s could be made. Not the Moser bear kind of DVD’s which dont even have subtitles. But good DVd’s with good English subtitles. That would help a lot in showcasing how brilliant movies we had in that golden era. A great asset for the future generation too. If you could do this, that would be great maam. I really wish if I had good dvd’s of movies like Yathra, Yavanika, Thoovanathumbikal, Kallan Pavithran, Thaniyaavarthanam, N.Paarkkan m.thoppukal, Jnan Gandharvan, and many many more movies so that I could have shown this not just to the foreigners who look down upon the stupid Bollywood movies, but even to our West looking younger generation who thinks Malayalam movies are horrible.

  22. anjali mam, this blog really touched my heart!!! Padmarajan sir is one of the finest filmmakers our country has ever seen. i watch english,hindi,malayalam and tamil films..most of them being malayalam! as you said, my love for direction always was influenced by our directors such as Padmarajan Sir, Bharathan sir, Ranjith, Jayaraj etc. Thovanathumbikal still remains as one of the best film ever made in malayalam..and loved what Tom Mangatt said..Pappettan was a genius..’cinemaye pranayicha gandharvan’!!!

  23. Yesterday i saw “ARAPATTA KETTIYA GRAMATHIL”. I was thinking abt the climax of all Padmarajan films. How he ends it has always been the magic of his films. I guess when someone read the script or think abt a story like this it would have been hard for padmarajan to convince others abt ending it. Even now when i am finding it difficult to convince other people to convince abt the ending of my next film i look back to padmarajan films for confidence. I guess it definitely leaves a mark on the people’s mind the way he ended his well narrated stories.

      • Hi Anjali

        2 years back i downloaded AKG from a website called Malluvision.com. u can try this. Alternatively i can send a copy of it to your official attention.

        By the way iam the same Sarath Menon who promised you a housefull show for Manjadikuru in Chennai.[Indulekha column].

    • we can aspire to be Maniratnam…we know the tricks of the trade…we can be Priyadarsham too .we know the situations, the songs…we can be sure that we so can do a James Bond movie anytime…its all the same…art movies..festival circuit movies oh so easy cos who cares to see..but……there CANT BE ANOTHER PADMARAJAN

  24. You have written very well about our Magical director Sri Padmarajan. We used to see his films on those good old days.
    Sir and characters are still living in our hearts.
    Like Tom Mangatt all keep such fantasy about Sir’s film.

  25. Padmarajan,The companion of Rain…..Whenever I had a discussion or thought about him,had to be wet in the rain that very day….It still remains as a mystery why rain so adherent to Padmarajan.

  26. Oh Anjali..thank you so much for taking us down memory lane🙂 A couple of us pals were just talking about ‘“Deshaadanakilikal Karayaarilla” the other day, to catch it being aired on TV. Missed it though, got late from work😦 Faintly recollect it now . But remember fiercely defending the girls and the choices they made in life, to my parents…when I first watched it years ago as a child !

    It pleases me no end when Padmarajan fans get together and discuss his characters and films ! We just never get enough, do we ?🙂 Its a celebration of his craftsmanship, of the genius that was Padmarajan !

    So here’s raising a toast to the lovable, insolent, and oh so adorable Jayakrishnan, and Clara whose soulful, endearing eyes haunt you for life !… and yes, we wonder, WHAT IF, WILL THEY ? SHOULDN’T THEY just have come together ? Sigh !

  27. To one from a very successfull and infamous mollywood production house, I asked ” Dude, why dont you remake Thoovaanathumbikal … ”

    The reply was, ” I wouldnt make that mistake …, some films just cant be made better and hence cant be remade … ”

    Well, the conclusion was i made a mistake, the misatake of asking such a stupid question … Hail to Jayakrishnan Hail Clara Hail Padmarajan !!!

  28. Padmarajan Sir was like a magician who played with people’s mind through his own style of story telling. Many of us may know him through the movies he created, but for those who read his writings, could understand how talented he was in his story telling with words. The versatility of the subjects he handled, the depth and breadth of the stories he told, all shows the work of a master genius behind it. Something, none who tried to follow his foot steps were able to imitate. And his films, his novels, stories are rediscovered and popularized by generations after generations. Nice write, Anjali…

  29. “Deshadanakilikal Karayarilla” was the first movie for which I went alone to watch in a theatre in Trivandrum (It was at Dhanya or Remya).I was eleven years then, studying in Std 6. The film made me a big fan of Maohanlal. Later I watched the film umpteen number of times,same as in the case of all other films of that great crafts man. I was able to admire the said movie even at that age, though I was not sure of the factor that really attracted me. May be the character played by my all time favourite actor. In those days, while watching Mohanlal’s movies, I was not sure whether he would be the hero or the Villain, as it was his transition period from Villain to the HERO.
    The thetre was almost deserted, only few people, I dont remember whether it was during the initial days of release, but I think it was not a big hit anyway.
    Another movie that I always loved to watch was “Namukku Parkkan Mundiri thoppukal”.That was also during my school days. I still remember one of my friends brother, who was then studying in MG College TVM, said one of his college mates came to college that day, driving a Leyland Tanker Lorry, by getting inspired by the movie. Youngsters of that era always tried to live up to the level of dreams that was set by our great Padmarajan sir. He was an exemptional genius who mastered the art of picturising our hidden and untold passions that stays deep within us. The back ground scores of his movies are made in a way to create within us an emotional outburst, especially those in Thoovanathumbikal and Mundirithoppukal…

    His movies still inspired people like me.May be it is because almost all of his characters are based on the ones in real life. people. venhis action attempted movie SEASON was also a different action film altogether. It was not a hit however. Hit or not hit, what makes his movies stay close to our hearts are the portrayal of our untold or unrealised dreams, which we always longed to become fulfilled…

  30. Thats very true maam. Recently saw ‘Season’, another one from Padmarajan sir. What a movie it is. I could relate with it more now than when I saw it as a teenager.
    D.Karayaarilla did OK in the box office. I think it ran for 25 – 50 days in Kochi. Not sure. But I am sure people loved the movie then too.
    Except for the mistake of chosing Devdas for Cannes festival for wrong reasons, I think there are many French people (both from inside and outside the film industry) who are aware that Bollywood is not Indian really. One French friend recently told me that when he watch Mohanlal (the one of 80’s and 90’s) he for some reason think about Gerard Depardieux the great French actor

    I really wish all our great movies of 80’s and 90’s be re released in DVD’s with good English subtitles so that we can show this to our friends around the world. Also for Americanised Indians of now.

  31. Believe it or not, about last year this time , after watching ‘ Nammukku paarkkaan munthiri thoppukal’ I dont know how many times I have watched it, I was wondering, what if Padmarajan sir was still alive? Wouldn’t there have been more of magical films born out of that extra intelligent brain? And at that same night, I was haunted by the musical score of the same movie and the score was done by Johnson Master. I logged into my laptop and opened my script writing software to try and make a sequel story line for the same movie… its been over a year now and I am still stuck at second paragraph.
    I must say Padmarajan sirs’ movies were way too brilliant and they all had the substance of simplicity.
    Even yesterday night after reading your mymajadi blog… all I could think of was Padmarajan sir…how I wish he was still alive!
    Thanks for this blog, Angali…now my mind is brushing through the characters, the never dieing Clara and Jayakrishnan.

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