J C Daniel is considered as the father of Malayalam cinema. Daniel was the first filmmaker of Kerala who produced, directed, wrote, photographed, edited and acted in the silent film 'Vigathakumaran' (The Lost Child).
In 1926, he established the first film studio in Kerala and made the film, which was exhibited in Capitol Theatre in Thiruvananthapuram on November 7, 1928. P K Rosie, a Dalit convert, was his heroine, who portrayed the character of an upper caste Nair girl.
'Vigathakumaran' ran into trouble after a few shows some people were aghast that a Dalit girl had been picked to do the role.
He also established the first film studio in Kerala, named The Travancore National Pictures. It was near the present Public Service Commission office, Pattom, Trivandrum. The Government of Kerala instituted the J. C. Daniel Award as a part of the Kerala State Film Awards, to honour lifetime achievements in Malayalam cinema.
In 1926, Daniel established the first film studio in Kerala named The Travancore National Pictures. He published an English book titled Indian Art of Fencing and Sword Play in 1915, when he was 22. The theme of the film was of social significance and was one of the early films of that genre. Most of the Indian films at that time were based on stories from the puranas and films with social themes were scarse.
Vigathakumaran was exhibited in Trivandrum at the Capitol Theatre on 7 November 1928.Vigathakumaran was screened at Travancore,Alleppey, Quilon, Trichur, Tellichery and Nagercoil.
Daniel suffered from debts and to overcome the situation, he had to sell his equipments and close down his studio.That was the end of his film career.
Daniel spent the rest of his life as a dentist at Palayamkottai. He was into poverty towards the last days of his life spent at Agastheeswaram. Though he applied for pension under the scheme for ailing artists, the Government rejected it since he was born in Tamil Nadu state.
In his book and articles noted Film Journalist Chelangatt Gopalakrishnan firstly established that Vigathakumaran was the first Malayalam Cinema and J. C. Daniel was its architect as Director, Producer, Cinematographer and Hero. He described the story of Vigathakumaran in articles published since 1960, but Kerala Government has rejected his crusade because of Daniel was not a Malayalee.
The Government version was that if Daniel want Pension or financial assistance, he has to apply it for Tamil Nadu Government, because he is living Agastheeswaram in Kanyakumari district. The crusade of Chelangattu Gopalakrishnan against this negative attitude has finally met victory. The same Kerala government has approved Daniel as a Keralite and even placed him as the 'Father of Malayalam Cinema'.
In April 1975, J. C. Daniel died. Thus, the Malayalam film maestro died withouth the recognition and honour. Let's us pay the tribute to this Indian hero.