The Bane of Copyright Law – Dikkatra “Dikkatra Parvathi”? – Part I

While a few movie makers like ManiRathnam have chosen to use the base story line of a section of mythological stories like Ramayana and Mahabharata, which have been in the Public Domain since Centuries, others have chosen to adapt The screenplay of several hundreds ( possibly thousands) of movies have been adapted from contemporary forms of literature.

Uthiripookal is a classic example. It was adapted from PudumaiPithan’s Sirranai. Infact, several of Mahendran’s movies have been adaptations, including Metti, which was adapted from one of Mahendran’s own Short story. While the creator of traditional book based literature has infinite scope in terms of space and extensive characterisation and story telling, a film maker is bound in terms of a finite time duration and has certain limits, on certain elements that may not have been possible to express impressively on the big screen at the time, of a film’s making.

Uthiri-Pookal

JayaKanthan’s ‘Unnai Pol Oruvan‘ and ‘Yaarukaga Azhuthan‘ are adaptations of his own stories, directed by himself, while others like BheemSingh and Lenin have chosen to take his stories to the celluloid through ‘Sila Nerangalil Sila Manithargal’ / ‘Oru Nadigai Nadagam Parkiral‘ & ‘Oorukku Nooru Per‘.

Sadly, many of these movies are still not accessible to the public via afford Digital Media, although some of them sit in Cans of the NATIONAL FILM ARCHIVES OF INDIA, costing a bomb for private individuals/researchers who wish to view them, at the centre itself, which makes little sense when a low cost Original DVD of the same movie, can be sold for Rs.50.

( I have found this from the Archives themselves, and I am planning a trip to PUNE. The only problem at the moment for me is the funds 😦 , and some left over ground Research, as i gorge up on some more interesting readable material. While I will not be able to see all that i wish to see, My intention is to atleast come back having seen – JayaBharathi’s Kudisai, Singeetham Srinivasa Rao’s Dikkatra Parvathi and JayaKanthan’s Yaarukaga Azhuthan. Atleast, 2, if not 3.  #I have been informed that a digital copy of Dikkatra Parvathi is available to a certain previliged few, in Chennai, alas not me 😦)

So, looking back at a movie’s true source, will give us an indication of how much an adaption could have varied from the original. It also immensely helps us understand movies, which in case have been permanently lost, but the original literature is available. Let us consider the classic case of ‘Miss Malini’. A Movie produced by Gemini Studios and Directed by KothaMangalam Subbu, over seen by the legendary S.S.Vasan.

Paimpozhil Meeran in his book – ‘Secrets of Tamil cinema’ claims that a Nitrate based copy of the film which existed in the archives was destroyed in the Fire of 2002, which engulfed several copies of older films, including Miss Malini, leading to its permanent destruction. However, this is debatable. Not only does the archives claim that all the Nitrate films were backed up, The Founder Director of the Archives Mr.P.K. Nair said that by 1963, the year the NFAI was setup, Several movies, including the original Talkie, Alam Ara, were already lost. 

Let us take another scenario. Amrit Gangar is a researcher who has worked on the Archives and assessed the extent of damage to old Preserved Films, produces a list of movies which were damaged by the Fire. Miss.Malini is missing from the list. So, does that mean, Miss.Malini was never there in the original collection to begin with? Wait.. a moment..

The list mentioned by Amrit Gangar speaks about a Tamil movie ‘Sakubhai’ which was lost. However, the current Database available at the NFAI ( Accessible via the website) and which has details of movies upto the year 2004, and which was probably re-assesses after the 2002 Fire accident, shows that Sakubhai is available. So, which of these stories is true? While, the status of the other movies, especially the Nitrate based ones made before 1950 have indeed been destroyed by the fire, One thing almost seems to be sure. Even, the famous Historian Randor Guy has commented that ‘Miss.Malini’ is indeed lost forever.

So, going back to the source of this film, may indeed give us an idea about how, the movie may have shaped up, atleast in part, incase, the original screenplay of the movie is missing. In this case, there are several sources that claim that Miss.Malini was adapted from R.K.Narayan’s story, Mr.Sampath. ( We shall verify this claim specifically, and do some more analysis about Mr.Sampath in the next post, as I have observed some misgivings in this claim.)

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While the case of Miss.Malini does have other additional backup sources to analyse ( Next post), in most cases, what is only left is Printed Material, typically available in the form of Old Song books, and Magazine articles/Reviews, if they have indeed survived the day. The original source, typically is the only thing that indeed does help. So, in the case of Miss.Malini, the Source is said to be Mr.Sampath, the book written by R.K.Narayan. The book is still in print today, and i managed to get myself, the latest print edition of the book, although the font and typeset still represents a 1950s font and is hardly comfortable for the eye, unlike Modern books which have better fonts and spacing between lines ( Publishers, please note.)

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But, what about Dikkatra Parvathi? She seems to be in more distress, than ever, in an almost totally abandoned state now.. Continued in Part II