Thursday, May 27, 2010

Twin loss to Malayalam Film Journalism

Mannarkayam Baby

Mannarkayam Baby, well-known film critic and Founder General secretary of Kerala Film Critics Association, has died on 3 rd May 2010. He had single handedly built up the Kerala Film Critics Association, whose annual awards are considered a prestigious honour by film personalities in Malayalam. As a film journalist during the seventies onwards he had written for various film journals like Cinerama etc. In those days of Trunk booking of long distance telephone calls it often took many hours to get connected. At that time Baby was working in the Telephone exchange and he became the most sought after person by the film personalities to get their calls processed faster! Thus he became a very popular person among the film community.

He formed the Kerala Film Critics Association and aslo started the Film Critics Award which also became popular as it preceded the Kerala State Awards and influenced its selection as well. He always managed get good sponsorship to conduct the Award Nites in a grand manner including giving cash awards too. I was to have received the Film Critics Award for best Cinematography for my film KADAKSHAM this time, but his sudden demise had cast shadows on the future of the Awards itself. I happened to speak to him during his illness while he was resting at home and I never expected his parting to happen so soon.

Whenever I think of T.H.Kodampuzha who passed away recently on 25 th May 2010, the image that comes to my mind is that of his ever smiling face and infectious laughter and jovial nature. Hailing from Malabar area he had this habit of pronouncing the Malayalam letter "ZHA" as "YA". I met him way back in the Seventies, when Malayalam Film journals were very few and Film journalists were still rarer. We used to make fun of him by asking him to tell his name and he will humorously say "KOADAMPUYA"! He always took it light heartedly without taking any offence.

T.H.Kodampuzha in his usual mood

Dressed always in white shirt and Dhoti with a broad smile on his face, his presence on the sets was welcomed by the artistes as well as technicians. He used to mingle right from Prem Nazir at the top to the light boys at the bottom, with equal friendliness. Having come from Malabar area he was much closer to film makers like I.V.Sasi , M.T. Vasudevan Nair etc. I had been associated with M.T. as Cinematographer for the film "NIRMALYAM". M.T. considered me as a family member and called me "Thampy" ( meaning younger brother in Tamil). Likewise Kodampuzha too had started calling me "Thampy"!

When our unit returned from the United States of America after the film shooting of "EZHAM KADALIN AKKARE", perhaps the first malayalam feature film to be shot in foreign locations, Kodampuzha was there at the Madras Airport to receive us with garlands! Below is a photograph taken on that occassion.

Seema, T.H.Kodampuzha and myself at Madras Airport

With more film magazines coming out and many more film journalists competing to gather news by whatever means , he gradually shifted base from Chennai to Kozhikode. He used to visit sets occassionally if the shooting happens in northern Kerala. Sometime back on one of his rare visits he introduced me to his daughter who wanted to follow his footsteps as a film journalist. I do hope that she will take up from where her father had left.

Till his last days he looked healthy and young looking without much change in physical appearences. With his departure I really miss a selfless and jovial friend and his affectionate call - "Thampy".

I pray for the Two Stalwarts of Malayalam Film Journalism's souls to Rest in Peace and my condolences to their grieving family members.

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