Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Pazhassi Raja, the Lion of Kerala


By and large, the history books have bypassed Kerala Simham (Lion) Veera (Brave) Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja, the ruler of Kottayam in North Kerala towards the end of the 18c CE and beginning of 19c. This valiant warrior prince took up arms against the taxation policy of the British East India Company. The war between the two, which began in 1790s, lasted till 1805.


A Malayalam movie based on him was released on October 16 and that has made history. It is crafted by MT Vasudevan Nair and Hariharan with Mammootty in the lead role and is produced by Gokulam Gopalan. With a budget of Rs.27 crores, it is the costliest film ever made in Malayalam.


I have not seen the cinema, but heard Hariharan claim on the TV that full justice has been done to historical details. One can be reasonably certain that with careful handling by this expert team, the movie would be good.


I hope this picture which is made in five languages would spread awareness about the legendary fight by Pazhassi Raja against the mighty Company (which, by then, had assumed the role of a government) among the people of India. The hero’s greatest strength was that he was able command absolute loyalty of his upper caste subjects and the hill tribes at the same time. The manner in which they stood by him in life and in death was something remarkable.


It was Thomas Harvey Babar, a young Company officer who was sub collector of Tellicherry who led the final assault against Pazhassi Raja in 1805. And he came to admire his adversary. He is reported to have said about the raja ‘great man and a great warrior’.


Nick Balmer, the great great grandnephew of Thomas Henry Babar maintains a blog, Malabar Days, which gives some authentic accounts about Pazhassi Raja. The link is Thomas Baber's account of the death of the Pazhassi Rajah, from the study reports by Nick Balmer It is interesting reading.


While talking about the newly released Pazhassi Raja movie, let us not forget the earlier one. In the 1960s, there was a cinema by the same name with Kottarakkara Sreedharan Nair in the lead role.

What made that version famous were the songs, written by Vayalar and rendered by Yesudass. Guess who was the Music Director? A R Rahman.’s father, R. K. Shekhar.


Do you remember “Chotta muthal chudala vare…” It is one of the best patriotic songs in Malayalam cinema.


There is also a novel about Pazhassi Raja – Kerala Simham by Sardar KM Panikker.


Related post:

Malayalam Cinema: Going, going, gone?


11 comments:

Mridul Narayanan said...

thanks for sharing the link to Thomas Baber's account of Raja. It is a new information for me.

Abraham Tharakan said...

Mridul Narayanan, I am glad that you found my post useful.

Happy Kitten said...

Wow!

The internet and blogging has connected so many people and there is so much information out there...

Thank you so much for the link to Thomas Baber...

while reading the blog, initially one feels anger against the brits but then there are some facts which cannot be ignored...

Hope the film has done justice to the great Raja and the others too...

Nebu said...

Made with a massive budget of 26 crore by Gokulam Gopalan, the movie ‘Pazhassi Raja’ was probably intended to stump the present SNDP leadership than the lay public. May be we can expect a massive counter venture with Lt. Col. Mohanlal in the lead as ‘Kunjali Marakkar’ by Vellapally Natesan.

Manu said...

I watched the movie. Its quite a treat. Very well made and clearly a lot of effort and work has gone into details. The sets are not overly gaudy or unnecessarily flamboyant. I felt it dragged a little somewhere about the middle but otherwise a very agreeable watch. You must see it when you can. And thanks for the link.

Abraham Tharakan said...

Manu, thank you for the comment. I am glad to hear that you found the movie interesting. I am looking forward to watching it.

Yamini said...

Unfortunately,few historical movies are realistic because the so-called masala has to be added to make a movie palatable to the audience.Almost all the Hollywood historical movies are vitiated because of this.Let us hope Pazhassi Raja has fared far better in this respect

Abraham Tharakan said...

That is an interesting one, Nebu.

Abraham Tharakan said...

Yamini, you have a point there. I am waiting to see the movie to evaluate it.

Sangeetha said...

A very scholarly analysis indeed. It's very rare to find such mature blogs these days..thank you sir..Since you haven't seen the movie I am sharing a theater review of the movie which I found ''sexy, funny & useful'' as the caption goes..so far the best I have read of this genre..



http://journosworld.blogspot.com/2009/11/kerala-varma-pazhassi-raja-1775-1805.html

Abraham Tharakan said...

Sangeetha, thank you.