Movie Reviews,  Reviews

The Essence of Village Life in Kerala through Classic Malayalam Cinema

Malayalam Industry (Mollywood) has produced some of the best movies ever, with great visionaries creating such realistic content, portrayed effortlessly by some of the finest actors of all time!

Malayalam had its first color film in the ’60s, and ’70s saw the effective blend of art-house and commercial cinema. ’80s to mid-’90s, which I consider as the Golden time of Malayalam Cinema witnessed relatable, soulful stories aided by detailed screenplay and narration through drama and humor in appropriate proportions.

Village Life is something that induce Nostalgia for me. I guess, it’s the same for many who had seen the Classics, which paved way for many film-makers exploring ideas revolving around the same. Movies like Maheshinte Prathikaaram, Kumbalangi Nights are some examples in the modern era.

Although I like these movies, there was something, which made the Classics special! Here, I am sharing two movies, one each from the ’80s and the ’90s that personified the true essence of the Village Life in Kerala – ‘Ponmuttayidunna Tharavu’, a Cult Classic and ‘Nettipattam’, an Underrated Entertainer.

Both movies capture the beauty and simplicity of the Village Life, told in an entertaining way with rib-tickling comedy, family drama, and some good messages. You can experience the Villages dotted with Green Paddy fields, Tall coconut trees, Old untarred roads, Tea-shops, Ponds, Steep sloping roof homes, Kavu (a traditional natural sacred space), Temples, Kadathu thoni (Village boats used by locals to cross the river) etc.

The Villagers are simple and generally peaceful, but a problem in the house is often perceived as a problem in the society and it needs to be solved asap! 😛 People helping each other, elderly women and daughters engaged in household activities, tending cows, men with small-time jobs, or doing odd jobs here and there, neighbors envious of each other, gulf return all make up various interesting character types. The Village itself, is a Character in these movies!

Apart from the Great Film-makers, Crew behind the scenes and Actors, the greatness of the movies of those times were the depth of all the Characters. The Character artists were some of the best, unmatched talents ever appeared in the screens! Here, we have Sankaradi, Jagathy, Oduvil Unnikrishnan, Karamana Janardhanan Nair, Philomina, Krishnankutty Nair, KPAC Lalitha, Nedumudi Venu, Sukumari and many more – Absolute Legends delighting us with their acting masterclass! A separate forum is needed to discuss more on such Legends!

Sreenivasan was excellent as the lead in both the movies. As both are rich character driven, heart-warming entertainers, sharing a peek into these two movies through their characters, a bit of drama, humor and songs. Enjoy!

1) Ponmuttayidunna Tharavu (The Duck that lays Golden eggs) – A Cult Classic!

Ponmuttayidunna Tharavu is a 1988 Comedy Drama movie written by Raghunath Paleri and directed by Sathyan Anthikad. The movie stars Sreenivasan as Thattaan (Goldsmith) Bhaskaran who is deeply in love with Snehalatha played by Urvasi. Snehalatha convices Bhaskaran to make an expensive necklace for herself to get her parents impressed. Bhaskaran does so and the events that unfold, forms the interesting story. The rest of the talented cast and their roles are as follows:

Innocent: As Panicker, the father of Snehalatha. He is the greedy village astrologer, who doesn’t like the idea of a Thattaan marrying his daughter. But he doesn’t want to let go of a fortune!

Krishnankutty Nair: As Thattaan Gopalan, the father of Bhaskaran, who strongly supports his son, eventhough he is weak 😉 Thattaan Gopalan is always on Kashayams (Ayurvedic medicines)

Philomina: Wife of Thattaan Gopalan, who loves and cares a lot for her family

KPAC Lalitha: As Bhagiradhi, wife of Panicker. Like Panicker, she is equally Greedy and Envious!

Sankaradi: As Madhavan Nair, a Panchayat member and a respected elder of the community. He is the Think-tank of the Village! He can make or break a situation!

Oduvil Unnikrishnan: As Pappi, a trader, who constantly worries about his lost Cow. A part of the Society’s Think-tank!

Mamukkoya: As Aboobacker, the village tea-shop owner. Pappi supports him every now and then. The Tea-shop is a crucial place for all the healthy and un-healthy discussions 😉

Jagathy Sreekumar: As the Velichappadu (Temple Oracle), who guides Thattaan Bhaskaran and is a respected figure in the community.

Karamana Janardhanan Nair: As Hajiyar, a man with a huge public appeal. Hajiyar is the richest man in the Village. He has a young wife at home which nobody has ever seen, until the Climax of this movie 😛 Suspense!

Jayaram: As Pavithran, the man from Gulf, who comes to steal Snehalatha from Bhaskaran

Shari: As Parvathi, a poor Dance teacher, who could be an important part in Bhaskaran’s life!

The Movie was blessed with two memorable songs written by ONV Kurup, composed by Johnson and sung by KS Chithra and KJ Yesudas respectively – What Talent! The Lyrics, music and scenery are tailor-made for the movie. Feel the Freshness!

“Theeyilurukki Thinthinna..thinthinna.. Thriththakidaakki Thinthinna..thinthinna..”

“Kunnimanichepputhurannenne nokkum neram, pinnil vannu kannu pothum thozhanengu poyi..”

2) Nettipattam (An ornament used in Kerala to decorate Temple Elephants) – An Underrated Entertainer!

Nettipattam is a 1991 Comedy Drama movie written by Sasidharan Aarattuvazhi and directed by Kaladharan. The movie stars Sreenivasan as Peethambaran, a simpleton, who works for the welfare of the people in his village. He dedicates his life to the Village, but fails to take care of his Family. The movie deals with the problems he faces and how he tries to overcome the same.

The title ‘Nettipattam’ is used in the movie as a metaphor, signifying the symbol of recognition for the lead character as he believes and enjoys the status of the ‘savior of village’. There were many movies with similar themes that came later like Golanthara Varthakal, Kottaram Veettile Appoottan, Balettan etc, but my favorite among all of them is Nettipattam. The rest of the talented cast and their roles are as follows:

KPAC Lalitha: As Peethambaran’s mother, who always worry about her son and the fate of her daughters.

Bobby Kottarakkara: As Damu, but known in the village as Madantha. He collects Chembila (Colacasia) and sells it to the local meat shops to earn a living. He does odd jobs here and there. He can be labelled as ‘a local news broadcaster in the village’. Madantha adores Peethambaran.

Sankaradi: As Achuthan Nair, the father of Sugunan. Much like Ponmuttayidunna Tharavu, he is a respected elder in the village. He is an attention seeker who is fond of public speaking. He is the main think-tank in Peethambaran’s gang.

Vijayaraghavan: As Sugunan, the son of Achuthan Nair. He is a self-centred individual who pretends to be a true friend of Peethambaran, and exploits his innocence.

Jagathy Sreekumar: As Ummini Ashaan, who makes beedis (mini-cigars) locally for a living. He is often found near the small shop by the shore. He is a contemptuous person who loves gossiping. Ummini Ashaan is an active part in Peethambaran’s gang.

Jagadheesh: As Jocky, the man who is awaiting a call from Kuwait anytime! 😉 He is Peethambaran’s best friend and genuinely loves him, eventhough some of his antics put Peethambaran in trouble. He considers the local Toddy shop in the Village as his second home 😀 He boasts a lot about his tenure in Gulf.

Sukumari: As Mamma, the mother of Jocky. Eventhough Mamma appears as a strong and bold lady, she is worried about Jocky and asks Peethambaran to guide him properly.

Rekha: As Indu. Destiny brings her into Peethambaran’s life. She is a woman of bold outlook who loves the innocence and helping mentality of Peethambaran.

Krishnankutty Nair: As Indu’s father. Coincidence lets him meet Peethambaran. Their relationship flourishes over an 80 paise transaction.

Oduvil Unnikrishnan: As Avarachan, who manages the local ration shop in the Village. Avarachan is a miser. He is cunning and tricks his customers in supplies

Nedumudi Venu: As Kumaran, father of Devan, who has a close affinity with the family of Peethambaran. He supports them to the best of his ability. He is always seen with his Thoomba (Shovel). Kumaran wants Peethambaran to be more responsible towards his family.

James: As Devan who is often seen with Sugunan. He is the son of Kumaran. Both are contrasting characters. He doesn’t like his father doing jobs for Peethambaran’s family.  

Adinad Sasi: As Shanthappan, who manages the small shop by the shore. All the usual suspects gather there to discuss village issues 😉

Manoj K Jayan: As Freddy, a mysterious man with a new boat in the Village. He befriends Jocky. Does he have any insidious agenda?

Nettipattam has a lovely song which was used in almost all the marriage videos of that era. It was used in my uncle’s marriage video as well 🙂 . The song was written by Bichu Thirumala, composed by Johnson and sung by Balagopalan Thampi. Enjoy!

These two movies perfectly fit the ‘Old is Gold’ category and its feel-good, innocence and simplicity will win your hearts and put a smile on your face!

Verdict: Refreshing! Highly Recommend!

You can enjoy these movies on YouTube. Click on the movie titles below to enjoy the full movie. The video quality could be average, but the movies are of very high quality!

Ponmuttayidunna Tharavu


Have you read my article on Padmarajan? Read here

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Image and Video Credits: You Tube

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  • Gayathri S

    Being born in late 70s, these movies are so close to ky heart. As usual, your write up is such a delight to watch. By the way, did you miss to portray the character of Urvasi? The first film was one of her best. She is my favourite actress! Did you know that the movie was first titled, “Ponmuttayidunna Thattaan”. I still remember the posters that came out first that was all over in Pettah (near my house), which later got changed. During your school days, main entertainment while sitting in the school van is to look at all the new movie posters. I was so excited to catch my name “Gayathri” who did a lot of posters during that time…(Sigh! Lot of memories) Anyway, wonderful blog…keep up the good job my friend..

    • Prakash Thampi

      Thanks a lot Gayathri 😊 Urvasi was brilliant as Snehalatha in Ponmuttayidunna Tharavu, had mentioned about her in the paragraph along with the introduction of Thattaan bhaskaran. Yes, I knew about the title. Infact, the most challenging part is, there is so much to write! So so much! Love and adore these movies! Everything was so good! Pure Nostalgia 😊

  • Ramesh Nair

    Well written da.. Those days cannot imagine a movie without oduvil, shankaradi, Krishnan kutty Nair and jagathy.. Deadly combo

  • Sreehari M S

    Thank you Unni for rekindling my memories. I have to say that we are fast loosing a part of culture as depicted in those two movies. Village Life is characterized by the innocence and pure love of its people. I always long to go back to those carefree days my childhood had. I am sure these two movies and the characters will remain in our hearts for quite a long time.

    Just to mention even though all have acted in the movies brilliantly I always adore the acting of Oduvil Unnichettan. His subtle expressions are his trademark and only he is capable of doing it. We all are missing great acting instances nowadays.

    Keep blogging Unni..You are the best.

    • Prakash Thampi

      Thanks a lot Hari! Spot on and completely resonate with your feelings! The same prompted me to pen down my thoughts! Yes, oduvil, thilakan, sankaradi, many more…natural, realistic everyday portrayal! We were blessed to witness these legends giving an acting masterclass!😊 miss those times

  • Anil Saraswathy

    Unni, excellent review. You took me back to those good old days. Life seem to have lost its charm and innocence since then. Still recall the ruckus created by the Goldsmith association on the movie title Ponmuttayidunna thattaan which had to be finally changed to tharavu. It gives a nostalgic feeling to recollect those classic characters, visualizations and dialogues. When the best of script, actors and technicians are given to a director like Sathyan he seldom goes wrong. I don’t remember seeing Nettippattam, have added that to my list of things to do !!

    • Prakash Thampi

      Thanks a lot maman😊 Yes, the innocence, simplicity and goodness of those times were magical! I have read about the title change, it was interesting. I feel the revamped title gives that fairytale feeling – the village with interesting storyline, narration and characters made it worthwhile! Nettipattam is an underrated goodie as well! Sure you will love it 😊

  • Shiva Kumar Pillai

    The Sathyan anthikkad-Sreenivasan combination always worked perfectly well both in quality and box office.

    The onv’s song “kunnimani cheppu…” reflects the overall theme and mood of the film; thanx to Johnson’s magical touch that made it a classic folklore.

    Great review, get going Unni !

  • Deepak Mohan

    Dont even remember these movies but I know watched these atleast a couple of times . Well this just gives me reason to watch it again.

  • Sita

    Excellent write up da…you ve picked two gems ..nd yes I ve lost count on how many times I ve watched these movies…each time it’s lyk I’m watching it fr the first time…dialogues nd scenes are imprinted on our minds and I enjoy it immensely…jst wished you had included mazhavilkavadi too …nyways it’s jst awesome how u recreated a lost era with ur writings…we ve lost most of the brilliant actors…keep writing da👍👍

    • Prakash Thampi

      Thanks a lot dear😊 What a coincidence – Mazhavilkavadi was also in my list for this piece…I initially thought of writing 2-3, not that elaborate..but then decided to go with 2 to accommodate more details…Will definitely be writing mazhavilkavadi and some other gems soon😊

  • Jis Jerald

    Again a beautiful write up👍🏼….these 2 movies definitely give you that nostalgic feeling… Ponmuttayidunna tharavu is agin one of my all time faves and most of the ppl who watches 80’s-90’s movies wudnt have missed it… A special clap out to urvashi to take up such a character which has negative shades in it at the peak of her career…keep on writing praks😊

  • Jis Jerald

    Ya… Don’t think movies like these will ever be made again… Coz its all abt that era… The closest to such kind of a movie I cud think of is maheshinte prathikaram but then too it cannot be compared with these movies… Yes Urvashi sure was the queen of versatility… Her comic timing is something else… Recent movie that I loved watching her was aravindante athithikal…😊

    • Prakash Thampi

      Yes Jis…there are movies that take inspiration out of these, but could not offer the same refreshing experience…apart from actors, the talent behind the screens as well as the film makers were brilliant! Golden period 😊

  • Gayathri G

    Well-written Prakash! Cult classics of Malayalam. These movies bring back memories of my childhood. These classic movies are entertaining to watch even today. Songs and background music takes you to another world. Keep blogging:)

  • M.Ratish Nair

    I really don’t have anything to write, as most of them have already written what was in my mind too. Really 2 great movies of those times….the write up is excellent ! Keep writing, so that we all can go back to our old and childhood days.

  • Arun Muraleedharan

    Bringing new styles in the form of inclucating the evergreens gives a really touch to those nostalgic times. Really appreciating.
    Keep it up Prakash.
    Waiting for more…

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