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Reality and beyond

GAUTAM CHATTERJEE

Even after giving us several great movies, Padma Vibhushan Adoor Gopalakrishnan says he still doesn't know which way he will evolve.

Photo: Rasheesh Kumar



THE EVOLVING REVOLUTIONARY Adoor Gopalakrishnan

`I don't hanker after new lines and approaches. Once, I did want to use the form of a spectacle to convey my ideas. I wanted to make a film based on action, on the martial art of Kerala, Kalaripayattu. I almost completed the script but then I gave up . I make films guided by my emotional and mental make-up'.

Truly, Padma Vibhushan Adoor Gopalakrishnan is that rare example of an Indian art moviemaker whose films have always had a distinct personal stamp that has had the power to reinforce manifold responses among audiences. And the man created so marvellously movies like "Swayamvaram" (1972), "Kodiyettam" (1977), "Elipathayam" (1982), "Mukhamukham" (1984), "Anantaram" (1987), "Mathilukal" (1990), "Vidheyan" (1996), "Kathapurushan" (1997) and "Nizhalkkuthu" (2003). And yet after more than three decades of film directing, he has succeeded in remaining as fresh as he was during his first film, in both emotional and technical content. Love, his films testify, is an element that has never appeared in his frames conventionally but which has explored the deeper mind of the central character. "Anantaram", "Mathilukal" and "Vidhyeyan" come instantly to mind in this context.

Concurs the veteran, "Exactly. In this term, `Mathilukal' is an extension of `Anantaram'.

If Scottie's infatuation in `Vertigo' is for a woman who has never really existed, a woman as a mere role played by an amateur actress, Ajayan's infatuation in `Anantaram' could be for a woman of his own creation. If that film was about the creative process, this, `Mathilukal', was about the writer and his characters being created," he explains.

Adoor has always been identified as sympathising with Leftist ideology. "Yes, I am still with the Left ideology," he asserts. "Otherwise, why would I make a film like `Mukhamukham'? Even now, I am explaining why I had to make this film. The problem is, if you are making a film that has a political hue, you are expected to resort to sloganeering," he states.

Sense of humour

Adoor, who lives in his traditional Kerala-style house at Thiruvanantapuram, has a robust sense of humour, cracks wry jokes often directed at himself, but prefers to be silent most times, he confesses. And perhaps that is the reason he chose a dwelling that is reached by a long winding road, maintaining a good distance from the crowd. a

Adoor says he often remembers his childhood. "As far as I can remember, our family supported an entire troupe of Kathakali artistes for three or four generations. This tradition continued till my generation. I am the fifth of six children, born and brought up in Adoor, a small village in Kerala. The troupe was dismantled finally. We could not hold on to it," he says.

Continuing the conversation, he talks oftheatre in films. "I was essentially interested in theatre. I gave my first stage performance when I was eight. I played the role of Buddha, renouncing the world by leaving the palace. When I was in school, I had already started writing plays and performing them before family audiences. I prefer to use this art form in my films juxtaposed with others," he says.

In 1962, he joined the Film and Television Institute of India in Pune. "But before that, I had already written a couple of full-length plays. So I approached the cinema medium afresh. I was catching up with film history, with trends," he relates. He says he learnt more from Ray and Ghatak than he did from anyone else. "I also have this advantage of being a student of Ghatak. Internationally, I came upon the silent films, the great Russian classics, Bunuel, Bresson and Godard. At that time, in 1965 Antonioni had become one of the most important filmmakers for me," he recounts.

But images appear in his films as in Bresson, for example in "Anantaram". The approach is similar to Kumar Shahane's films.

"Right. All of us were influenced then with Bresson's filmmaking and treatment. Then, there was also the impact left by Fellini's `La Strada' and `La Dolce Vita'. I don't think film watching is divorced from theory. In fact, one learns more from watching films. Till today, I don't know which way I will evolve," he says, surprising you a tad at this revelation.

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