33 years of Mohanlal-starrer | Sathyan Anthikad never expected such long-lasting reception for 'Varavelpu'

Poster of Varavelppu' and Sathyan Anthikad'
A combo image of Sathyan Anthikad and 'Varavelpu' poster: File photo: Manoramaonline

'Varavelpu', which hit theatres in 1989, is one among director Sathyan Anthikad's most loved movies. The story revolves around Murali, played by Mohanlal, who migrates to the Gulf in search of livelihood. The ordeals he faces when he returns and the backlash from trade unions as he tries to operate a bus form the crust of the story. Thirty-three years later, the movie is still fresh in the minds of viewers. We, at Onmanorama, sit with the director and speak to him about the making of the film and its longevity.

Excerpts from the interview:


It's been 33 years since the movie hit the screens. The theme has given the movie sort of an evergreen status. How do you see it?

When I made 'Varavelpu', I aimed at creating a socially relevant movie that would run successfully and make an impact at the time of its release. One year is the time frame I give to all my stories. However, today, I am glad that such movies have stood the test of time.

You have said in several interviews that the story was inspired from Sreenivasan's father's life. What made you want to explore the life of a Gulf-Malayali?

Yes, I decided to do the movie when Sreenivasan, during one of our long chats, told me about his father, a staunch Communist, who was labelled a capitalist after he bought a bus. This put an enormous financial strain on the family. The lead character, Murali, was based on my friend, who was a Gulf returnee. During the late '80s, several Gulf-Malayalis were forced to return home after their visas expired.

What do you think would have worked for 'Varavelpu'?

'Varavelpu' made an impact because it revolved around a family. The moment when Murali brings food for Revathy and her family, after realising their dire situation, was brilliantly conceived by Sreenivasan and pulled at your heartstrings. The dialogue by Thilakan, who plays Ramakrishnan, was also brilliantly written.

Do you think the situation in Kerala is still the same as shown in the film?

There have been some positive changes. At least people have realised that Kerala is not a very friendly state for investment and are talking about it. Also, I think there are some political leaders now who have the determination to make a change. Despite all these, the situation faced by Murali is more or less the same in Kerala.

Do you think Mohanlal as an actor was more relatable than the star he has become now?

Mohanlal, in the 1980s and 90s, had a boy-next-door image. He did several characters that people could easily relate to. The actor in him is still the same, but now his characters are mainly based on his stardom and less relatable. This is not his fault as an actor.

You had done sequels to 'Naadodikaatu'. Do you plan to come out with sequels to other classic movies you have made?

Though not a sequel, I wish to do a cinema very familiar to 'Sandesham', a political satire. Politics today has changed since it is being intermixed with religion. I want to explore this. However, it will only be possible with Sreenivasan if his health permits.

What about another sequel to 'Nadodikkattu'?

I had initially decided to do 'Nadodikkattu 4'. However, I dropped the idea as I felt that I should retain the image of Dasan and Vijayan, which is firmly imprinted in people's mind. A sequel, if made today, would demand some changes to Dasan and Vijayan, and I didn't want to do that.

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