Film historians with a taste for the quirky say that the first lingering liplock of Indian cinema was between Devika Rani and Himanshu Rai in the film Karma, released in1933.

But much before that, actors A.V.P. Menon and Padmini set the screen alight with a full-lipped long-drawn-out kiss in the forgotten Malayalam silent classic Marthanda Varma, based on the historical novel penned by C.V. Raman Pillai.

“I was stunned to see the kiss which will beat films of today,” said Mr P. Gopakumar, movie critic and office-bearer of the Film Lovers Cultural Association, which is conducting a DVD screening of the 90-minute film in the state capital this week.

Most film historians say that Marthanda Varma, the second Malayalam film, was made in 1931. However, others point out that it was released in early 1933. Even then, it beats Karma, by a whisker in the pecking order, so to say.

“In the scene, Ananthapadmanabhan, who is disguised as a madman, meets his lover Parukkutty, and kisses her, overwhelmed by passion,” said Mr Gopakumar. “I don't know how it escaped the censor’s eye.”

However, unlike Karma, which delighted even the British Royal family, Marthanda Varma, directed by P.V. Rao, was a doomed film.

The producer, R. Sundar Raj, did not obtain rights for adapting the novel and in the midst of the first much-hyped screening in the Capitol Theatre in Thiruvananthapuram, the film’s print was seized by the court. “So it also became the first film to face a copyright case,” said Mr Gopakumar.

The print lay undiscovered in the dusty cellar of the Kamalalaya Book Depot (which published the novel) here till the late 1970s when it was retrieved by the Film Archives.



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