‘Panchavadi Palam’ captured filmmaker K G George at his prescient best

The critically acclaimed filmmaker typically chose serious themes for his movies. But Panchavadi Palam marked a departure for George, and is hailed as the first political satire in Malayalam cinema.
‘Panchavadi Palam’
‘Panchavadi Palam’

KOCHI:  “Kedillathathu kedu varuthannathanu janadhipathyam” (Democracy is about corrupting the incorruptible).  The dialogue delivered by Sikhandi Pillai (Nedumudi Venu), a cunning local politician, to Airavathakuzhy panchayat president Dushasana Kurup (Bharat Gopi), while laying out his plan for demolishing Panchavadi palam, a bridge in good condition, encapsulates K G George’s timeless 1984 classic Panchavadi Palam.

The critically acclaimed filmmaker typically chose serious themes for his movies. But Panchavadi Palam marked a departure for George, and is hailed as the first political satire in Malayalam cinema. Presciently, it came to represent the malady of corruption that has beset politics and public life in the state. Phenomenal performances, sharp and pointed dialogues and crafty screenplay marked out Panchavadi Palam.

Based on Veloor Krishnankutty’s novel Palam Apakadathil Anu, the movie is set in imaginary Airavathakuzhy, where warring political groups join hands to rebuild a bridge with the support of corrupt officials and contractors. The fact that the flick, besides his other movie offerings, retains relevance, nearly four decades on, continues to be talked about, and remains in the public conscience, won George recognition as a director far ahead of his time.

K G George (1946-2023) (Cinema Express)
K G George (1946-2023) (Cinema Express)

The recent reconstruction of Palarivattom bridge, in Kochi, and the arrest of former Works Minister V K Ebrahimkunju in connection with irregularities in construction, garnered the movie renewed attention. During campaigning for the 2021 assembly election, LDF workers put up posters of the movie on the bridge, . In remarks made in connection with a case linked to the Palarivattom flyover, the Kerala High Court also made references to the movie. 

Anwar Abdulla, film researcher and assistant professor at Thunchath Ezhuthachan Malayalam University, said the story was based on the political situation that existed in the 1980s. “The movie humorously depicts the uncertainties and frailties of coalition politics. Airavathakuzhy panchayat is Kerala,” he added.

Punchy and witty dialogues
Director Sathyan Anthikad, who won acclaim with his political satires such as Sandesham and Oru Indian Pranayakadha, said Panchavadi Palam’s punchy and witty dialogues — which remind viewers of sharp and critical cartoon captions — owe it to Yesudasan.”

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