Iruttinte Athmavu (Malayalam: ഇരുട്ടിന്റെ ആത്മാവ്, English: The creature of Darkness) is a 1967 Malayalam film directed by P. Bhaskaran and written by M. T. Vasudevan Nair based on his own story with the same name.Location of the film is Shoranur. It stars Prem Nazir, Sharada, Thikkurissy Sukumaran Nair, P. J. Antony, Ushakumari, Kozhikode Shantha Devi and Baby Rajani in important roles, and features music by M. S. Baburaj, cinematography by E. N. Balakrishnan and editing by G. Venkitaraman and Das.
The film is about a mentally retarded youth born into a matriarchal family who is forced to live as a mad man in chains and who is misunderstood and ill-treated by everyone except his uncle's daughter. Prem Nazir played the mentally challenged Bhranthan Velayudhan, widely accepted to be an extraordinary performance and one of the best in his career. Nazir himself rated his role of Velayudhan in Iruttinte Athmavu and as the swashbuckling folk hero Thampan in Padayottam as his best. Also, its script is regarded as one of the finest by M. T. Vasudevan Nair. A major landmark in Malayalam cinema, the film provided Malayalam cinema with a new direction; that of the low-budget film. The film has earned a dedicated cult following. It won the National Film Award for Best Film on Other Social Issues. It missed the Best Film and Best Actor (Prem Nazir) award only narrowly. Despite all the acclaim, the film was a box office failure.
Velayudan's existence posed a problem to all the members of the joint family. Velayudhan is a twenty-one-year-old man, but he has the intelligence of a child. The head of the joint family thinks Velayudan symbolizes the curse which hangs heavy over the house. To his mother, he is the source of constant sorrow. His uncle's daughter is his would-be bride. He is attached to her. She is very kind to him and refuses to treat him as a mad man. Velayudan triggers problems one after the other and every new lapse help only to put fresh chains. He refuses to feel he is mad. In the end, Ammukutty is given away in marriage to an old widower. Velayudhan surrenders himself and yells "Chain me, I am mad!"
The music was composed by MS Baburaj and lyrics was written by P. Bhaskaran. All songs in the film were sung by S. Janaki, which is a landmark.
The film is scripted by M. T. Vasudevan Nair based on his own a short story with the same name. The screenplay is regarded as one of the finest by the noted writer. One could see a lot of the pre-occupations of the scenarist, who carried the touches of human relationships through all of his subsequent films whether as screenplay writer or director. A part of the screenplay of Iruttinte Athmavu is being taught in school classes while the complete screenplay is being taught at degree level.
The film provided Malayalam cinema with a new direction; that of the low-budget film. In spite of its large number of studio shots and overall theatricality, the film was so culturally rich that many of the episodes would become archetypes for future Malayalam film makers dealing with family drama.