“NELLU” – A COLOURFUL POETIC DEPICTION
Late P. Valsala, the prominent Malayalam Novelist and Story writer, wrote a novel called “NELLU,” inspired by her experience in Wayanad. Published in 1972 by Sahitya Pravarthaka Cooperative Society, it became a best-seller and won the Kumkumam Award for Best Novel in 1973. Filmmaker Ramu Kariat approached Valsala for permission to adapt the novel. After she agreed, Kariat asked K. G. George, S. L. Puram Sadanandan, and Valsala to write separate scripts based on the novel. “NELLU,” a colorful classic Malayalam movie which denotes “Paddy” in English, received critical acclaim for its script and filmmaking. It was a commercial success, running for over 100 days in theaters. Cinematographer Balu Mahendra received the Kerala State Film Award for Best Photography (Colour), and Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Appu were honored with the Kerala State Film Award for Best Editing. The film also won the 1974 Filmfare Award for Best Film in Malayalam.
Actress Sharada was initially chosen for the role of Mara but declined when asked to dress like the tribal women of Wayanad. Jayabharathi, another leading actress, was then selected for the role. “NELLU” marked the debut of actor Mohan Sharma, who later appeared in about 100 Malayalam films. Ramu Kariat was impressed by Balu Mahendra’s diploma film at the FTII and hired him as the cinematographer. The film was shot in various villages near Thirunelli in Wayanad and produced by N. P. Ali under the banner of Jammu Films International.
“NELLU,” directed by Ramu Kariat, adapting P. Valsala’s award-winning novel. The film features an ensemble cast including Prem Nazir, Jayabharathi, Thikkurissy Sukumaran Nair, Sankaradi, and Kottarakkara Sreedharan Nair. Set in the Wayanad hills, the story unfolds within the Adiyar community, a tribe residing in the forest. In 1972, Ramu Kariat sought permission to adapt Valsala’s novel, engaging K. G. George, S. L. Sadanandan, and Valsala to craft individual screenplays. The film incorporated elements from all three scripts, with principal photography starting in 1972 in villages near Thirunelli. Salil Chowdhury composed the music, Balu Mahendra handled cinematography, and editing was a collaboration between Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Appu – WILLIAMSJI MAVELI