Achani Ravi, the visionary who initiated artistic revolution in Malayalam cinema

K Ravindranathan, the veteran movie producer who had bankrolled a number of well-known Malayalam movies is remembered for his humble nature and impeccable passion for cinema. On the sets, he never showed the airs of the ‘boss’ who finances the movie. Ravindranathan decided to invest money in art house movies when it had gained notoriety as films that are not watched by anyone. His incredible far-sightedness with which he reaped success in cashew business had helped him in the movie business too. Ravindranathan perfectly understood that the value of good movies would remain forever.

After completing intermediate, Ravindranathan was all set to begin medical study at Manipal Medical College. However, the sudden demise of his father, noted cashew merchant Vendor Krishna Pillai, forced Ravindranathan to return home. Meanwhile, he made sure to complete B.Com too. Even while he was busy with his studies and running his father’s business, the producer never shied away from reading books and watching movies. When he read the novel ‘Anweshichu Kandethiyilla’ by Parappuram, Ravindranathan wished to turn it into a movie. Anweshichu Kandethiyilla was his first project followed by ‘Lakshaprabhu’ and ‘Kattukurangu’. Two significant events had happened in his life when the movie ‘Achani’ was made on a budget of Rs 4 lakh earned a return of Rs 14 lakh. Ravi, the producer of the movie, began to be known as ‘Achani’ Ravi in the movie industry. He donated the profits of that movie to build a new building for the public library in Kollam, making his moniker ‘Ravi Muthalali’ more popular among the common people. Ravi then took up the distribution of ‘Utharayanam’ directed by Aravindan, free of cost. Meanwhile, he became the ‘godfather’ of classy movies by bankrolling Aravindan’s second film ‘Kanchana Seetha’.

In the beginning, Ravi used to find stories before roping in the directors. His ‘Lakshaprabhu’ was written by Malayattoor. Meanwhile, ‘Kattukurangu’ was based on a novel written by K Surendran. The thread of ‘Achani’ was adopted from a Tamil play.

Many tried to dissuade Ravi from producing ‘Kanchana Seetha’ as Aravindan had cast the tribals of Andhra Pradesh in the lead roles in the film. However, Ravi made his stand clear that cinema was director’s art and he has the freedom to decide its craft. He also bankrolled Aravindan’s next project ‘Thampu’.

Ravi began collaborating with Adoor Gopalakrishnan, another celebrated filmmaker, only after producing movies like Kummatti, Esthappan and Pokkuveyil, all directed by Aravindan. Adoor hadn’t done any movies after the acclaimed film ‘Kodiyettu’. Meanwhile, Ravi was curious to know why a talented filmmaker like Adoor wasn’t doing another movie. The filmmaker replied that he couldn’t find a producer for his next. Ravi promised to produce Adoor’s next movie and that is how ‘Elipathayam’ happened. Interestingly, ‘Pokkuveyil’ and ‘Elipathayam’ were released during the same time. Aravindan complained that ‘Elipathayam’ had done better at the box office as it received better publicity from the makers. Ravi didn’t collaborate with Aravindan after that. But, the fabulous combo of Ravi – Adoor inaugurated a golden era of nouveau cinema in Malayalam. Movies like ‘Mukhamukham’, ‘Anantharam’ and ‘Vidheyan’ directed by Adoor went on to become cult classics in Malayalam cinema.

It was Ravi who produced ‘Manju’ directed by MT Vasudevan Nair. He had bankrolled movies for the banner of General Pictures. However, admirers of classic movies says that the films produced by Ravi weren’t ‘general’ at all; but they were all extraordinary. It must be noted that another movie didn’t happen from the production house of General Pictures after ‘Vidheyan’ got released in 1994. Ravi who had produced around fourteen movies had invested Rs 5 lakh for ‘Kanchana Seetha’. However, the expenses for Vidheyan were Rs 37 lakh.

It was through the movies of General Movies that actors like Nedumudi Venu, Jayabharati and Jalaja made their big screen debuts. Meanwhile, veteran cinematographer Shaji N Karun had cranked the camera for the first time in ‘Kanchana Seetha’.

Interestingly, Ravi too had acted in a movie, only once, at the insistence of Aravindan. Ravi and his family acted as the onscreen family who rides in a boat in the sea in ‘Esthappan’. His wife Usha Ravi was a well-known singer who had rendered many super hit songs including ‘Kananapennu Chembarathy’ in Thampu.

Ravi, who was the owner of Vijayalakshmi Cashew Company (VLC) had dedicated his life for business and art. Interestingly, Ravi’s house is probably the only place in Kerala where you could see the National Award for Exporting and National Award for best movie together.

His interests weren’t limited to just movies, Ravi had spent around Rs 1 crore for renovating the Sopanam Auditorium in Kollam under the expert guidance of noted artist MV Devan.

The interiors of his hotel Nani, named after his beloved mother is decorated with exquisite artistic pieces by MV Devan and Artist Namboothiri. Ravi was also the owner of the Pranavam and Usha theatres which continues to exhibit movies.

Courting awards

Many movies produced by Ravi had won national and state awards. Besides, the artists and the directors who made those movies too brought national and international honours to Kerala through these movies. Here is a list of movies produced by Ravi that had won awards.

1967 – Anweshichu Kandethiyilla (Direction – P Bhaskaran; National Award for Best Malayalam Movie)

1968 – Lakshaprabhu (P Bhaskaran)

1969 – Kattukurangu (P Bhaskaran)

1973 – Achani (A Vincent)

1977 – Kanchana Seetha (Aravindan won the National Award for best director; the movie won special jury award by the state government)

1978 – Thampu (Aravindan won the National Award for best director; state award for best second movie; Shaji N Karun won the state award for best black and white cinematography)

1979 – Kummatti (Aravindan; state award for best children’s movie; won award for extraordinary film at the London Film Festival)

1980 – Esthappan (Aravindan; state award for best director; won four state awards including this)

1981 – Pokkuveyil (Aravindan; National Award for best second movie; state award for best director)

1981 – Elipathayam (Adoor Gopalakrishnan; National Award for best Malayalam movie and best sound designing; won British Film Institute award)

1982 – Manju (MT Vasudevan Nair)

1982 – Sharathsandya (MT Vasudevan Nair; Hindi adaptation of Manju)

1984 – Mukhamukham (Adoor Gopalakrishnan; National Award for best director, screenplay and best Malayalam movie; won five state awards including best movie)

1987 – Anantharam (Adoor Gopalakrishnan; National Award for best director, sound designing and screenplay; five state awards)

1994 – Vidheyan (Adoor Gopalakrishnan; National Award for best Malayalam movie; Mammootty won the National Award for best actor; state award for best movie)

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