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‘Celluloid’ focuses on Malayalam cinema’s unsung heroes

Thiruvananthapuram: Not many know that the heroine of the first Malayalam cinema was a victim of the ‘moral brigade’ of the late 1920s as the self-declared custodians of social values found it hard to digest a Dalit woman doing the role of an upper caste woman.

Also, not much is known about the grim struggles of Malayalam’s first film director J C Daniel for his radical approach when mythical themes dominated Indian films. These exactly are the themes of veteran Malayalam director Kamal’s upcoming movie ‘Celluloid’, which narrate the harrowing tale of Daniel and his heroine Rosy.

Kamal, who has to his credit hits like ‘Perumazhakkalam’, ‘Ee Puzhayum Kadannu’ and ‘Meghamalhar’, says ‘Celluloid’ is a tribute to Daniel, considered the father of Malayalam cinema and in whose name the state government gives an award every year like the ‘Phalke’ award by the Union Government.

Daniel,an ardent film buff, was a visionary who realized the immense scope of film as mass medium at a time when people had only a vague idea about the movie industries in Madras (Chennai now) and Bombay (Mumbai).

Seeking to translate his movie dreams into reality,Daniel, in his late twenties, travelled all the way to Bombay, the cradle of Indian cinema and learnt basics of movie making. He came back to Kerala and directed the silent movie ‘Vigathakumaran’ (Lost Child) in 1928-30, which blazed the trail for the Malayalam film industry.

Youth icon Prithviraj plays Daniel’s role while debutant Chandini essays the role of Rosy, heroine of Vigathakumaran, who had to flee her homeland on incurring wrath of custodians of moral values, who considered women taking to stage or cinema as something not different from sex work.

Kamal says ‘Celluloid’ is a tribute to the genius of Daniel, who acted and wielded the camera for the first movie.

“Daniel was an unsung hero in the history of Malayalam cinema.All other Malayalam filmmakers have trodden the path cleared by him.But he did not get any recognition in his time. My film is a tribute to him,” Kamal told PTI.

Celluloid is planned as a biographical film of Daniel interspersed with imagination. The story is narrated in the form of investigations by a film journalist into his life. “It will tell the story till his death in 1970s. It will naturally be a film on the evolution of Malayalam cinema”, said Kamal, who has penned the script.

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