Kanyakumari district has an abundance of beauty – both of the natural and manmade kind – a fact that hasn’t gone unnoticed by filmmakers always on the lookout for scenic locales.
So Kurukshetra is starting off on a series of Malayalam and Tamil movies that have been shot in Kanyakumari (hereafter Kanyakumari refers to the district as a whole and not just the town at land’s end where the three seas meet, unless otherwise specified). Over the weeks we shall rediscover these movies, which I feel, can be broadly classified into three categories:
Movies in which just a song or maybe a couple of scenes have been shot here. The focus here is just on bringing out the scenic beauty of the place. Capturing all that blue and green loveliness on the big screen.
Then there are movies with Kanyakumari as the setting almost through the length of the movie. The place as such has no bearing on the story and merely provides the locale without actively being part of the story. These could be set anywhere and the tales would remain just the same. Only, it won’t be as pleasing to the eye 😉
And then there are the movies where the land itself becomes a character in the movie. These stories cannot happen anywhere else. If it did, the tale would unfold differently. The distinctive ethos of the place is what fills out, not just the rich tapestry obviously woven on the screen but also those invisible nooks that add depth and fullness to the complete movie experience.
The Gangster, his Moll and the Circular Fort – Raja
We begin lightly with a Tamil film, one from the first category, with an unforgettable song.
Raja, the1972 remake of the Dev Anand-Hemamalini blockbuster Johnny Mera Naam, was a hit in its own right with its powerhouse casting of Nadigar Thilagam Sivaji Ganeshan and Jayalalitha. The movie has a song shot here and this is how it goes. She is a gangster’s moll trying to hoodwink a whole battalion of policemen and he is her accomplice or pretends to be. But he has his own plans up his sleeve which… shhhhh we aren’t telling you now.
They pretend to be two young ones on the run. They put on a grand show to throw the bewildered policemen off the scent, leading them on a wild goose chase that soon has them clambering over rocks, climbing steep steps and scampering over lush lawns. The policemen cannot figure out if that suitcase in their hands, one which both seem to be pretty fond of, is full of looted booty or just an extra change of clothes they packed for the elopement. Anyways, you can be sure of one thing – apparently, moral policing wasn’t that bad back then! The policemen certainly seem to be more tolerant of the goings on.
Sivaji whole-heartedly gets into the act, enjoying Jayalalitha’s discomfort as the two croon their love and gaze into each other’s eyes, one looking murderous and the other thoroughly relishing it.
Now the locale: The song, a duet by TM Soundararajan and P Suseela, and set to music by MS Viswanathan, is set in Vattakkottai. Vattakkottai or the Circular Fort was once the defense fortification of the Travancore Kingdom and it also housed the kingdom’s barracks. It was built under the supervision of the Dutch General Eustachius De Lannoy who was captured by the troops of Marthanda Varma after the defeat of the Dutch at the hands of the Travancore army at Colachel, and later swore allegiance to the Travancore king and rose to be one of his most trusted generals. Today, this fort is a protected site under the Indian Archeological Department. After a recent facelift by the Tamil Nadu Government’s Department of Tourism, the place is more visitor-friendly with upgraded facilities.
The camera beautifully captures the scintillating juxtaposition of the surf and the turf – the vast expanse of the blue of the Bay of Bengal, stretching as far as the eye can see and the verdant greens around the fort that gently roll up into the Western Ghats, away at a short distance. The next time you are in the area, climb up the hoary old steps of the fort and take in an absolutely breathtaking view as mountains meet sea, standing on the ramparts of the fort that extends into the waters. Gaze down at the rare mineral rich black sands of the beach and simply ponder upon the beauty of life. And imagine a pair of young love birds (oh well, pretend love birds, if you want to nitpick) sing and dance their way around the fort and its lush green grounds.
Nee Varavendum Endru Ethirparthen. Watch it here:
PS: Readers are invited to share their thoughts on the movies shot in Kanyakumari district. If you have lots to say, you are welcome to do a post here. As the series progresses and we cover the movies, do let me know what I have missed.