Remembering ‘Kanamarayuthu’, the film that made us believe in first love and happily-ever-afters

There is something divine and eternally endearing about Shirley and Royachan's love story in ‘Kanamarayathu’.
Remembering ‘Kanamarayuthu’, the film that made us believe in first love and happily-ever-afters
Remembering ‘Kanamarayuthu’, the film that made us believe in first love and happily-ever-afters
Written by:

By Meera PK

For those of us who devoured Mills &Boon novels as teenagers of the 1980s and ‘90s, the tall, dark and handsome hero who sweeps us off our feet has remained an enduring fantasy. While there have been many attempts to bring such fairy-tale romance onto the Indian screen, few have given us as intense and heartening experience as Kanamarayathu.

A loose adaptation of Jean Webster’s Daddy-Long-LegsKanamarayathu – scripted by Padmarajan and directed by IV Sasi – gave a completely new meaning to the word romance in Malayalam cinema. The 1984 film tells the story of love – compassionate, naïve and unspoken – between Roy (Mammootty), the brooding, tall, dark and handsome business tycoon, and the waiflike convent-bred Shirley (Shobana). 

Set in the heart of a scenic town in Central Kerala—against the backdrop of colossal historic churches, lush greenery and translucent ponds – Kanamarayathu depicts the two very different worlds of Royachan and Shirley. While one is the sole successor of a rich business empire, the other is an orphan.

Shirley is introduced to us in the middle of a song. She is out on a school tour, frolicking happily in a pretty dress in the midst of a tea plantation, singing, “Ilimulam kili”. Soon enough we find out that Shirley is a bright student and the nuns’ pet. The dark, grim orphanage gives a superbly life-like setting opposed to Roy’s spacious wood-panelled office room and his plush bungalow.

The scene where Shirley is introduced to Roy is typical M&B stuff—he fools her into believing he is the principal of her college. Shirley is rendered speechless by his high-handedness.  Later, when he recognises that she is the same orphan girl his father used to sponsor and the onus is now on him to follow the tradition, he feels a wave of tenderness for her. Their eyes lock soon after Shirley sings a beautiful melody. He apologises for his earlier behaviour and Shirley is instantly smitten.

There is a divinity in their romance. Shirley’s love for Royachan is unyielding and she opens her heart to him. Despite Royachan’s repeated denials, citing their age difference, she appears relentless: “So what? Just think Royachan is 25 years old or I am 25.” Stung by jealousy, she does not think twice before declaring herself pregnant with Roy’s child to his former lover and friend, Dr Elsie (Seema). 

Roy is the epitome of an M&B hero – stern, charismatic, pragmatic and kind. He struggles to hide his love for Shirley, overtly anxious over whether he is too old for her. To hide his own conflicting feelings, he tries hard to match her up with Baby, his friend’s brother. He gives Baby a job in his office, hikes his salary and even allots him a separate cabin. “Now you are ready for marriage. Any rich girl will be impressed,” he tells Baby. Of course, Baby is taken with Shirley, dreaming of a duet between them (“Orumadhurakinavin”).

Baby (Rahman) is the third angle in the love triangle. The minute his eyes rest on Shirley he thinks he is in love, and he throws caution to the winds and proposes to her straightway. He barges into her college on his bike to declare his love, but Shirley never takes him seriously. Not one to be cowed easily, there’s that memorable scene where she goes off on a tangent hearing his proposal, and he warns her, “Athikam kalichal njan premichangu vashathakkum, paranjekkam (Do not try to throw attitude. I will make you mad with my love).”

But what makes the film beautiful are those little romantic vignettes between Roy and Shirley. You have to love the scene where Shirley barges into Royachan’s office to complain about Baby on the pretext of seeing him. After soundly admonishing her, Royachan asks her curiously, “Why aren’t you scared of me?” Shirley smiles shyly and responds, “Why should I be?” 

Then there’s the time she makes him rush to her, only to offer him achappams. “Is this the emergency you told me about?” asks an exasperated Royachan. “Oh yes, it is crisp now, best way to eat it,” is her immediate response. A reluctant smile tugs at the corners of his mouth as he picks up an achappam and bites into it. And Shirley responds, “Enikkariyam Royichanenney ishtamanennu (I know you like me).”

But my personal favourite is the scene where he confronts Shirley about her ‘pregnancy’. After the initial anger subsides and he mockingly threatens to beat her, she quickly turns her back to him and says, “Ah, adicho, dhaa njan inganey ninnu tharaam (Sure, beat me. I will just stand!)”. Romance between the man-of-the world Royachan and the innocent Shirley never looks convoluted at any point.

The other memorable scene ought to be the one where Royachan gives Baby advice on wooing a woman. “Tut tut, I thought you are an old hand in this. Is this how you do it? You just lay the bait and wait for her to pick it up.” In the next scene, Baby vents his anger at Shirley for tom-tomming about his proposal to all and sundry. But all Shirley wants to know is Roy’s reaction. “Royachan enthu paranju? (What did Roy say?),” she asks.

There is unspoken love elsewhere in the film, as with the feelings Dr Elsie holds for Roy. “Royachan kallana, ellam arinjondu ariyatha bhaavam nadikkuva (You are a great pretender of ignorance!),” she tells him when questioning him about why Shirley fakes a pregnancy in his name.

There is an inherent honesty to all the characters in the film – Royachan’s friend and his plain-speaking wife, his spoilt sister, mother, office assistant, the nuns at the convent. They all merge seamlessly into the story. 

Even all these years later, Kanamarayathu still makes us believe in the first flush of love, the beauty of romance, in delightful reveries and happily-ever-after endings. 

This article was originally published on The News Minute has syndicated the content. You can read the original article here.

Related Stories

No stories found.
The News Minute