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`Newspaper Boy:' a flashback to the Fifties

B. Vijayakumar

Some of those who worked on the film `Newspaper Boy' go down memory lane on the occasion of the Golden Jubilee of the film's release.

Stalwarts like Shantaram and Balraj Sahni, praised the film. it was screened in New Delhi. Ramdas

Golden Get-together: Some of those who were involved in the making of `Newspaper Boy' along with guests at Town Hall, Ernakulam, during the Golden Jubilee celebrations.

Although the film `Newspaper Boy,' produced in 1955, was not a commercial success, it was perhaps the first realistic film that paved the way for serious filmmakers. What made this venture significant was that it was made by a group of students. This landmark movie celebrates its Golden Jubilee this year. Celebrations, under the aegis of the Jaycee Foundation, was held in Kochi on May 13, the day the film was released 50 years back.

Guiding spirit

The guiding spirit and the force behind this film was P. Ramdas. "I was a fan and admirer of stalwarts like V. Shantaram, the legendary director, Amiya Chakravarthy and others. A news item in the `Filmfare' was an inspiration. It described Raj Kapoor as the youngest director in the world. I remember having told my friends that I would soon take this honour. The idea of making a film was born," recalls Ramdas.

One of his friends, Parameswaran, who studied with him at University College in Thiruvananthapuram, also wanted to make a film. "I was involved in the publishing of a magazine called `Mahatma' and had also written a short story titled `Compositor' that was published in this magazine. We decided to make it into a film after making some slight changes."

They bought an 8 m.m. camera from Madras, went through several books on cinema that was available at the British Library in Thiruvananthapuram. The main crew behind the production of the film was Ramdas, his brother Balakrishnan, Parameswaran, and Kandhaswami, all of them students. The late Nagavalli R.S. Kurup, was the only veteran in the team, and he wrote the dialogues. He was paid Rs. 1,000, a princely sum during those days.

" My brother worked as one of the production managers. The dialogues had a typical Thiruvananthapuram accent, but the story revolved around Thrissur. I had to makes certain changes."

Col. Godavarma Raja conducted the switch-on ceremony and shooting began at Merryland Studios on May 5, 1954. Nagavalli played the role of compositor Sankaran Nair. Neyyattinkara Komalam, Prem Nazir's first heroine, (in the film `Marumakal') played the role of Kalyani, the mother of the main character Appu, the newspaper boy. Narayana Pillai, alias Moni, acted this central character to perfection. The other characters were played by Veeran, Adoor Pankajam and so on.

"I have only sweet memories of those days on the sets of this film. I still remember Ramdas and the keen enthusiasm he showed in attempting to make every shot as perfect as possible. The entire crew were newcomers but they worked with a great deal of dedication," reminisces Neyyatinkara Komalam.

HITTING THE HEADLINES: A scene from `Newspaper Boy.'

The film was completed by the end of 1954 but the release had to be put off because Ramdas had problems finding a distributor. Finally two distributors, R.S. Pictures and Variety Pictures, took up distribution rights. The distributors gave them Rs. 50,000 on the condition that if the film did not fetch the amount within a year Ramdas had to pay back the difference. The film bombed at the box office. "Maybe the audience was not happy with the concept of a realistic film. They were more fascinated by films like `Kanavane Kankanda Deivam,' which was released at the same time. I remember how some people booed and hooted when the film ended with `Aarambham' (beginning) instead of the usual `shubham' (the end). In fact, we had to later change that part. The film was made at a total cost of Rs. 1,75, 000."

A. Ramachandran, who composed the music along with Vijayan, says, "There are 10 songs in the film and the songs were used to denote the passage of time or some other specific purpose. I was amazed by the humility of singers such as the late Kamukara Purushotaman and Shanta P. Nair, who readily agreed to sing for youngsters like us. During the re-recording, my brother Vijayan was taken ill and I had it do the work on my own. However, owing to our inexperience, we were not able to transfer the songs to long-play records.

No regrets

Ramdas has no regrets. "I'm satisfied with the work. It was produced to my utmost satisfaction.

"Stalwarts like Shantaram and Balraj Sahni, praised the film. The film was screened in New Delhi on the special request of the Government of India for various Central Government institutions."

Ramdas went on direct another film `Vadaka Veettile Athithi.' Not comfortable working for another producer, Ramdas produced and directed one more film `Niramaala.'

The banner of Adarsh Kalamandir might have vanished but `Newspaper Boy' will be remembered forever because of its universal theme and style of filmmaking.

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