Capitol Theatre-Trivandrum (1930)-& THE FIRST FILM IN MALAYAM 1928-VIGATAKUMARAN ,

Capitol Theatre-Trivandrum


 / courtesy : Manorama Online
Vigathakumaran was exhibited in Trivandrum at the Capitol Theatre on 7 November 1928. The theatre was located opposite the present day AG's office near the present day State Legislature Building in the centre of Thiruvananthapuram city. The screening was inaugurated by Adv. Malloor Govinda Pillai. Since it was a silent movie, there was an announcer at the theatre who would explain the story and the situation.

Despite being the first film made in Kerala and the social significance of the film, it faced wrath of certain orthodox groups in Kerala, due to the presence of a woman in the film. At that time acting in films were considered as an act at par with prostitution.

 It was a period when female roles in even theatre were played by males.When vigathakumaran was released at capitol cinema in thiruvananthapuram,she was not allowed into the theatre as caste hindus,outraged that a converted dalit could play a nair lady in the filim, created a ruckus. During the screening, stones were pelt on the screen, damaging it. 

The movie was also exhibited in Alleppey at the Star Theatre. Alleppey being one of the most important port towns in Kerala during that time, the audience were more liberal. They received the movie with exhilaration. There was a minor glitch when the screen faded and the audience booed. The announcer explained that since this is the first Malayalam film, there will be some minor problems and the audience received the statement with applause. It is said that J.C.Daniel himself came to Alleppey with the film box, since there was only one print. The film was also screened at Quilon, Trichur, Tellichery and Nagercoil. The film did only a moderate business at the box office and the collections were way less than the expenditure.
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Vigathakumaran-the first malayalm film [silent film]

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Vigathakumaran
(The Lost Child)

A scene from the film
Directed by J. C. Daniel
Produced by J. C. Daniel
Written by J. C. Daniel
Starring J. C. Daniel
P K Rosy
Johnson
Sundar Raj
Cinematography J. C. Daniel
Editing by J. C. Daniel
Studio Travancore National Pictures
Release date(s)
  • 7 November 1928
Country India
Language Malayalam
Budget 4 lakh (British Indian Rupee)
Vigathakumaran (Malayalam: വിഗതകുമാരൻ, translation: The Lost Child) is a 1928 Indian silent film written, directed and produced by J. C. Daniel, who also played the hero in the film. It is the first Malayalam feature film.


Plot

Chandrakumar, son of a rich man in Trivandrum is kidnapped by the villain Bhoothanathan to Ceylon. The efforts of his parents to find him do not succeed and Chandrakumar is brought up as a labourer in an estate. The estate owner, who is British, takes a liking to him and in time, Chandrakumar rises to the post of Superintendent. At this time Jayachandran, a distant relative of Chandrakumar happens to come to Ceylon. Incidentally, he is robbed of all his belongings by Bhoothanathan. Stranded, he gets acquainted with Chandrakumar and they become close friends. They come to Thiruvananthapuram where Jayachandran's sister falls in love with him. Meanwhile Bhoothanathan attempts to kidnap her and the duo's timely intervention saves her. A scar on the back reveals Chandrakumar's identity which eventually leads to the happy reunion of the family.

Cast

  • J. C. Daniel as Jayachandran
  • P K Rosy as Sarojam
  • Johnson as Bhoothanathan
  • Sunder Raj as Chandrakumar

Production

Pre-production

Daniel was interested in martial arts and was an expert in Kalarippayattu, the traditional martial art of Kerala. He published an English book titled Indian Art of Fencing and Sword Play in 1915, when he was 22. Daniel was well aware of the scope of cinema as a public medium. He wished to popularise Kalarippayattu by harnessing the popular influence of cinema. At that time the common mass of Kerala were not even aware of cinema, hence the idea was quite a challenge. He took the challenge and left to Madras (now Chennai) to learn techniques of film-making and to acquire necessary equipments. Madras was the budding centre of film production in South India and had the only permanent talkies in South India, named Gaiety which was established in 1912. However, he could not get what he wanted from Madras and was even denied permission to enter various studio premises in there. That didn't make him to give up. He travelled to Bombay (now Mumbai), the centre of Hindi cinema production. He asked the studio owners for entry claiming that he is a teacher from Kerala and wanted to teach his students about cinema and got entry to the studios there. He could gather enough knowledge and equipments for film production from Bombay and came back to Kerala to fulfil his dream.

Casting and filming

In 1926, Daniel established the first film studio in Kerala named The Travancore National Pictures. It was near the present Public Service Commission office, Pattom, Trivandrum. He made money for the purpose by selling a piece of land in his name for 4 lakh British Indian Rupees. With all set, he started production works of the film of his dreams. He wrote the script and titled it Vigathakumaran (literally translated as The Lost Child). He directed and wielded the camera for the film, which was mute. He was also the pratogonist in the film. He also did most of the post production work including editing. The theme of the film was of social significance and was one of the early films in that genre. Most of the Indian films at that time were based on stories from the puranas and films with social themes were scarse.
The first Malayalam actress was a scheduled caste labourer named P.K.Rosie from a place called Thayycaud near Trivandrum. She used to come with lunch to act in the movie and go for her work in the evening. Daniel had earlier signed an actress from Bombay named Lana to act in the heroine role. Due to some reasons, she left the film and Daniel was forced to sign an unexperienced actress like Rosie in his film. Another important role was played by Johnson, who is the father of actress B. S. Saroja. Daniel's son Sundar Raj also acted in a pivotal role in the film.

Release and post-release events


Vigathakumaran Invitation Letter
Vigathakumaran was exhibited in Trivandrum at the Capitol Theatre on 7 November 1928. The theatre was located opposite the present day AG's office near the present day State Legislature Building in the centre of Thiruvananthapuram city. The screening was inaugurated by Adv. Malloor Govinda Pillai. Since it was a silent movie, there was an announcer at the theatre who would explain the story and the situation. Despite being the first film made in Kerala and the social significance of the film, it faced wrath of certain orthodox groups in Kerala, due to the presence of a woman in the film. At that time acting in films were considered as an act at par with prostitution. It was a period when female roles in even theatre were played by males.When vigathakumaran was released at capitol cinema in thiruvananthapuram,she was not allowed into the theatre as caste hindus,outraged that a converted dalit could play a nair lady in the filim, created a ruckus. During the screening, stones were pelt on the screen, damaging it. The movie was also exhibited in Alleppey at the Star Theatre. Alleppey being one of the most important port towns in Kerala during that time, the audience were more liberal. They received the movie with exhilaration. There was a minor glitch when the screen faded and the audience booed. The announcer explained that since this is the first Malayalam film, there will be some minor problems and the audience received the statement with applause. It is said that J.C.Daniel himself came to Alleppey with the film box, since there was only one print. The film was also screened at Quilon, Trichur, Tellichery and Nagercoil. The film did only a moderate business at the box office and the collections were way less than the expenditure.
Since females acting in films or theatre was considered at par with prostitution, some of the orthodox society burned down the heroine Rosie's hut. She fled to Tamil Nadu where she got married and spent the rest of her life. Nobody knows the whereabouts of Rosie after she left Trivandrum. It was only recently her photo was retrieved from Malloor Govinda Pillai's diaries.
After the film's failure at the box office, Daniel suffered from debts and to overcome the situation, he had to sell his equipments and close down his studio. Despite the setbacks, Daniel went on to make one more film, a documentary on martial arts, Adithadi Murai. He was completely bankrupt after the completion of this film. Almost a pauper, he left Trivandrum to seek a livelihood. Daniel spent the rest of his life as a dentist at Palayamkottai, Madurai and Karaikudi.
The Kerala Government initially rejected to give Daniel any honour because of Daniel was born and settled in Kanyakumari district which became the state of Tamil Nadu after Indian independence. The Government version was that if Daniel want any financial assistance, he has to apply it for Tamil Nadu Government. At the far end of his life, he had told R. Kumaraswamy, the editor of the film magazine Nana: "Malayalam cinema is a thriving industry now. But never have anyone bothered to recognise me as someone who made a film all by himself in those days. As for the new generation, they don't know me. But it is not their fault, I soothe myself." After Daniel's death in 1975, as an afterthought or penance, the instituted the J. C. Daniel Award as a part of the Kerala State Film Awards, to honour lifetime achievements in Malayalam cinema. Daniel is now known as the father of Malayalam cinema
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 K. Karunakaran-Malayatoor nexus denied ’Celluloid’ hero his due :-http://week.manoramaohttp://week.manoramaonline.com/cgi-bin/MMOnline.dll/portal/ep/theWeekContent.do?channelId=&contentId=13498156&catId=&BV_ID=@@@

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From the Lost Life, made by R Gopalakrishnan.

  Lost Life Part 1  

 Lost Life Part 2  

 Lost Life Part 3  

 Lost Life Part 4  

 Lost Life Part 5

       J. C. Daniel


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Jump to: navigation, search


J. C. Daniel Nadar
The Father of Malayalam Cinema
Born Joseph Chellayya Daniel Nadar.
November 28th, 1900
Neyyattinkara, Travancore, India.
Died 29 April 1975 Nagercoil, Tamil Nadu, India.
Occupation Indian Filmmaker,Dentist
Years active 1926 - 1928
Influenced by Martial Arts
Influenced Malayalam cinema
Spouse(s) Janet
Children Haris Daniel (the youngest) and 4 more eldest Children
Parents Dr. N J Daniel and Njanambal
Awards 1929 - Public Mirror Prize (Vigathakumaran)
J. C. Daniel Nadar was the first film-maker from Kerala, India. He produced, directed, wrote, photographed, edited and acted in the first film made in Kerala, named Vigathakumaran (meaning The Lost Child). He also established the first film studio in Kerala, named The Travancore National Pictures. He is considered as the Father of Malayalam Cinema.[1] The Government of Kerala instituted the J. C. Daniel Award in 1992 in his name, as a part of the Kerala State Film Awards, to honour lifetime achievements in Malayalam Cinema.



Early life

Daniel was born on November 28, 1900 in Neyyattinkara, Travancore (now in the state of Kerala). He finished his formal education from Maharaja's College, Trivandrum. He was interested in martial arts and was an expert in Kalarippayattu, the traditional martial art of Kerala. He published an English book titled Indian Art of Fencing and Sword Play in 1915, when he was just 15 years old.

Learning filmmaking

Daniel was well aware of the scope of cinema as a public medium. He wished to popularise Kalarippayattu by harnessing the popular influence of cinema. At that time the common man of Kerala was not even aware of the medium of cinema, hence the idea was quite a challenge. He took up the challenge and left to Madras (now Chennai) to learn techniques of film-making and to acquire necessary equipment for the purpose.[2] Madras was the budding centre of film production in South India and had the only permanent talkies in South India, named Gaiety which was established in 1912.[3] However, he was unable to realize his plans in Madras and was even denied entry to various studios in the city. That didn't stop the determined Daniel from pursuing his dream. He travelled to Bombay (now Mumbai), the centre of Hindi cinema production. He was able to obtain entry into film studios in the city, claiming that he is a teacher from Kerala and wanted to teach his students about cinema. He gathered enough knowledge and equipment for film production from Bombay[2] and came back to Kerala to fulfill his dream.

Production of Vigathakumaran

In 1926, Daniel established the first film studio in Kerala named The Travancore National Pictures. It was near the present Public Service Commission office, Pattom, Trivandrum.[4] He obtained funds for this purpose by selling a piece of land in his name for an amount of Rs. 4 lakh.[4] With everything set, Daniel finally started the production work of the film of his dreams. He wrote the script and titled it Vigathakumaran. The film was a mute film. He directed and wielded the camera for the film and also played the role of the protagonist in the film. P. K. Rosie acted as the heroine. He also did most of the post production work including editing. The theme of the film was of social significance and was one of the earliest films of the genre. At the time, when most of the Indian films were based on stories from the puranas and films with social themes were rare, Daneil showed creativity and originiality with his selection of the theme of the movie.[4]

Post Release of Vigathakumaran



Daniel at a later age.
Vigathakumaran was exhibited in Trivandrum at the Capitol Theatre on 7 November 1928.[2] Despite being the very first film made in Kerala and having a socially significant message, it faced the wrath of certain orthodox sections in the society due to the presence of a woman in the film. Rosie, who played the role of the female protagonist, was disbarred from entering the theatre, as caste Hindus, outraged that a converted dalit played the role of a nair woman in the filim, created a ruckus. At that time, due to the social orthodoxy and lack of public awareness of the cinema medium, acting in films were considered an act at par with prostitution.[2] During the screening, stones were pelt on the screen, damaging it.[5] The film did moderate business at the box office but the collections were way below the production cost.
The movie was also screened in Alleppey at the Star Theatre. Since it was a silent movie, there was an announcer at the theatre who would explain the story and the situation. Alleppey being one of the most important port towns in Kerala during that time, the audience were more liberal. They received the movie with excitement. There was a minor glitch once, when the screen faded and the audience booed. After the announcer explained that since this was the first Malayalam movie some minor problems might happen, the audience welcomed his statement with applause.
It is said that J.C.Daniel himself came to Alleppey with the film box, since there was only one print.
The first Malayalam actress was a daily wage labourer named Rosie from a place called Thaikkat near Trivandrum. She used to carry her lunch with her, act in the movie and later go for her work in the evening. Since acting at that time was considered a profession at par with prostitution,[2] some members of the orthodox society burned down her hut. She fled to Tamil Nadu where she got married and spent the rest of her life in obscurity.[5]
Vigathakumaran was also screened at Quilon, Trichur, Tellichery and Nagercoil.
Daniel suffered from debts as the movie not a commercial success. To pay his debtors, he had to sell his equipments and close down the studio.[2] That was the end of the film career of J.C Daniel, the first protagonist of the Malayalam Cinema industry.
Daniel spent the rest of his life as a dentist at Palayamkottai, Tamil Nadu. He descended into poverty towards the end of his life, spent at Agastheeswaram. Though he applied for pension under the scheme for ailing artists, the Government rejected it since he was born in Tamil Nadu state. In his books and articles, noted film journalist Chelangatt Gopalakrishnan originally established that Vigathakumaran was the first Malayalam Cinema and J. C. Daniel was its architect as Director, Producer, Cinematographer and Hero. He described the story of Vigathakumaran in articles published since 1960, but Kerala Government initially rejected his crusade citing Daniel was not a Malayalee. The Government version was that if Daniel want Pension or financial assistance, he has to apply it for Tamil Nadu Government, because he was living at Agastheeswaram in Kanyakumari district. The crusade of Chelangattu Gopalakrishnan against this negative attitude was finally successful. Kerala government approved Daniel as a Keralite and decided to honour him as the Father of Malayalam Cinema.
J.C Daniel died in April 1975, penurious and forgotten by all.

J. C. Daniel Award


The Department of Cultural Affairs, Government of Kerala instituted the J. C. Daniel Award in honour of him in 1992.[4] The award, a part of the Kerala State Film Awards is to honour lifetime achievements in outstanding contributions to Malayalam cinema. From 1998, the Kerala State Chalachitra Academy, an autonomous body under the Department of Cultural Affairs, Government of Kerala hosts the award.

J.C. Foundation Award

The awards are instituted by the J.C. Foundation, which was founded in memory of J.C. Daniel by his family and friends. The awards are given away annually for achievements in Malayalam film-making and literature. The film awards are given away in a variety of categories while the literature award is given for the best Malayalam novel.[6]

Biographical film


In 2013, Kamal wrote and directed a biopic on Daniel, titled Celluloid. The film details the struggles of Daniel to produce and exhibit Vigathakumaran, while plunging into financial crisis. It also shows how an IAS officer and the then chief minister did their best not to give any recognition to J. C. Daniel for his contribution to Malayalam Cinema. The film, based partially on the novel Nashta Naayika by Vinu Abraham, also deals with the life of Rosie, the lead actress in Vigathakumaran. Prithviraj plays the role of Daniel, while Mamta Mohandas plays his wife Janet and newcomer Chandni plays Rosie. The film also bagged 7 Kerala State Film Awards, announced on 22nd of february 2013 for different categories including the Best Film[7].
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The forgotten Rosie of Malayalam film history


0
  
Vigathakumaran Actress

The name of the actress in the film was Rosie. She was the heroine of the film. Rosie’s personal life was a bit pathetic as she was a daily wage laborer who used to come to act for the film during day and worked at evenings. She used to come with her lunch to the locations. Just because she acted in the film she was given a picture of prostitute by the society and her hut was burned down by some of the orthodox members of the society. 
Chelangatt Gopalakrishnan's article in Screen Film Magazine - 1973
October 19, 1973 | Screen Film Magazine. { Click to Read the Complete Article.}

Celluloid 2013 film trailer with the wrong date of release
The forgotten Rosie of Malayalam film history

P K Rosy
Malayalam industry might have forgotten its very first heroine P K Rosy, but now there are some plans in place to revive her memories and honour her work by constituting a film award by the government in her name.
At the muhurath ceremony of Celluloid that deals with Mollywood’s first director J C Daniel, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said that he received a request to honour Malayalam film’s first actress Rosy.
This is by instating a film award in her name and he is pleased to announce that the state government is ready for it.
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Rosiyude Kadha - Part 1 (The story of first Heroine of Malayalam Film Industry)

   
 Rosiyude Kadha - Part 2 (The story of first Heroine of Malayalam Film Industry)


DR.J.C.DANIEL(1900-1975)






A born Land-lord, a professional Medical doctor, turned an actor, script writer, Director, Investor and Producer of the First Malayalam Cinema, who had made the Vikatakumaran, in 1928. for the glory of his country. He was the First Owner of a Film Studio in Kerala. The formula that he had drawn: that Stunt-Martial art, story, stage for women-dance, climax, etc are still remains as a Grammar for Film Making in the country. He died of Financial crisis after spending crores of rupees experimenting his venture in its rudimentary state. He was a Tamil from Agasteesearm and broke as later Malayalees have overlooked his contribution.
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Malayalam Movies - An Introduction:-http://enchantingkerala.org/malayalam_movies/malayalam-movies-an-introduction.php
 

 Though young by age (about two centuries) Film’s role in shaping human thought and imagination has never been small.

lumiere brothersFilm industry that enthralled generations of spectators by merging musical, pictorial, literary as well as all forms of arts gained its identifiable shape in the later part of 19th century (1895) with the presentation of ten short stories by Lumiere Brothers. These ‘wonder films’ lasted just 20 minutes each. World had to wait for another eight more years to witness a full-length feature-film. ‘The Great Train Robbery’ that was released in 1903 by Edwin. S. Parker (who was the all in all of Edison’s Company). And that Great Robbery is acclaimed as the first feature film that remains as a wonderful prelude to all the wonders that followed.



It was in 1896 India its chance to witness this wonderful phenomenon called cinema with the landing of ‘Lumiere Cinematograph’ in Bombay (present Mumbai); to witness this event there reached Mr. Harichandra Sukhram Bhatvadekkar a photographer by profession (affectionately called as ‘Mr. Save Dada’). Mr. Save Dada                                                                                                      Lumiere Brothers
                                                                                                                                 
was surprised by the scope a movie-camera offered and he immediately imported one. He used this camera to film a wrestling performance that was staged in the Hanging Garden at Bombay; thus the first Indian film was born with ‘kusti’ as its theme!

the great train robbery 1903 movie poster 



R.J. Thorne entered in to history by producing the first film shot in India with the production of ‘Pundalika’ in 1912 but ‘Raja Haricchandra (produced by Dada-Sahib Phalke - released in 1913) remains as the first film with all the required features. In 1931 ‘Alam – Ara’ the first film that ‘talked’ was released giving birth to the era of talkies (cinema theatres that showed talking films also became known as talkie); even now there are theatres which have names with talkies as suffix.

jc daniel  


Let us come back to Malayalam movie scene; J. C. Daniel who holds the credit of being the first Malayalam film producer had his debut screening Kalari arts; in fact it was his zest for screening this martial art that led him to adorn the mantle of a producer. While wrestling (Kusti –a free- styled wrestling prevailing in India) was the theme of first Indian film; Kalari (Martial arts originated in Kerala) becoming the debut of Malayalam film remains as an accidental coincidence as well as a pleasant surprise.

Mr. J.C. Daniel did not rest on his oars by filming kalari; he added one more feather on his cap by producing the first Malayalam silent movie ‘Vigatha Kumaran’ in 1928; three years before the first talkie was released in India. J.C. Daniel was walking ahead of others in to history by giving birth to ‘Vigatha Kumaran’.


From 1928 to 49 only seven films were shot in Malayalam; what was the real reason for such a dry term that lasted for more than two decades? Let us think together……..



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5 Facts you should know about J C Daniel!


Submitted by on April 22, 2012 – 1:41 pm

J C Daniel would forever be remembered as the first filmmaker that Kerala had ever seen. His life, battered with torments of all sorts must not have been an easy one, but today he is remembered with the greatest respect and reverence.Here are 5 Facts that you should know about J C Daniel!

1. Daniel was the first film-maker from Kerala, India. He produced, directed, wrote, photographed, edited and acted in the first film made in Kerala, named ‘Vigathakumaran’ .

2. Not many of us residing in Trivandrum, might know that he had also established the first film studio in Kerala. The Travancore National Pictures, as it was called had its office near the present Public Service Commission office, Pattom, Trivandrum.

3. Vigathakumaran was exhibited in Trivandrum at the Capitol Theatre on 7 November 1928. The presence of a woman in the film enraged the audience, and it only added fuel to the fire that it was Dalit woman who played the role of a Nair lady in it. During the screening, stones were pelt on the screen, damaging it.

4. Daniel cast Rosie, a daily wages labourer from Thycaud, Trivandrum as the heroine. Following severe criticism, Rosie fled to Tamilnadu where she got married and spent the rest of her life. Nobody knows the whereabouts of Rosie after she left Trivandrum.

5. Daniel too fled from the state, and spent the rest of his life as a dentist at Palayamkottai. It has been suggested that he spent the end of life in poverty. Its said that he was denied the pension for ailing artistes as well, since the Kerala government at the time rejected his application citing the reason that he was born in Tamil Nadu. He passed away in May 1975.
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 history_of_cinema:-http://kerala.me/cin_history_of_cinema.php
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The Kerala Movie Studio Legacy | JC Daniel’s The Travancore National Pictures


JC Daniel - Founder of Malayalam Film Industry
Courtesy : Metromatinee.com
It seems  strange and sad that  every mention of the glorious film production history of Malayalam hinges around the obvious two – P Subramaniam‘s Merryland and Kunchacko‘s Udaya Studio, while the one that literally forged the path for them, a soul whose daring laid the very foundations of  the Malayalam film industry as we know it – Dr JC Daniel‘s  Travancore National Pictures always seem to be conveniently forgotten. Long before the technical and the artistic lot of the Malayalam industry working out of Coimbatore and Chennai yearned for a similar set of working conditions in the comfort of their homeland, a committed, lanky lad besotted by the potential of this new medium and fuelled by passion had already built a studio right at the heart of erstwhile Trivandrum, at Pattom, right across the Pattom Palace. But the story of Travancore National Pictures is more than that, and the whole credit for archiving that part of history ( or whatever was possible of it ) should go to Chelangatt Gopalakrishnan, the veteran journalist.
For the seventh amongst the eleven  children of Dr NJ Daniel and Njanambal, born  November 28th, 1900, Joseph Chellaiah Daniel,  came into this world, you could say, holding the  the proverbial silver spoon, at Neyyattinkara. The affluent family  shifted to their hometown Agasteeswaram by 1905, into their palatial house that was an architectural landmark of the times. Growing up to be a dashing, handsome lad who stood at  5′ 11”, the captain of his  high school football team, athletic, deeply interested in martial arts  (even publishing a book titled Indian Art of Fencing and Sword Play in 1915, when he was 22 ) and a voracious reader, he was everything a conventional movie producer of our collective perception wasn’t. Initially planning to make an hour long talkie on the indigenous martial art-forms of Kerala of his times, from his perspective, and his initial inquiries on the cost-aspects of film production were to this effect. Vel Picture Studio, Guindy  quoted an astronomical 40,000 rupees for his dream project, and a defiant Daniel set out to check out the ‘prices in Mumbai’. In Mumbai he visited the production studios of the times, one of which even permitted him to hang around  for a full day and night, allowing him to to grasp the fundamentals of the production processes in close range, and the bright and alert mind was quickly, systematically filing away everything he observed for future use.
Recharged, on his return, he sold off his share of the family inheritance ( 108 acres ) at Neyyattinkara for Rs 30,000/- and even managed to bring in a partner for his venture, named Sundaram. Initially enthusiastic, once he came to know of the fervor and passion of young Daniel to realise his project, his focused approach, Sundaram developed cold feet and slinked away. Undeterred, he borrowed some more, and with this capital, traveled to Mumbai and bought the first set of  studio equipment to Kerala. He sold off more land, organised another Rs 40,000/- and this time headed out to Calcutta where he got his cinematography equipment.

On JC Daniel’s Cinematography equipment.

This has been something that has always piqued my curiosity – on the type of movie camera that he would have filmed Malayalam’s first movie. As I am given to understand, the actual technical details of the production are sketchy to say the least. I have asked around a bit, and kept asking myself on the type of cinematography equipment, I could be looking at, presumably in 1925-26, with Rs 40,000 in my kitty and a fairly good understanding of what exactly I want in terms of my cinematography equipment. The popular ones of those times, what I am given to understand, were the Debrie Le Parvo, the Moy ( Moy & Bastie ), the Bell & Howel 2709, the legendary Mitchell Standard and the Eyemo. The Mitchell Standard and the Eyemo were astronomically priced, even for those times for an individual, and maybe the young film maker decided upon the next best option which must have been the Debrie, as the Moy and the B &H weren’t as popular or as available as the others. ( Assumptions, assumptions ! ) I came across this production still from  Kamal’s Celluloid, the biopic on JC Daniel of a movie camera that  seemed to have been inspired by the  Debrie Le Parvo, but glossed over with a lot of imagination and kitsch. I have no idea where the creators of the movie have based their assumptions on this being JC Daniel’s cinematography equipment, but I am sure they must have their reasons ( ! ). :)

Movie camera replica in Celluloid, biopic of JC Daniel
Movie camera replica ( ! ) in Celluloid, biopic of JC Daniel

The Debrie Le Parvo actual.


The Wood Debrie Parvo Movie Camera

According to CINEMATOGRAPHERS.NL, The wooden casing was an enclosing shell. The gears, film gate, etc. were mounted on, and contained within a metal chassis. On the front panel was a brass knob to open the front of the camera and a further brass knob to unlock the shutter mechanism. The camera had a fold-out Newton finder and eyepiece. The rear of the camera featured a footage counter dial marked in feet, a cranking speed indicator marked 16fps and 24fps and a pull-out focusing eyepiece with diopter adjustment and an eyepiece light-trap cover.
Also on the rear panel was a spirit level to level the camera on a tripod. The camera front lifted up and the side panels were hinged to reveal the very impressive movement and two 400 feet co-axial metal film magazines. The hand-cranked Le Parvo was at one time the most popular European made camera. Even in the early 1920′s, the Le Parvo was the most used camera in the world.
The Debrie was one of the most popular models of the times, according to acclaimed senior DOP Jayanan Vincent, and says “the Debrie, Mitchell NC and Newall are  still available at AVM studios, Chennai !

A Video of the metal-jacketed, advanced version of the Debrie.

  BELOW:-The Travancore National Pictures Movie Studio.AT PATTOM


Sarada Vilas Building
Pix Credit : Malayala Manorama
After getting back to Kerala with his cinematography equipment, JC Daniel sold off some more of his remaining property, and with the money, bought two acres of land at Pattom, from Nagappan Nair, a lawyer from the city, that included a house names Sarada Vilas, along with which he also built a two-roomed structure that would also double up as his living quarters. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to call these two buildings, Sarada Vilas and this new annexe, the First Film Production Studio of Malayalam Film Industry. The name of the studio, was borne out of JC Daniel’s deep sense of bonding and love for his state and wanted his business venture to reflect it too.JC Daniel had almost exhausted his resources by now with no money left for the actual shooting process. So he did what he did best, dipped into the pockets of his close relatives and friends to find another round of capital and the shooting began, based on a story board he himself had put together, as feature film, shelving his idea of the initial plan for a later date.

JC Daniel's Biography by Chelangatt Gopalakrishnan

According to Chelangatt Gopalakrishnan’s biography of JC Daniel, the debut production of the debut studio in Malayalam cinema was done in two schedules, the first in Ceylon and the second at Pattom, mostly brought out and done in natural sunlight, as the director/cinematographer found the Sarada Vilas interiors too dark for normal shooting. The details on the Ceylon trip and the shooting there are unavailable yet, but it was a fact that JC Daniel himself cranked the camera, and in the night, after a days work, he processed the film himself in the studio, assessing his work and getting ready for next day’s shoot. 
The cast of the movie ( The Lost Child aka Vigatha Kumaran ) was a smattering of family members, rank amateurs and professional theatre artists, with the lead actress PK Rosy ( whose actual identity and her years post the movie remain an mystery even now ) also taking care of catering for the crew. Yes, she and her family cooked for the crew, and she acted in the movie ! There was no editing and the shooting was done as a continuous process keeping in mind the roll of raw stock in each cartridge, which was around 1000 feet. 
The crew themselves took care of the costumes and the makeup. The shooting started at sun up at places around the studio and Pattom palace with JC Daniel multi-tasking . 
 The ENTIRE cast and crew were from Kerala, a daring initiative when one considered the prevailing conditions of movie-making in south India of those times.
Suffice to say, The Lost Child took two years to complete and was  released on November 7, 1928 at Capitol Theatre and was a disaster – not because the movie was sub-standard, but the pseudo-orthodox, senselessly conservative local population could never take a lady from their own land “acting onscreen.” To them, it was akin to prostitution! It ran for 4 days and had to be withdrawn ultimately, as the irate mob, incensed at the sheer audacity of PK Rosy to act in a moving picture, had by then, torn down the projection screen.

Capitol Theatre-Trivandrum

The movie, released in 5 more centres never fared any better and The Travancore National Pictures went under. It was only a matter of time. The equipment and the premises were sold at a pittance to recoup losses and repay his lenders, but that never sufficed. He had to sell of his wife’s remaining jewelry and the rest of his property to make good the losses. JC Daniel, Malayalam cinema’s first producer, bankrupt and broken, would relocate to Madurai, learn dentistry, open a clinic that would soon blossom into a flourishing practice and reclaim his life in the next 5 years.

The Capitol Cinema recreated in Kamal's Celluloid
The Capitol Cinema recreated in Kamal’s Celluloid
But his love for film -making remained, which was rekindled with a chance meeting with PU Chinnappa, one of the “megastars” of the times, who enticed him to make another movie, this time, bigger in budget, bigger in everything. He could get him in touch with some great money-men who would finance the project, and he himself would play the lead ! And that led to chain of events that decimated JC Daniel completely, condemning himself and his wife to a life of penury that they never recovered from, ever.
In retrospect, our first Film Studio’s only production was a path breaker in many respects. It was the first production that had an overseas shooting schedule, the studio owner was also the script-writer, cinematographer, lead actor, processing technician, director and distributor.The Lost Child aka Vigathakumaran also starred an all-Malayali cast and crew speaking of volumes of the righteous sense of purpose and initiative of JC Daniel, now considered the father of Malayalam cinema.
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 A Short Video feature on Chelangatt Gopalakrishnan.


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N.JAYACHANDRAN  ON THE NEW FILM
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 The Trailer of Celluloid (2013)
 

Katte Katte Nee Poonkamarathil - Celluloid Malayalam Movie Song

 

 

MALABAR 1921





TRAVANCORE HORSE CARRIAGE

1950-1980 CINEMA PROJECTOR:-