P Ramdas, who heralded a change in the Malayalam film industry way back in 1950’s by producing an experimental film, ‘Newspaper Boy’, passed away in Kottayam on Thursday morning. He was the director and producer of the first neo-realistic film in Malayalam film industry.
Ramdas made the film, when he was a student, inspired by the trends in world cinema, especially Italian neorealism. Though the film was a flop in the box-office, it set a new trend in the industry almost six decades ago by shifting the focus to social realties in Kerala.
“The film released in May, 1955, even before the release of Satyajit Ray’s ‘Pather Panchali’, is still remembered for being the world’s first commercial film made by students,” said K C Francis, who penned lyrics for the movie. It was a group of students, led by Ramdas, that took the initiative to make the movie spending `1,75,000 collected from friends and well-wishers in 1951. It took almost four years to complete the work,” he said. Though an ardent lover of movies, Ramdas, who hailed from Ayyanthole in Thrissur, was totally ignorant about the technicalities of film-making during that time. However, the team went ahead with the project mainly taking inspiration from books on cinema, taken from the British Library in Thiruvananthapuram. After the release of ‘News Paper Boy,’ Ramdas produced two more movies ‘Nirapara’ in 1976 and ‘Vadakaveettile Adithi’ in 1981. Though ‘Vadakaveetile Adithi’ fared better in box office, by that time, his desire to make an imprint in the Malyalam film industry had left a big burning hole on his pocket. The failure forced him to keep a distance from the film world for a longtime. However, he made his presence felt in the field once at intervals with short films. A law graduate, Ramdas, in the meantime, focused his research on psoriasis and received a master’s degree in alternative medicine.
The state government honoured his contributions to the Malayalam film industry by presenting him with JC Daniel Award, the highest film award in Kerala, in 2007. The film ‘News Paper Boy’ was screened in New Delhi on the special request of the Government of India for various central government institutions. In his condolence message, Kerala Sahitya Akademi secretary R Gopalakrishnan said Ramdas was one of the stalwarts of the Malayalam film industry. The body will be kept at the Akademi hall on Friday for the public to pay homage. The cremation will be held at Paramekkavu crematorium at 4 pm on Friday.