Adoor Gopalakrishnan

One of the leading directors of the New Indian Cinema, Adoor Gopalakrishnan was born in 1941. After graduating in Political Science and Economics, he joined the Film Institute in Pune in 1962. Equipped with formal training in Script writing and Direction, he went on to script and directed nine feature films and more than two dozen Shorts and Documentaries. His first film, Swayamvaram won the national awards for best film, best director, best cinematographer, and best actress setting a record of sorts. His film, Kathapurushan also won him the national award for the best feature film. He has won the national award for best director four times, and best script writer thrice. His films have been shown in, Cannes, Berlin, Venice, Rotterdam, and Toronto, and every important festival round the world. Adoor's third feature, Elippathayam won him the coveted British Film Institute Award for the most original and imaginative film of 1982. The International Film Critics Prize (FIPRESCI) has gone to him five times successively for Mukhamukham, Anantaram, Mathilukal, Vidheyan and Kathapurushan.

His collection of essays, The World of Cinema was given the national award for the Best book on Cinema in 1984.


Swayamvaram - 1972 - Malayalam
(The Selection)

Vishwam, charged with ideologies in his mind, hopes for a life as a writer. He believes in an ideal society, which he finds as a utopian idea later, and agrees for a marriage with Seetha. The newly-wed couple reaches a city in search of a job. Vishwam has to be satisfied with a job at a tutorial college. Later, he loses this job and has to settle with a job at a saw mill. The clash between the ideologies he believed and the harsh realities disturbs him, which ultimately leads to illness, and his death. The film ends with the scene of Vishwam's perplexed wife gazing at a closed door.

Direction & Screenplay: Adoor Gopalakrishnan
Cast: Madhu, Sharada, Thikkurisi Sukumaran Nair, Gopi
Cinematography: Mangada Ravi Varma
Music: M B Srinivasan

Kodiyettam - 1977 - Malayalam
(The Ascent)

Shankaran Kutty lives a childish life even in his middle age. He just ignores his identity as a grown-up individual and wanders without taking up any responsibilities, and also without reacting to the insults on him by the society. His aim is aimlessness. It is the festive season, the drum beats at the temple, flying kites, speeding up vehicles, all which attracts him the most. It is this childish curiosity that takes Shankaran Kutty's life forward. But later he decides to change his life style, to start a new life.

Direction & Screenplay: Adoor Gopalakrishnan
Cast: Gopi, Lalitha, Aziz, Thikkurishi Sukumaran Nair
Cinematography: Mangada Ravi Varma

Elepathayam - 1981 - Malayalam
(The Rat Trap)

A feudal lord is like a rat trapped in a granary. The rat doesn't have to worry about the outer world that produces this wealth. But when the granary is empty, it turns out to be a rattrap. Elepathayam (1981), documents the fall of the feudal system in Kerala and the crisis faced by the lazy feudal lords who were puzzled about the new reality that unfolded.

Unnikunju and his sister live in an old feudal home, unable to adjust with the sudden social changes occurring in Kerala that lead to the fall of the feudal system. They refuse to change their mindsets to the new world outside them. Thus, their home changes to be a virtual rattrap for them. They finally have to face the imminent tragedy.

Direction & Screenplay: Adoor Gopalakrishnan
Cast: Karamana Janardhanan Nair, Sharada, Jalaja, Rajan K Nair
Cinematography: Mangada Ravi Varma
Music: M B Srinivasan

Mukhamukham - 1984 -Malayalam
(Face to face)

Sreedharan, a charismatic leader of a leftist trade union is the moral strength of the labourers going through a prolonged strike in a tile factory. The proprietor of the factory is killed and Sreedharan becomes the prime suspect. The police start hunting for him and he goes underground. While his comrades return to a more liberal political environment, Sreedharan doesn't return. He is believed to be dead.

The leftist party splits and the 'martyr' Sreedharan's memory remains the sole binding-factor for the split fractions.

One fine day, Sreedharan re-appears. But the returned Sreedharan proves to be disappointment to his comrades. He remains silent, spends his time sleeping and drinking. His presence becomes a liability for his comrades.

Sreedharan is found one day beaten to death under mysterious circumstances. He instantly gains a hero status.

Direction & Screenplay: Adoor Gopalakrishnan
Cast: Ganga, Balan K Nair, Kaviyoor Ponnamma
Cinematography: Mangada Ravi Varma
Music: M B Srinivasan

Anantharam - 1987 -Malayalam

The film develops through a commentary by Ajayan about his own life. Later, he tells another story about his life with the same background. Finally, both these stories fuse together. This makes the film very complex in nature.

Ajayan, an orphan is brought up by a doctor. In the doctor's house he grows up as a confused child. The doctor is not his own father but is like his father, the doctor's son Balu is not his not his own brother but is like a brother, the girl whom Balu marries is not his own sister-in-law but is like his sister-in-law. This confusion makes Ajayan, otherwise a brilliant boy, to withdraw to himself.

The beautiful Suma arrive at their house after marrying Balu. Ajayan at the very first sight of his "sister-in-law" gets sexually attracted to her. This creates an internal conflict within him. He has no other option but to leave his house.

Then starts the second story: Both, the time and background of this story are same as that of the first one. Here, Ajayan is a disturbed youth. A beautiful girl, Nalini enters Ajayan's life and his mind shifts often between reality and an imaginary romantic world.

Finally both these stories converge to a point where both Nalini and Suma become a single entity.

Direction & Screenplay: Adoor Gopalakrishnan
Cast: Ashokan, Mammooty, Shobhana, Balan K Nair
Cinematography: Mangada Ravi Varma
Music: M B Srinivasan

Mathilukal - 1989 -Malayalam

Mathilukal, is based on an autobiographical short novel by the same name from the renowned Malayalam writer, Vikom Muhammad Bashir. Through this film, Adoor tries to get into the complex mindscape of a genius writer.

In the early 1940s, Basheer was imprisoned by the British Government for 'anti-national' activities. Mathilukal is a journey through Basheer's complex mind and his memories in jail. The film progresses through different levels; the anatomy of Basheer's mindscape, his despair about his lost freedom, the female sound from the other side of the jail wall, his interaction with nature...

During the boring days in a jail, anybody would desire the presence of someone from the opposite sex. Basheer's mind of an artist slips into a world of fantasy where he starts a conversation with a woman at the other side of the jail wall.

Direction & Screenplay: Adoor Gopalakrishnan
Cast: Mammootty, Thilikan, Murali
Cinematography: Mangada Ravi Varma
Music: Vijayabhaskar

Vidheyan - 1993 -Malayalam
(The docile)

Thommy submits his family's and his own identity to Bhaskara Patelar, the landlord. Thommy forgets his own self and starts identifying everything connecting with Patelar. Patelar, due to his own deeds, has to escape to the jungle where Thommy escorts him like a pet. Patelar gets killed there. Thommy ends his life-long submissiveness by throwing his master's gun, which he used to keep with him as a symbol of his power, into a river.

Direction & Screenplay: Adoor Gopalakrishnan
Cast: Mammootty, M R Gopakumar, Tanvi Azmi, Savita Anand
Cinematography: Mangada Ravi Varma
Music: Vijayabhaskar

Kathapurushan - 1995 -Malayalam
(The protagonist)

Born in a feudal family, the protagonist, Kunjunni's parents were separated leaving him deprived of paternal care and affection. He grew up receiving love and affection from his mother, grandmother, the estate manager and his friend Meenakshi- the maidservant's daughter.

Inspired by his uncle, Vasu, who became a Gandhian and later a Marxist, Kunjunni too gets drawn towards the leftist ideology during his college period. For him, communism offers cure for all social ills and inequalities. He joins an extremist Maoist group, providing it with intellectual leadership. He gets arrested in a police station attack case and eventually gets released when the Court
                                                acquits him.

Now, lonely and disillusioned, yet not bitter, a lot more mature and richer with experience, he goes in search of Meenakshi, his childhood friend.

Direction & Screenplay: Adoor Gopalakrishnan
Cast: Vishwanathan, Mini, Aranmula Ponnamma, Urmila Unni
Cinematography: Mangada Ravi Varma
Music: Vijayabhaskar

Nizhalkkuthu - 2003 -Malayalam
(Shadow Kill)

The plot is set in the 1940's in a Southern village of Kerala. Kaliyappan, the last hangman of the Travancore dynasty is dragging his remaining life by consuming alcohol and worshipping the Mother Goddess, whom he believes, is the reason for all his deeds. The reason for this self-destruction is the remorse borne out of the feeling that the last man he hanged was an innocent. While he pulls on his pathetic life by drinking, worshiping the Goddess and treating people with the ash obtained by burning the hanging rope, one day the King's messenger once again arrives with an order of appointing him for executing a convict termed as 'a killer, proved beyond doubt'. He leaves to the jail with his Gandhian and freedom fighter son to assist him in his job.

As a tradition, the hangman has to spend the eve of the execution without falling asleep. When alcohol fails to keep Kaliyappan awake, the jailer starts telling a 'spicy tale' to keep him awake, the tale of a 13-year old girl raped and killed by her own brother-in-law and an innocent musician boy convicted for this charge.

When Kaliyappan comes to know the condemned person he is about to hang is that very same musician boy, he breaks down. The job of executing the convict is passed on to his assistant, his son. The Gandhian and freedom fighter son, who is in revolt against the existing system, accepts the job without any protest and walks towards the gallows to accomplish his job.

Direction & Screenplay: Adoor Gopalakrishnan
Cast: Oduvil Unnikrishnan, Sukumari
Cinematography: Mangada Ravi Varma, Sunny Joseph
Music: Illayaraja

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