K G George's 'Panchavadipalam': A political satire much ahead of the times

The 1984 flick travelled well ahead of its time. Photo: Manorama

Kochi: Influential filmmaker K G George was never afraid of adopting offbeat themes and treatment right from the start of his illustrious career. His Panchavadipalam, a black satire on politics, was also new to the Malayali audience at that time.

While most of his films can be considered timeless classics, the 1984 flick travelled well ahead of its time and features right there at the top of the list. The movie, set in a small village panchayat, sarcastically narrates how Iravathakuzhy panchayat president Dussassana Kurup, who is neck-deep in corruption, brings around other greedy politicians in first demolishing a bridge in good condition and then reconstructing it, only to see it collapsing on the inauguration itself.

All the allegations and counter-allegations, the controversies, and the fiery speeches they make are only for public consumption while the ultimate motive is the pocketing of public resources. In fact, the story deals with social issues that have much relevance today and resonates well with the political undercurrents of late.

The dialogues for the film, an adaptation of Veloor Krishnankutty’s novel ‘Palam Apakadithil’ were written by cartoonist Yesudasan. The aim was to use political satire to bring up tough questions about society and present them to the audience through a new theme.

Upon one enquiring how he managed to do the comedy scenes in the film, the master craftsman, who directed his last film a quarter of a century back, used to reply he did not know how he could come up with them. The stereotypical characters with fancy mythical names like Dussassana Kurup (played by actor Gopi) Shikhandi Pilla (Nedumudi Venu), and Mandodari (Srividya) etc in the film, that connected well with the audience, became eternal in the political satire dictionary, like the film itself.

Malayalam movies rarely attempted such bold experiments before or after Panchavadipalam. Not even the backstage crew had thought of the film turning into a timeless classic.

The new generation again comes to taste Panchavadipalam with the emergence of the controversy over the Palarivattom bridge. The High Court sarcastically made the verbal observation that the bridge was a Panchavadipalam.

As the movie again became a hot topic of discussion after 36 long years, producer Gandhimati Balan called up George and told him about the same. “Bala, it’s now that our film has become a super hit in the true sense,”, George replied.

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