Celluloid tells the tale of J. C. Daniel (Prithviraj) and his love for cinema. He goes to great lengths to get the equipment required to make a movie, writing numerous letters, visiting places and meeting Dada Saheb Phalke-the man who brought cinema to India. Getting a female artiste to act in his movie was a tough task. It is decided that Rosamma, rechristened later as P K Rosy (Chandni), will essay the lead role in J. C. Daniel's revolutionary 'motion picture' venture, Vigathakumaran, the story of which J. C. Daniel himself conceived. He sells everything to make his dream a reality, further borrowing money to meet the expenses. When finally Vigathakumaran is screened at Capitol Theatre, a 'cinemapura', the upper caste members of the audience creates a ruckus over a lower caste girl acting as a Nair lady. Rosie, hunted by the Madambis leaves town never to be seen again. Years later, the shrivelled, poverty ridden Daniel, with only his wife Janet (Mamta Mohandas) by his side, is leading a life far removed from what he had envisaged. Chelangatt Gopalakrishnan's (Sreenivasan) interest in Daniel's life, his efforts to give him his due and the flashbacks to the incidents in Daniel's life after Vigathakumaran form the rest of the movie.Prithviraj as J.C. Daniel/Harris Daniel
Sreenivasan as Chelangatt Gopalakrishnan
Mamta Mohandas as Janet
Chandni Geetha as Rosie
Sreejith Ravi as Sundararaj
T. G. Ravi as Sundararaj (Older)
Nedumudi Venu as Subramaniam
Sruthi Dilip as Lana
Siddique as Ramakrishna Iyer (I. A. S)
Ramesh Pisharody as Pillai
Nandu Madhav as Dadasaheb Phalke
Thalaivasal Vijay as Mudaliar
Chembil Asokan as Paulose
Prithviraj was selected to play the lead role in this film. It was then reported that Samvrutha Sunil will be playing the role of Janet, the wife of J.C. Daniel, which was supposed to be her last film before her marriage. But later Mamta Mohandas replaced her. Chandni, a singer who shot to fame through the reality show Josco Indian Voice, was selected to play the role of P. K. Rosie, Malayalam cinema's first heroine.The character of Dada Phalke was given to actor Nandu Madhav who had done the same role for the 2009 Marathi film Harishchandrachi Factory (which itself dealt with the struggles in making the first Indian feature film Raja Harishchandra by Dada Phalke) Sreenivasan enacts the role of Chelangatt Gopalakrishnan who worked and lobbied tirelessly to give Daniel his due in Kerala. The online posters for the film was done by a 16 old boy Aswin Ks which was selected for promotion and wiki updates.'Celluloid' is the first film to have the youngest publicity designer.
The film was shot at Thiruvananthapuram and Mysore. The film was dubbed to Tamil as J. C. Daniel and released in August 2013.
M. Jayachandran's soundtrack has been well appreciated by the critics and audiences alike. "Enundodee", a song which is a throwback to the yesteryears, rendered by Sithara became a hit on TV and internet. The song "Katte Katte" sung by Vaikom Vijayalakshmi and G. Sreeram has also been termed a hit. Engandiyoor Chandrasekharan and Rafeeq Ahammed penned lyrics for the songs.
The film was an official selection for the following film festivals:Indian Film Festival Japan – International Competition section.
Indian Film Festival of Houston – International Competition section.
Bollywood Film Festival Norway – International Competition section.
ImagineIndia International Film Festival Madrid
New Generation Film Festival
Pune International Film Festival India
Jaipur International Film Festival India
International Sport Film Festival Italy
Queens World Film Festival, USA
ReelWorld Film Festival, Toronto, Canada
International Film Festival for Comedy Romance and Musical Film Festival, Indonesia 2013
6th Nashik International Film Festival 2014
Columbia George International Film Festival, USA 2014
The film has received the following accolades:
International Film AwardsInternational Film Festival for Comedy Romance and Musical Film Festival, Indonesia – Award of Excellence
National Film Awards2012 National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Malayalam
Kerala State Film Awards2012 Kerala State Film Award for Best Film
2012 Kerala State Film Award for Best Actor – Prithviraj
2012 Kerala State Film Award for Best Music Director – M. Jayachandran
2012 Kerala State Film Award for Best Singer – Sithara Krishnakumar (Song : Enundodee Ambilichantham)
2012 Kerala State Film Award for Best Costume Designer – S. B. Satheesh
2012 Kerala State Film Award for Best Art Director – Suresh Kollam
2012 2012 Kerala State Film Awards Special Jury Mention – G. Sreeram, Vaikom Vijayalakshmi – 'Katte Katte Nee' Song
Aswin Kumar of The Times of India gave 3.5 stars out of 5 and said "Celluloid, a moving tribute to Malayalam cinema from director Kamal is touching, poetic and immensely powerful. On a sprawling canvas, Kamal diligently recreates an age and fills it with characters who go on to become iconic figures in the history of Malayalam cinema. Prithviraj can hold this role close to his heart, so can Mamta. The dialect of Prithviraj may seem a bit jarring at times. But he masks it with an over-powering rendition of a character that transforms from youth to an ageing, frail, defeated soul."
Paresh C Palicha of Rediff.com said "In Celluloid Kamal shows what 'passion for cinema' really meant before it became a stylish thing to say. Prithviraj is good and consistent as Daniel. Chandni gives a lifelike performance as Rosy with stars in her eyes."
The film allegedly contains derogatory remarks on renowned writer and civil servant Malayatoor Ramakrishnan and former Kerala Chief Minister K. Karunakaran which sparked off a controversy in Kerala. Karunakaran is not openly mentioned but Malayattoor is being portrayed as a casteist who never wanted a Nadar to be given the title as the father of Malayalam cinema. This was followed by a controversial interview by Kamal in which he stated that Karunakaran and Malayatoor Ramakrishnan had roles in denying justice to J. C. Daniel by not recognising him as the father of Malayalam cinema. Kamal had pointed out in the interview that actor Siddique's character in the film essayed Malayatoor Ramakrishnan and he deliberately avoided mentioning the names of Karunakaran and Malayatoor to avoid controversies.
The row over the film continued to be in the headlines for over a week with various writers, politicians and cultural icons commenting on the issue. "My father was the one who did all he could for the benefit of Malayalam movies, and even thought of a film studio in the state capital and instituting pensions for the film fraternity. A thousand Kamals cannot tarnish his image", K. Muraleedharan, Karunakaran's son, said on the portrayal of his father as a villain. But he after seeing the movie told that there was nothing about Karunakaran in the film and this ended the controversy.