If not for the success of his first film, ‘Nokketha Doorathu Kannumnattu’, Ousepachan Valakuzhy the producer would have faded into oblivion, working as a businessman abroad. Producer Ousepachan Valakuzhy has penned a book about his film experiences called—Njanum Ningal Arinjavarum.
He has written about his experiences with over 82 artists in cinema along with some film history—from Udaya Production company owner Kunchacko to the newbie Priya Warrier. He has produced superhits like ‘Nokketha Doorathu Kannuttu’, ‘Kakothikavile Apooppan Thadikal’, ‘Ramji Rao Speaking’, ‘Hitler’, ‘King Liar’ to ‘Oru Adaar Love’. He has mentioned the initial days of Mammootty, Mohanlal, Manju Warrier, Jayaram, and Kunchacko Boban.
The film that became an unexpected hit
He had a lot of expectations when he watched the FDFS of ‘Nokketha Doorathu Kannum Nattu.’ But he was unable to finish the film at Pankaj theatre in Alappuzha as he couldn’t take the booing from the crowd. He says that booing still echoes in his ears at times. “That was the time I felt the world was spinning at a fast pace. And all I wanted was to rush home.”
Though Fazil tried to comfort him by telling him not to have too over expectations, he admits that day continues to be a painful memory. But the very next day the tide turned in their favour and the film ran for 200 days.
How about sending Mammootty before Navodaya Appachan comes?
I started as an assistant director for ‘Eetillam’, directed by my friend Fazil in 1983. In the Navodaya productions ‘Padayottam’, directed by Jijo Ponnoose, 31-year-old Mammootty played Mohanlal’s father. Though Mammootty was unsuitable for the role, he managed to pull it off with his talent. He reached the Nagercoil sets of ‘Eetillam’ from the sets of Padayottam. Sibi Malayil had gone to the railway station to pick up Mammootty.
Mammootty arrived, wearing jeans and kurta, and plopped on the bed, ignoring everyone and asking for his role and story. When he told us to call Appachan (Navodaya) we all felt he should be packed off before Appachan comes there. His majesty remains unchanged to this day.
His daughter Surumi was born when he was shooting for ‘Padayottam.’ But he was unable to meet his daughter due to the busy schedule. Even then he was fond of electronic gear. Only Mammootty had a walkman during that time.
To give an advance amount along with Siddique and Lal, we went to meet him in his Chennai home. After receiving the advance he said this was the first token amount he was accepting from that house. That made me nervous. Mammootty was superb as the lovable but serious brother of five sisters. I felt relieved only after hearing that ‘Hitler’ was a superhit.
Fazil gave 96 marks
There was a discussion going on at the Navodaya studio regarding a new film. They had planned a small film. Fazil is the director, Sibi Malayil will be the assistant director. Most of the cast and crew were newcomers. I was there for auditing work. Navodaya Appachan’s house which was also his office was always buzzing with people. They were taking the villain’s interview. After they perform the scene briefed by Fazil, they would be given marks by Fazil, Jijo Ponnoose, Jose Ponnoose, Sibi Malayil, and other members of the Navodaya.
‘Prabhe tell him I am your husband’- this was the dialogue from ‘Manjil Virinja Pookkal’ given to all the actors who had assembled there. A young man with long hair and bell-bottoms came there in a car. The interview went on for a while. Most of the jury members scored him below 20. But Fazil and Jijo weren’t showing their marks. Finally, Jijo showed his marks—94/100. And Fazil gave him 96/100. Navodaya Appachan informed the young man about his selection. “You are the one who has been selected by the directors and other members of the crew. You should come when they call you.” That was the birth of Mohanlal, one of the greatest actors we have seen in Malayalam cinema.
He smiled shyly and walked out tipping his shoulders lightly. We didn’t realise then that he was going to be one of the greatest wonders in world cinema. Our friendship grew with films like ‘Dhanya’, ‘Sanchari’ and ‘Ente Mamattikuttiyammaykku.’ By the time I produced ‘Nokathadoorathu Kannum Nattu’ our friendship had cemented. The comedy scenes featuring Mohanlal created ripples in the theaters. There were also intense emotional scenes. Mohanlal proved that he could do both brilliantly.
I have written about their initial days in the cinema. As Fazil said in the introduction, I started writing it during the covid time. And finally, it became, ‘Njanum Ningal Arinjavarilum.’