Twenty-five years after its release, Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s Mathilukal still manages to strike a chord with young audiences

Critically acclaimed Malayalam filmmaker, Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s Mathilukal, starring Mammootty in the lead role, was screened at the SPIC-MACAY convention.

This novel tale of romance wherein the female character doesn’t have an image of herself but has a strong voice throughout, was well-received by youngsters at the Students Activities Centre auditorium at IIT Madras.

This film, which was made two and a half decades ago based on the short story of Vaikom Mohamed Basheer, still struck a chord with a fairly young audience, perhaps because it dealt with themes such as love and sexual relations, while raising pertinent questions about the notion of freedom and life itself.

The audience particularly seemed to enjoy Mammootty’s portrayal of Basheer, a prisoner who is separated from his love by a high wall inside the prison. He stepped beautifully into the shoes of the character, which required him to be irreverent, often uttering lines bordering on the vulgar, but still managed to charm the audience.

After the screening, the filmmaker spoke about the creative challenges he faced while making it and how nobody wanted to fund the film because it had no visible female lead. When a member of the audience asked him how difficult was it to decide on the film’s structure, Adoor said, “Since this was an adaptation of Basheer’s short story, recreating the author was the most difficult part. Mammootty played the role of the author, while the author was alive. And that’s not easy.”

When asked whether he would like to change anything about the film, he replied, “I had given it enough thought at that time. Even while making it, I knew that this wasn’t a film that could be enjoyed by children. It is a film dealing with strong adult themes.”

On making this particular film that nobody initially showed interest in, Adoor said, “The fact that the film couldn’t show the image of the heroine was not conducive to the business of the film.

Several filmmakers and producers discarded it. I took it up as a challenge and this was one of my most popular films in the festival circuit.”