Old is Gold : Onnu Muthal Poojyam Vare (trans. From One to Zero) (1986)

The category “Old is Gold” was one of the first ever categories that I launched on my blog, to remember the works from decades ago that somehow fits in today’s world after it has aged like fine wine. I haven’t been able to do A LOT in this category but it’s better late than never.

I’ve watched this movie a gazillion times on TV, it still comes on TV actually as it’s very popular with the audience. This review was a direct request from my father because for me it’s a really old movie that I like, but for them it’s a special movie that was very popular when they were in their late teens/early 20s. I asked my parents why it was special and they did recount their memories on it which I will include in this post, so please do keep reading!

And as always I’m starting off my post with my favorite track(s) from the movie – Raree Rareeram Raaro by K S Chithra and G Venugopal. The lyrics are penned by O N V Kurrup and composed by Mohan Sithara. You can really get the vibe of the movie from this song for sure, since there are no trailers for this movie considering the time of its release.

Theatrical release poster

Title : Onnu Muthal Poojyam Vare (Romanized, trans. From One to Zero) , ഒന്നു മുതൽ പൂജ്യം വരെ (Malayalam)

Country of origin : India

Language : Malayalam

Directed and Written by : Reghunath Paleri

Produced by : Navodaya Appachan

Starring : Mohanlal, Asha Jayaram, Geethu Mohandas

Music : Mohan Sithara

Cinematography : Shaji N Karun

Edited by : T R Shekhar

Release and Distribution : Navodaya studios

Release date : 20 October 1986

Duration : 105 minutes

Genre : Drama, Family

From left to right Asha Jayaram as Aleena and Geethu Mohandas as Deepamol

The story starts with a young widow Aleena who lost her young and energetic husband Josekutty (played by Prathap Pothen). She lives in a large house with her husband’s old piano , her daughter Deepamol and his memories. Naturally, considering how young she is, many people advise her to re-marry but she finds it difficult to move on from her husband’s memories. Aleena is an artist and works in advertising.

That really fancy telephone

Aleena’s daughter Deepamol is a young and energetic child who makes random calls on their telephone. One day she connects to a man, who as the movie progresses she refers to as “Telephone Uncle”. Deepamol exchanges many happy conversations with Telephone Uncle. Aleena is worried about the stranger’s intentions and tries to stop it but over time she too grows an attachment to the man.

As she falls for him more, the man tries not to reveal any details about him, but finally on Deepamol’s birthday he agrees to visit their home, and Aleena is elated at a new ray of happiness shining on her life.

The movie then tells us who Telephone Uncle is and the subsequent events that follow to their meet up.

Mohanlal as Telephone Uncle

When you give the plot a quick read it sounds quite simple, and maybe normal in our minds right? That’s because of the perspective that we have from the present time. When we discuss this movie we should think from the perspective of the year 1986, as much as we can. The telephone is the only mode of communication, everything is analog, and a widow chancing upon connecting to a man whose details and location are unknown – unimaginable! And that in itself sets this plot apart from the time of its release.

There are so many other things that we may not notice directly that emphasise the mood and setting of the film more firmly in our minds. The setting with the huge and spacious house and lawn, a big piano, painting easel and materials and a rather fancy looking telephone. The setting is a stark comparison with the rather moody and quiet Aleena who is dwelling on the memories of her late husband, while trying to bring up her daughter with all the happiness and love that she would have felt with both parents around. There is a scene in the movie where Aleena takes Deepamol to a parents event of sorts and Deepamol is sad she doesn’t have a father figure to pose with in a picture. Although Aleena tries her best to make up for it, both Deepamol and Aleena feel the absence of Josekutty which is why the role and influence of telephone uncle becomes so paramount.

The portrayal of the characters were also very satisfactory, Asha Jayaram played the quiet, lost and deep in thoughts Aleena as she tries to come to terms with her feelings as well as the constant pressure from society to get married again. Deepamol played by a young Geethu Mohandas (she later grew up and has a fascinating career in films afterwards too) who cutely refers to herself in the first person was the ice breaker who balanced the delicate mood that the film maintained throughout its run too. Mohanlal may have been a voice for the majority of the movie, but his voice and the conversations with Deepamol cemented his role in the movie too.

Deepamol’s birthday, the event that leads to the movies finale.

Now I did mention there was another factor that the people of those time loved that increased this popularity right? As per my parents recollection the initial posters of the film were all with just Aleena and her daughter and no show of any man involved (like the one I’ve attached in this review at the beginning). Now Mohanlal is a very popular actor today, in fact one of the best from the industry, and in the year 1986 it was a time when he was popular and his career was on the rise. To the audience Mohanlal’s voice was immediately identified but his appearance at the end of the film when there was no mention of him at all in the initial adverts of the movie was a new and different experience for the audience of that time. Even for me, I knew without a doubt the man was Mohanlal but the moment he makes his appearance at Aleena’s and Deepamol’s home is a vital part to the climax of the movie.

Also, almost all the conversations are between Telephone Uncle and Deepamol with either Aleena never given a chance by Telephone Uncle to get close to, or the conversations were cut short. It is not sure to me whether it is her yearning, or societal pressure, the bond he had with her daughter or a mix of all this and other factors that led her to like him so much but the makers of the movie combined another unique element into this movie to depict the bond between Aleena and Telephone Uncle despite their lack of ACTUAL conversation. And how was that – those who watched the movie knows that as the relationship with Telephone Uncle grows, Aleena starts painting a portrait of him based on that and much to his shock is an exact portrait of his too. It sounds impossible, but that one scene helped cement Aleena’s feelings into our minds too.

The portrait in question

At this point it seems like I’ve given out the entire movie, and to be honest, I have. But the intent of my revisits to these old gems are not for a traditional review but to remind once again and to never forget why we loved and continue to love these movies.

The entire team did a wonderful job at the movie and it’s evident with the awards and accolades that followed this movie too.

What are your feelings or memories with this movie? Or have you never watched it? I highly recommend you stop reading this, and go watch it then!

Thank you for reading my revisit of Onnu Muthal Poojyam Vare!

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