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'Celluloid': A belated tribute to father of Malayalam cinema

Press Trust of India  |  Thiruvananthapuram 

"Celluloid", a film by Kamal which bagged seven state film awards including for best film, is a belated tribute by a film-maker to J C Daniel.

Prithviraj won the best actor award for his portrayal of Daniel, who had to struggle a lot to produce and exhibit the first film made in Malayalam- Vigathakumaran (The lost child), in the biopic.

The actor said he was dedicating the award to the pioneer of Malayalam cinema.

Kamal said through "Celluloid," he had strived to convey to the audience certain facts they should not forget about how cinema originated in Malayalam.

"It is not meant to be taken merely at the cinematic level. The film has an academic touch too," he said.

The life of Daniel was a long tale of struggles. For the making of of Vigathakumaran in 1926, he established the first film studio in named The Travancore National Pictures by selling a piece of his land for Rs four lakh. He himself produced, wrote, edited, photographed, directed and acted in the film for which also wielded the camera.

Vigathakumaran invited the wrath of orthodox sections with the presence of a dalit woman P K Rosie in the lead role in the film.

Rosie was prevented by caste Hindus from entering the theatre and stones were pelted on the screen when the film was shown.

The film, with a socially significant message, was released in the Capitol Theatre here on November 7, 1928. The movie was also screened in Kollam, Alappuzha, Thalassery and Nagercoil.

The silent movie was introduced by an announcer who explained the story and situation to the audience at the beginning of the film.

Daniel plunged into financial crisis with the movie falling flat at the box office. He had to sell his studio and equipment. He spent the rest of his life as a dentist at Palayamkottai in Tamil Nadu and died amid penury in April 1975.

Kamal's film explains how the orthodox sections tried to ensure that the very first effort in Malayalam filmdom was not recognised. The film also portrays an IAS officer and the then Chief Minister who chose not to give any recognition to Daniel for his contribution to Malayalam cinema.

Years after his death, Daniel was finally recognised by the government in 1992 with state Culture Department instituting an annual award in his name for film-makers who made all-round contribution in cinema.

First Published: Sat, February 23 2013. 14:30 IST