2013 marks centenary year of the Indian Film Industry. Kamal chooses this occasion to pay tribute to the father of Malayalam Cinema ,J.C Daniel in his new movie – Celluloid and succeeds in transforming the real-life poignant tale to a beautiful movie experience.
The movie starts off at 1928 when Joseph Chellayya Daniel Nadar( Prithviraj) meets Dada Saheb Phalke ( known as the father of Indian Cinema) at Mumbai to learn the techniques of filmmaking.On return to Kerala , he sells his properties and with the support of his wife and friends ,produces the first motion picture in the state named ‘Vigatha kumaran’ (The lost child) . Rosie (Newcomer-Chandni), a girl from backward caste is chosen to play the heroine.But when it finally releases in movie halls, the screening gets stalled for reasons you will watch later in the movie.
Years later in 1966 , we are seen that 1938’s Balan is known as the first Malayalam Cinema and no one knows about the existence of J.C Daniel or his first motion picture. Daniel is now ill, penniless , only cared and supported by his wife and even ignored by his children . He meets journalist Chelangatt Gopalakrishnan (Sreenivasan) and the latter starts his fight with Kerala government to get Daniel the recognition he deserved but it only happens several years after J.C Daniel’s demise ( in 1975) and today J.C Daniel is known as the father of Malayalam Cinema.
Kamal deserves applause for bringing the tragic story of J.C Daniel on big screen. Though been told before in books and also documentary , it should be now that it reaches the well deserved wider audience. His expertise is apparent in a number of scenes a notable one being the one that shows J.C Daniel’s final few moments before death . Celluloid definitely ranks among Kamal’s finest works. The costumes and sets fit perfectly the various eras presented in the movie. Pattanam Rasheed’s makeup work in transforming Prithviraj as the aged Daniel is excellent. The background score gels well with the mood and the proceedings and so does the song- ‘Katte Katte’.
Prithviraj hasn’t been fortunate like his previous generation to give life to characters written by some greatest writers. But he has grabbed the chances whenever he has got the opportunities like we had seen in last year’s ‘Ayalum Njanum Thammil’. Here he is presented with perhaps the role of a lifetime and the actor approaches it with utmost sincerity and care. Whether its young Daniel’s energy and passion with which he produces the first motion picture or the old Daniel’s pain and agony for all the losses in life or Daniel’s youngest son ‘s remorse for ignoring his father in his childhood , Prithviraj portrays all those emotions beautifully.
It would be interesting to see still how long Prithviraj’s haters and critics continue to argue they dont yet see a memorable character or performance from him. Sreenivasan is an apt choice to play Gopalakrishnan and Mamta shines as Daniel’s wife who has always stood by her husband.Chandni does not have the inhibitions of a new comer and does her part really well.
Celluloid is a fitting tribute to the Father of Malayalam Cinema. Watch it for Prithviraj’s stellar performance and Kamal’s masterful storytelling. More importantly watch it for J.C Daniel -a legend, a genius who never got the recognition he deserved when he lived . This is a movie all Malayalam movie lovers should embrace wholeheartedly.