Monday, August 15, 2011


Aranmula Ponnamma was a Malayalam  stage artiste and film actress who handled dignified mother roles in films
from the early stage of Malayalam Cinema.Her debut film 'Sasidharan' was  just the 18th of the total Malayalam films released up to that year in 1950.
Aranmula Ponnamma belonged to 'Aranmula' in Pathanamthitta District in Kerala State which is famous for the world famous 'Aranmula Snake Boat Race' during Onam period in river Pampa near to famous 'Partha Sarathy temple.' She was the daughter of Melethu Kesava Pillai and Parukutty Amma.She was born on March 22 in 1914.Her father died when she was only nine years old.Ponnamma and her younger sister 'Thankam' was trained in Carnatic Music since they had a flair for it.Ponnamma used to sing on stages from an early age of 12.Later she got job as music teacher in a primary school.When Swathi Thirunal Music Academy was started  in Trivandrum Ponnamma joined there as a student in the first batch itself.By completing the course there she was appointed as  Music Teacher in  Government
Cotton Hill High School,Vazhuthacaud in Thiruvananthapuram.
Her younger sister was married to 'Vaikom Vasudevan Nair' a well known dramatist who handled protagonist roles.He persuaded his wife 'Thankam' who was Ponnamma's sister to act in his dramas and so she started to act as his pair.Vaikom Vasudevan Nair and his wife 'Thankam Vasudevan Nair' were the most famous artistes on stage during those days.It was the time when female part was also acted by men in professional dramas since girls belonging to respected families did no act in dramas.Oachira Velukkutty was a superstar of those period who handled only female roles.Another problem at that time was only who could sing beautifully were able to act in dramas.Play back singing was not common.Aranmula Ponnamma's sister Thankam Vasudevan Nair lovingly persuaded her sister also to act in dramas.So at  the age of 29 Aranmula Ponnamma also acted in a drama 'Bhagyalakshmi'.
There was good response only from the part of audience and this gave her courage to act in some other professional dramas like 'Prasanna,Chechi,Jeevithayathra etc'.It was the time when many well known drama artistes trying their luck in cinema also.Even Vaikom Vasudevan Nair and Thankam Vasudevan Nair Produced a film 'Yachaki' and acted  in main roles. (It was the film version of a successful drama of their own troupe) but the film was a failure in box office.
In the year 1950 Aranmula Ponnamma at the age of 36 acted in her debut film 'Sasidharan' as the mother of character handled by  heroine artist Miss.Kumari. It was the film version of a famous  drama written by N.P.Chellappan Nair and was very successful when staged. Aranmula Ponnamma's mother role was as a greedy character in that film which was a contradiction.It is a fact that she appeared always as dignified,majestic,loving,caring and  a kind mother only except in one or two negative type roles in films like 'Padunna Puzha'.
She had acted as mother for first generation actors like Thikkurissi Sukumaran Nair,Kottarakkara Sreedharan Nair etc and for second generation actors like Prem Nazir and Sathyan and third generation actors like Mohan Lal and Suresh Gopi.
Since she took only mother roles of  protagonist characters only she was always respected by co stars and all the other members in the film units.

Aranmula Ponnamma lastly appeared for the film 'Janadhipathyam' in 1997
Even though she did not get award for her performance in the film 'Achuvettante Veedu' she was fantastic in that film and needs special mention.
She got National award for best supporting actress for Adoor Gopalakrishnan film 'Kadhapurushan(1995)
She was given life time achievement award by Asianet in 1998,
She got J.C.Daniel award for life time achievement in 2006.
She got Muthukulam Raghavan Pillai award in 2010.
Suresh Gopi, one of the Superstars of Malayalam cinema is her grand daughter's husband.
Aranmula Ponnamma died on 21st February 2011.
Selected filmography
Kandam Becha coat
Velu Thampi Dalawa
Kavalam Chundan
Viruthan Sanku
Hridayam Oru Kshetram
Achuvettante Veedu
Azhiyatha Bandhangal
Oru sayahnathinte swapnam
Sindoora rekha
Puthukkottayile puthu manavalan
Scene from Film 'Sakuntala'-K.R.Vijaya,Aranmula Ponnama etc.

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