The first five minutes of Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s debut Swayamvaram track a bus journey. The camera pans across the faces of many of the travelers on the bus and settles on a young couple. As the journey ends and the camera switches to the hotel room, a young man sitting by the window asks the woman:
“Do you regret it?”
“Have we thought enough?”
“I can’t believe it. Everything seems like a dream.”
Released in 1972, Swayamvaram (One’s Own Choice) turns 50 this year. Adoor was 31 at the time. The film won him four national awards that year and introduced a new language to Malayalam cinema. A black-and-white film about a young couple who decide to live together against his parents’ wishes and leave their village for the city, it starred Madhu and Sharadha, popular actors of Malayalam cinema. Since then it marked the arrival of a writer who has become arguably the most important Indian filmmaker since Satyajit Ray – Ray himself was a great admirer of Adore’s films. After making a film and several documentaries, 81-year-old Adoor continues to live out his cinematic dream.
His last film Pinneyum was released in 2016. Pregnancy, he says, is the most time-consuming part of the creative process. It took him seven years to make his debut, his Swayamvaram, after he graduated from the Indian Film Institute in Pune. Funding was an issue. He shot documentaries during that period and became a good film evangelist and in Thiruvananthapuram in 1965 founded the first film society of Kerala, Chitralekha, a cooperative for the production of quality films. was established on the initiative. New film culture in Kerala.
The film social movements of the late 1960s and 1970s shared a lineage of public activism that transformed Kerala into a modern society with liberal values. He prioritized aesthetics over commerce, and modernity over conservative values. Naturally, it attracted an educated and politically conscious youth. The model for Adore’s film activity was the library movement led by PN Panicker, which built public libraries in villages and towns in Kerala.
A turning point in Adore’s film career was the All India Writers’ Conference in Aruba in 1965, organized by Fertilizers and Chemicals Travancore Limited (FACT). , Sameeksha, was a leading figure of modernism in Malayalam literature. Govindan he asked Adoor if a film festival could be held during the conference. “I took the offer seriously,” he says Adoor. A package of 21 films (with the exception of the films of Ray and Ritwik Ghatak, all other films were by non-Indian masters) was put together. His nine districts in Kerala and southern Tamil Nadu were screened at Nagercoil and each town held his weeklong screenings. “It shook people. We got a very serious audience. It was awareness,” says Adore. In the next five years he established over 100 film associations in Kerala. Adah traveled through Kerala and inspired people to start these societies.
Ironically, Adore entered the world of cinema by accident. Theater was his passion. He began writing plays and acting while still in school. He recalls playing the role of Siddhartha Gautama in a school play written by his teacher Gopala Pillai. He recalls a dialogue from that play: Lokame, nee ente koode odenda. and his family home near Adore in central Travancore has hosted acclaimed artists, even the Kathakali troupe. In addition to his village storytelling, recitals of the Ramayana, Mahabharata and Bhagavata exposed him to the art of storytelling.
By the late 1950s, Adah had established the Gandhigram Rural Institute, a boarding college in Tamil Nadu led by Gandhian G Ramachandran, who sought to combine the spirit of Mahatma Gandhi’s Sevagram with Rabindranath Tagore’s Shantiniketan. had completed courses in economics and political science at One of his teachers of Adoor at Gandhigram was G Sankara Pillai, the pioneer of modern Malayalam theater. Pillai stocked the institute’s library with major dramatic works. It was here that Adore saw Ray’s Pasar Panchali (1955).
After leaving Gandhigram, Adol got a job with the National Sample Survey (NSS) in Thiruvananthapuram. He was well paid, but he was terribly bored. He saw an advertisement inviting his students to the new Pune Film Institute. He joined there in his 1962. In his second year at the institute, Ghatak joined as vice-principal. Adore says it was a great experience to study with Gataku, who often showed Ray’s films for his students. The Film Institute turned Adore into a filmmaker. He fell in love with movies. His graduation film starred Mani Kaur, Subhash Gai and Asrani. In the 70s he directed Samuel Beckett’s 1952 play Waiting for Godot in Malayalam.
For Film Institute graduates, making the film they wanted was no easy feat. He abandoned his early film Kamukhi (Lovers) due to lack of funds. After that, Swayamvaram got his Rs 1.5 lakh loan from his Film Finance Corporation. Initially ignored in Kerala, Sameeksha put the film on the cover for the first time in the history of an influential magazine. Govindan wrote in his signed op-ed: Sameeksha hailed Swayamvaram as a pioneer of a new Malayalam cinematic aesthetic. Generations of filmmakers followed, including G Aravindan, John Abraham, Padmarajan, KG George, GS Panicker, TV Chandran, KP Kumaran, KR Mohanan, and Shaji N Karun. By the 1980s, serious movies were vying with literature as a touchstone of his culture.
Codietam, produced five years later, further established Adore’s reputation as a writer. Elippathayam (1982) was judged her “most original and imaginative film” of 1982 by the British Film Institute. Mukhamukham (1984), Anantharam (1987), Mathilukal (1990), Vidheyan (1993), Kathapurushan (1995), Nizhalkuthu (2202), Naalu Pennungal (2007), Oru Pennum Randaanum (2008), Pinneyum (2016) solidified its reputation. As one of the greatest filmmakers of our time. In between were documentaries and insightful essays on the art and aesthetics of cinema. The documentary, he says, instilled in him the discipline of working on small budgets and tight schedules. For the last few months he has been writing a monthly column for a Malayalam magazine about his favorite movies.
Adhaa’s films are often told as social history readings of Kerala. Swayamvaram sang educated youth in the 1960s about unemployment and social conservatism. While Eripattayam was a sharp take on the declining feudal order, Mukhamukham, along with his “failed revolutionaries”, angered the communist left in Kerala. But Adah argued that it was not his intention to put the Left in the dock. Mathilukul and Vidheyan were inspired by the fiction of authors Vaikom Muhammad Basheer and Paul Zacharia. Meticulous attention to the film’s period in the appearance, dress, gestures, language of the actors, period architecture, furnishings, and signage give Adore’s films a rare authenticity.
But his films have cinematic time and inner reality. While rooted in the specific landscape and history of Kerala, this alternate world of dynamics, complex emotions and carefully sculpted visual language is responsible for the universal appeal of his films. . The rifts and scars caused by personal histories colliding with historical forces are captured in these films and transformed into meditations on the human condition. They are the artist’s layered quest to pursue the truth of his time in an open-ended manner, with characters who may seem like outsiders of the social mainstream. On another level, they are also storytelling experiments, with filmmakers constantly reinventing narrative forms by delving deep into personal memories and transferring unearthed memory images onto a larger historical canvas. doing.
Vipin Vijay, who co-directed Bhooomiyil Chuvadurachu (Feet On the Ground; 1999), a three-hour documentary about Adoor, described him as a farmer filmmaker, someone who knows the realities of the field and makes films from experience. I call it a person. world. Vijay is fascinated by his Adoor exploration of cinematic form and content that draws from the emotional side of the individual. “The way he tries to open these subjects is very interesting. In Vidheyan, for example, he explores the minds of both the oppressor and the oppressed,” says Vijay. Each Adoor film, he adds, is a tapestry of history, his suffering, and a quest for cinematic truth. In his films, he says, the issues of life and the issues of form converge.
Short story writer and critic Karunakaran, who has written astutely about Adhaa in Malayalam, argues that the state’s dominant left-wing imagination has had little influence on filmmakers. The ideological direction of his work can be traced back to the spirit of the national movement in the image of liberal and modern India.” says Karunakaran. Adore Problem evokes nostalgic memories of past and bygone revolutions, offering a maladaptive and brutal take on reality. For example, Mu-Kam-Kam may have caused controversy because of his unemotional portrayal of the revolution and the ideas of the revolutionaries, but all things, thoughts and memories collapsed and we were left with a counter-image/imagination It suggests resisting the process by inventing
Adoor has a strict work ethic that refuses to compromise truth. It draws from Gandhi’s values, which drives him to oppose communism and authoritarianism.The idea of the free individual is very dear to him. Mathilukal will be a paper on this idea. He seems to share Bashir’s own thoughts on freedom, the freedom to live on one’s own terms, according to one’s own choice.
Earlier this month, Thiruvananthapuram-based Adore was in Delhi to speak at the inauguration of Swayanvaram’s film retrospective, curated by author VK Cherian, to mark the 50th anniversary of Swayanvaram. He sounded concerned about changes happening in the way people watch movies. As a filmmaker who has made the transition from black and white to color and analog to digital, he is skeptical of the new trend of watching movies on OTT platforms and laptops.
“This leads to the death of cinema. Prerequisites for cinema include dark halls and large screens. The viewer has a role to play in the creative process. An environment created by sound, shadow and light. adds an element of magic to a movie Magic makes it closer to a dream On a TV, mobile phone or laptop this magic is lost There are calculations in your head.Without these conditions, the viewer would see a greatly scaled-down product at a very disadvantage that the viewer cannot concentrate.” says Adoor.
He fears that moving away from the theater will lessen the need for filmmakers to pay close attention. Without theater, he says, cinema would lose its mystery and its meditative qualities. But as an afterthought, he adds: The audience will return to the theater. ”After a silence, he talks about his dream he had last night. The setting was Japan. When I woke up, I felt like I had seen a full movie. ”